Still think the holidays are a time of peace on Earth and goodwill to men? SnowJinks, from the makers of Epoch will show you what Christmas is really about: taking on the neighborhood in a no-holds-barred snowball fight.
You play your choice of Jack or Jill, the male and female versions of a cute tyke with a strong throwing arm and a penchant for wearing funny hats. Each level sets you up in a holiday scene full of decorated houses, snowmen, and strategically-placed hiding spots. Your job is to knock out the bullies with snowballs, dodge what they throw, and collect all the coins and presents you can along the way.
She may look cute, but she’s got a killer fastball.
Built on the Unreal engine, SnowJinks looks good and plays well. The scenes are colorful and detailed, and the graphic design has a cheerful attitude that’s perfect for the season. It’s easy to dodge and throw, and the game reacts quickly to your touches. When you inevitably run out of health and lose, it’s because you made mistakes, not because the game tripped you up.
There are only four types of enemies, but they are different enough that you need to change up your defensive and offensive strategies to deal with them. (Watch out for the obnoxious little sister with the snow blower.) The game also does a good job of upgrading the enemies in later levels. Not only do they gain hit points, but they start crouching and dodging to different firing positions.
The power-ups are useful but simple. When you hit a present with a snowball, you get healing, extra damage, frozen enemies, or extra coins. You can spend in-game currency to make the power-ups more effective, but it would be nice to have more toys to play with. The extra coins power-up was added in the first update, so hopefully there are more stocking stuffers on the way.
Get the ice scraper!
The game could use some more variety in future updates, too. There’s one game mode and one sequence of levels that you go through in the same order every time. There’s no way to skip to a later level or higher difficulty as your skill improves. Playing through the same levels over and over again works in many classic arcade games, but the early SnowJinks levels are not short enough or frantic enough to keep your interest.
That’s the trouble with SnowJinks as a whole. It’s cute and fun, but it doesn’t reward extended play. You can buy all sorts of hats and throw different kinds of missiles, but those are decorative and have no effect on what happens in the game. You also spend a lot of time playing through levels you’ve already mastered before reaching the point where the game is challenging you again. You quickly end up in a situation of diminishing returns, where the game bores you for five minutes and entertains you for two.
In the end, SnowJinks is a lot like those funny reindeer socks that Aunt Irma likes to give– you’ll laugh, show it to friends, then put it away until Christmas rolls around again. It’s a decent amount of entertainment for a buck, but not much more than that.