Skábma – Snowfall is an adventure puzzle game developed by the Finnish indie developer, Red Stage Entertainment. It’s the only game I know that is based on the Sámi people and tells the wonderful story of Áilu, a reindeer herder who goes on a mystical adventure to learn the ways of their ancestors, harness the powers of the Noaidi Drum and Familiar Spirits to fight off a disorder threatening to destroy the lands.
Skábma – Snowfall is an adventure puzzle game with a difference. The world is your obstacle as you would expect but it isn’t full of things trying to kill you. In fact, there are no real traditional enemies to speak of. Rather, the world is being infested and it’s that which will kill you. As a result, exploration and narrative is the main point of the game. You will explore the world and learn more about it as well as the stories of Sámi and Noaidi.
The puzzles in the game are environmental in nature, traversing the world can be challenging in places and will sometimes require a good deal of exploring to find the right path. The abilities you learn along the way also get used for this purpose. Moving objects and jumping bigger distances for example. This can lead to very challenging jumping puzzles which can get frustrating if you don’t time them well.
As well as the main story quest, to save the land, there are a lot of little side-quests for Áilu to complete on their journey across the land. For example, your favourite cousin will want help finding her lost bunnies. Early in the game, you will get an ancient drum that will help you do a lot of different things. From using it to control your new special abilities to following the paths of bunnies and people so you can find your way. The drum will also draw your attention to the spirits living in certain trees that you can interact with, heal you and highlight treasures in the world that you can collect.
The Story of Skábma – Snowfall
The story focuses on a young Sámi child named Áilu who lives with his family in a small village. Áilu starts the game as a simple reindeer farmer until an explosion in the nearby tar pit brings a plague on this tranquil world. Áilu initially sets out to find a missing reindeer and is quickly drawn into an adventure to discover his heritage and save the land and his family.
Along the way, he finds a Noaidi drum and through that can connect with the world on a deeper level. From talking to tree spirits who haven’t heard people for so long through to the four familiars, Áilu is equipped to learn the ways of the past to save the future.
The story is gripping and full of cultural history and fairy-tale lore. It’s beautifully written and subtitled (the voice acting is in a different language). Every interaction feels meaningful, especially with the small cast of wonderful characters. At no point during my playthrough did I feel bored or want to skip dialogue. The whole thing is simply charming.
The controls in Skábma – Snowfall are simple to master. It’s the usual WASD layout with the mouse moving the camera. It’s a familiar setup so jumping right in and enjoying the game is easy without needing to master lots of different controls, breaking that initial immersion. Along the way, you gain some new abilities, and these are well explained with a simple and clean UI. You also get the tutorial for these new abilities tied directly into the plot making it all feel natural and seamless.
While for the most part, you control the direction of the camera, which allows you to see what you’re doing and where you’re going more easily (not to mention enjoy the beautiful world!) there are times when the camera will be fixed, and this can make movement difficult in places. It’s a minor gripe, but an issue, nonetheless.
Similarly, there are a few bugs that can make you fall off the world despite doing nothing wrong. As a platformer with jumping puzzles when the pathing isn’t quite right it can feel a bit clunky to navigate at times.
Graphics and Music
Graphically, the world is stunning. One of the most beautiful I’ve seen in a game this year. While the visuals certainly don’t live up to one of the leading AAA titles in terms of visual performance, they are charming and a joy to look at. The character models are soft around the edges, and everything has a slight cartoon look to it.
What Skábma – Snowfall does so well is draw you into the world to the point the world is almost as important as the cast of characters. You can interact with spirits in trees, explore plains, mountains, rivers, and more. It’s a wonderful world to get lost in, and a relaxing one too.
The music matches the overall feel of the game very well. In addition, a lot of your path mapping and powers come through beating a traditional drum which in turn gives an interesting soundtrack to play with.
Is Skábma – Snowfall a good game?
I was genuinely surprised by this indie game. Skábma – Snowfall is a beautifully written story blending important environmental messages with learning about a little-known culture. Overlaying all of that is a story about a boy reconnecting with his heritage to save his world with elements of fairy-tale, myth, and mysticism. The puzzles are fun, the powers are unique and interesting, and even without conventional enemies to fight it’s probably the best game I’ve played so far this year.
Skábma – Snowfall makes tranquil, puzzle-based exploration compelling. For that reason, despite a few bugs, it’s a game I recommend.