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Jan 24 2013

The Best Uses for Snow in Videogames

With all the holidays past, we are unto January with a smile in our hearts and games to play. Though the thing I’m missing the most is the white stuff outside my door. I’m no expert on global warming, but since I own a few Farmer’s Almanacs I was expecting a deluge. White Christmas, a snowy New Year’s, the works and everything in between. Coming from the northeast, it is usually a certainty that we have some snowfall to a full-blown blizzard, but nothing has come. So I find myself appreciating the snow in video games instead. In that case, I have found snowballs to be more useful there than in any other place. Here are three uses of snow that truly prove its worth as Nature’s dump on our driveway…

Use #1:  Physical Impediment

egamer-assassins-creed-3-18In the well-known gimmick of ice levels, snow is a tenuous concern upon our lives. Is it slippery? Does it have more traction just to confuse you, but not enough to allow full control just to screw with the player? Can I melt it with Fire Attacks to cause water? Will it collapse under me to a bottomless pit? These are tough questions with snow because it can also do things far more subtle, like come with chilling music to wrench the soul of the player or even provide a fog which obscures their vision. Many different platformers have used snow in these ways to make the levels more interesting. Some would say that it makes the levels more frustrating, but gimmick use has been part of gameplay for years. Sure, its old and used, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or impossible. It’s just rather challenging and quite a pleasure to look at in most cases.

So the question remains: What is the deal with winter-based levels and the disdain the world over? Personally, I’m tired of spring locations where everything is lush and vibrant. Unless you count post-apocalypse and modern shooters, we never get to see a lovely autumn-based level. We need more golden brown in our repertoire with the falling of leaves and brisk winds. Equality for all the seasons!

Use #2: Mobility Tracer and Constant Water Resource

This is the neatest snowfall I've seen in Minecraft. None on the trees either? SOmeone combed this.

This is the neatest snowfall I’ve seen in Minecraft. None on the trees either? Someone combed this.

Minecraft still flows on, and by using any form of shovel, you can collect snowballs by the hundreds. Why would you want them, you ask? First, they are a mobile device to keep enemies away before you have a Bow. It also is incredibly useful for checking trajectory when you are teleporting with an Ender Pearl, a rare item dropped by the strongest creature in the main world. The incredible nature of Minecraft also allows for snow to fall and accumulate around one’s house or over an area. So feel free to build and shape to your heart’s content as you shovel your virtual driveway, then make a living abominable snowman out of it with a pumpkin for a head which throws snowballs and spawns snow.

This might not seem that useful, but mapmakers have used snowballs to give the player ways to move around and protect themselves. Snow can be made into snowblocks through crafting, which are not affected by gravity and can be used to bridge gaps. Keeping zombies and creepers at bay is another important use. Basically, you’ll never run out of them if you’re in a winter-biome themed area.

Use #3: Weapon

Snowball? Check. Evil Turkey? Check. An endless supply of 'Lemonade'? Check. Let's do this.

Snowball? Check. Evil Turkey? Check. An endless supply of ‘Lemonade’? Check. Let’s do this.

In the original South Park game, when the First-Person Shooter managed to worm its way onto the N64 and with vulgar cartoons no less, you found yourself using snowballs as a constant primary weapon or yellow snowballs which did area-of-effect damage but shot obviously slower. Also, they were infinite and decently powerful compared to the other weapons like a shotgun turkey and poo launcher.  What better weapon is there in a mountain town covered in bloodthirsty turkeys, scuzzlebutts, and thin aliens.

This leads me to wonder how the new South Park game will handle the fact that they live in snowy Colorado in terms of an RPG. Will they draw reference to the original first-person shooter for the N64? Will they provide some equivalent that regards the fantasy-setting combined with the original humor of the game? Modern South Park tends to forget that they live in cold temperatures on a regular basis.  Perhaps this game of spells and sorcery for some super magic stick could also involve an avalanche spell played to the theme music of the TV Show. That’d be a good way to show nature’s fury and frighten children with its morbidity at the same time.

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