Snowy: Treasure Hunter
Released by Alawar Entertainment
by Eric Baldauf
From the website
"Who says polar bears can be found only where there's snow and ice? Snowy the Bear cares more about adventure and riches! In Treasure Hunter, the cute white bear grabs his pick axe and satchel, and sets out to rid three ancient worlds of gold and jewels. Throughout his side-scrolling adventure, Snowy will have to use bombs and cunning to either avoid or trap devious enemies."
Gentlemen prepare yourselves. In Alawar’s Snowy: Treasure Hunter you are a cuddly polar bear. As such, you are searching locations around the world for treasure equipped with only your pick-axe (and later traps and bombs) to thwart the guardians of each location. The good news is that this game is what I would call a good waste of time. I mean that in the best possible way.
While the game is suitable for children, the cartoony graphics are not a deterrent. No one complains about Dragon’s Lair’s graphics, nor should they. This game’s beautiful backgrounds and, dare I say, cute, slightly retro, main character combine to form an enjoyable action game that also rewards brain-play.
If I had to classify Snowy: Treasure Hunter, I guess it’s closest to an action/puzzle game. Each level presents you with goals (usually find all treasures, avoid monsters and escape to the next level, in that order) and lets you decide how to achieve these goals. Some levels, normally higher, a trick or a set of moves is involved and until you figure it out you can not progress to the next level. While it’s frustrating when you spend several hours on the same level it is also immensely gratifying when you finally beat that level. Overall I would say the game difficulty is set a little too high for the casual gamer, but right on par for someone who loves puzzle games.
The standard game has 3 worlds, each with its own unique art, monsters and treasures and a training world. Each of these worlds has around 20 levels each that can only be accessed by completing the previous level. These levels quickly ramp up in difficulty.
There is also a kid’s campaign included. While the graphics did not enlarge, the play style of the levels was easier. My son just turned three and he loves Ms. Pac Man (who doesn’t (hope the wife doesn’t find out)). He’s not very good at it and mostly likes the sights and sounds. But it’s probably also the fact that the game requires only using a joystick. Snowy: Treasure Hunter requires a joystick and three buttons (four if you want a button to pause and show the level map). This may be difficult for younger children. What am I saying? Anymore than three buttons strains my awesome hand-eye coordination.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are a mix of static well drawn backgrounds and the movable Snowy character along with the monsters chasing our lovable hero. While the graphics were impressive for a downloadable game I have one major problem with them; no way to change screen resolution. There is no internal switch and changing resolutions in Windows before launching had no effect on the game. From the looks of it I would say that it is set to display the game in 800 x 600.
I built my arcade cabinet with a standard tube television. This has not been a problem for most arcade games. As a standard setting I have the cabinet set to 800 x 600 because this seems to be a standard for most applications. This keeps everything on the screen at the same time but text, unless enlarged, is almost unreadable. While the starting menus in Snowy: Treasure Hunter are fine, this increased resolution only affects game play by slightly blurring the graphics. Unfortunately it renders the in-game menus almost useless. These are pop-ups that some levels have explaining special features or supplying tips/hints.
The sound, both background and action sound effects are neither annoying nor worthy of a Grammy. While the background sound is somewhat repetitive it does its job and sets the appropriate mood. Additionally, while the sound effects were somewhat sparse they also did their job in conveying an action or event.
I was very impressed with the setup of controls in this game. Along with the unchangeable mouse commands, you are able to assign up to two keystrokes and one joystick function per in-game move or action. I wish more emulators allowed this much customization. This control menu was also very easy to configure, find and navigate.
Unfortunately, this also brings me to a couple of small problems relating to controls. Menu navigation is limited to the cursor buttons (not a problem for most cabinets) or mouse directions (also not a problem if you have a trackball on your control panel). The problem comes in menu selection. A menu choice is accomplished by either a right mouse click (probably not a problem if you have a trackball) or pushing enter. Unfortunately Enter is a shift function or Player 3’s 3rd button on my cabinet. And from what I’ve seen I believe this is true for most cabinet setups. So while moving within the menus should not be a problem for any control panel configuration, selecting something within a menu might be a problem for some people.
I also noticed that the high score table requires a keyboard to input your name after your many conquests and exploits. The fact that the game includes a high score table at all, is really a plus in my mind. Most people don’t understand why arcade enthusiasts and arcade cabinet owners want the high score letters to be selected via a joystick when it’s easier to just type it in on a keyboard.
Alawar’s Snowy: Treasure Hunter is a pleasant diversion. While I can’t recommend this game to the hard-core action junkies, it is an enjoyable brain-teasing action game that is suitable for the whole family. Its colorful graphics and addictive style of gameplay make up for the slightly unfriendly arcade cabinet issues. I’ve seen other reviews mention these same problems here on RetroBlast for several games. But with more of us purchasing shareware games to use with our arcade cabinets and requesting these features more game designers will begin implementing these arcade cabinet necessities.