Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley review – it’s just lovely

March 5, 2024
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You can’t throw a rock in Brighton without hitting a moomin. There are boutiques and galleries devoted to them. They’re on our teacups and our beach towels. They’re on plant pots by our windows and on the rough-papered covers of fancy Tove Jansson reprints stocking our libraries. It’s not surprising that they’ve made it to video games, but it is surprising – to a moomin outsider, at least – to discover that the sort of thing that middle-class Southern idiots like me lap up so readily has a little bite to it. Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley, a musical stealthy exploration game, is the best kind of surprise.

What kind of bite does the world of the moomins bring? Yesterday, I was wandering along in Moonminvalley taking Snufkin, the series’ pipe-smoking philosopher, for a bit of a stroll. Beyond the rocks and trees we spied a carefully laid-out park, the shrubs suddenly cut into polite shapes, the desire paths we’d followed through scrub and long grass replaced with neat little paving slabs riddled between polite lawns. Trees suddenly had low fences around their bases. There were fences around everything, in fact, and patrolling police officers, too, or people who looked very much like it. Park officers!

This called for stealth – for muddling out patrol routes, avoiding visibility cones and sneaking from A to B. But it also called for a series of set-piece moments in which Snufkin reached a sign of some kind – a sign telling people not to loiter, or step off the path, or whatever else it is that signs tell people not to do. Whenever Snufkin reached one of these signs, he pulled them out of the ground. And once he got them all, there was a fabulous cut-scene that showed Snufkin trashing the park in general, wiping it off the surface of Mooninvalley, and returning the whole thing to a place of messy, freeform nature. What a brilliant goal for a game such as this.

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