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TGS 2014: Hands-On With ‘Snow World’

If there’s one thing that Japanese game developers have mastered in a way that few others can match, it’s making games that are both completely adorable and still pretty hardcore. Snow World, from developer Link Kit, is yet another one of those deceptively cute games that turns out to have a harder edge to its gameplay than you would initially suspect. It’s an all-out snowball war between penguins, snowmen, seals, and ice princesses. The developer calls it a “defense action" game, and that seems like a pretty good fit.

Essentially, it’s a wave-based castle defense game. You have to defend your castle against incoming waves of penguins, seals, and so on, with your main weapon being just a humble snowball. At the start of the game, you control just a lone snowman as he lobs a single ball at the oncoming hordes, but as you play, you’ll unlock more and different defenders to join you, increasing your firepower. At the end of each battle, a boss monster will appear, with a hefty life bar and a ton of special tricks. You can make use of special power-ups to do things like summon in a penguin army of your own or turn your slow, steady stream of snowballs into and icy chain gun of frosty destruction. Using these power-ups requires some MP or some money, which is earned by playing the game. You can also use the money you earn to upgrade your defenses in various ways.

There’s no shortage of base defense games on the App Store, though. What made Snow World stand out to me is just how action-packed it gets at times. It often feels more like a shooter than anything else. The enemies pack on to the screen in huge crowds, and when you’ve fully populated and powered-up your side, your snowball barrage looks like the Vic Viper on turbo fire. The bosses are also pretty lively for this genre, jumping around the playfield, tossing out plenty of attacks, and able to take a huge amount of punishment before finally going down.

The graphics are colorful and cute, and while there’s nothing technically all that impressive going on here, it does look pretty cool when the screen is packed with sprites battling each other. Disney’s Frozen is pretty much the biggest thing since Titanic in Japan, making the choice of theme perhaps a bit expected, but we’re heading into the winter months anyway, so why not? If nothing else, it helps it stick out from the crowd a little bit. The controls are really easy to use, since you just tap where you want your shots to go. It’s simple enough for a beginner to catch onto easily enough, but once it gets cooking, it’s a pretty good challenge even if you’re good at these kinds of games.

Snow World probably won’t be rocking anyone’s socks with its sense of innovation, but I can think of plenty of worse things to release on the world than a cute-em-up/base defense hybrid with a heavy Japanese touch. Be sure to check out our video to see it in action, set to the narration of my sleepy voice. The game will release very soon worldwide, and will be free to download, with ad support and IAPs for the two different types of currencies used in-game. If you’re into base defense, keep your eye out for it.