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About the Story"Young Gretchen could have only imagined the fanciful events that were to occur before finding herself lost in a winter wonderland." [--blurb from Competition '99]
Nominee, Best Setting - 1999 XYZZY Awards
1st Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 5th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1999)
-- Duncan Stevens
Although the writing varies in quality, and at times one wishes for deeper responses to EXAMINE the whole is ultimately greater than the sum of its parts. There is a distinct "you are there" feel to the wonderland: not only can the place be pictured without effort, but anyone playing the game is likely to feel a need for a warm wool sweater. Apart from a mischievous snow sprite, the NPC's are not individually memorable, not because they are badly drawn but because their function is to enrich and perhaps melt into the general ambiance, not to stand out as creatures.
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Perhaps the best way to describe Winter Wonderland is that it fits very snugly within its genre, namely earnest and occasionally heart-tugging fairy tale, and does very little to push that genre's boundaries. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, especially since that in particular is ground less trodden than some areas of IF (et tu, trapped-in-the-research- lab?), but it does require that the reader accept the conventions of the genre and put aside even the remotest vestige of cynicism. Any work of fiction that deals with the holiday-time struggles of a poor family whose youngest child is sick is already toeing the self-parody line; Winter Wonderland does about as well as any game could to avoid crossing the line.
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
What Winter Wonderland does so well is to combine the nifty puzzles from Trapped in a One-Room Dilly with the sense of magical landscape from Travels in the Land of Erden, and adds to the combination a thematic specificity that is all its own and that works beautifully. The links between the puzzles feel very plausible because the entire setting is very consistent, and solving the puzzles rewards the player not only by allowing advancement through the plot, but often as well by presenting another appealing image to add to the already dense atmosphere. Romping around the snowy landscape encountering sprites, fairies and dryads was a great deal of fun for me, and the intricate and ingenious ways in which they presented interlocking puzzles was a real source of pleasure as well.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
This might be of interest to puzzle aficionados and children, but probably too difficult for the latter and bit ordinary for the former.
First, it is beautiful. Visually, the ASCII art and color scheme help the immersion (I loved the snowflakes in the status bar). And the descriptions and responses of the text are all well-crafted and contribute to the atmosphere significantly.
Second, the puzzles are ingenious, though some reasonable alternatives are not implemented. The majority of the game centers on magical creatures, and working with them. NPC interaction is present, though limited, as is usual in games of this time period.
The story starts out extraordinarily over sweetly, but I enjoyed it, and it soon became a magic-themed puzzle fest. This game drew me in, and I would love to see more games with a fun family atmosphere instead of gritty dystopias or gruesome underground labs.
The game's definitely not very hard (remember, pencil and paper is your friend if you get confused). but it should not harm your experience if you resort to the hint system when you're stuck because the best thing about it is the magical atmosphere and charming setting (unless you're a puzzle nut, but in that case you wouldn't consider the hints anyways).
When I first tried it I half-expected to be bored by some generic children's storyline but it definitely transform the ordinary (theme, settings, characters and story can't be said to be really that original) into the extraordinary (charming and enjoyable). It does not try anything radical, but for what it aims to be it works very very well - telling a children's tale that appeals to the inner child in adults as well.
It is a great game to settle down with and bring a smile to your face.
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