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Snow Bros. (NES) artwork

Snow Bros. (NES) review


"Snowmen are criminally underrepresented as video game protagonists."



Snow Bros. starts with an unnecessarily long story scene that explains how the two princes of Whiteland, Nick and Tom, were turned into snowmen. The evil King Scorch apparently enchanted them so he could steal their kingdom and kidnap the two princesses, Teri and Tina, because that's exactly the kind of thing evil wizard kings like to do.

One might wonder why King Scorch decided to give Nick and Tom superpowers to go with their transformation, but sometimes it's better not to look a gift horse in the mouth. The twin snowmen now have the ability to throw an infinite number of snow blob projectiles, which can be used to completely encase enemies in snow, and that's exactly what you'll be spending the entire game doing. Each single-screen stage is finished once you completely clear it of enemies by rolling them up into snowballs and breaking them against walls. After an enemy has been encased in snow, it can be climbed on (to reach the very occasional otherwise-unreachable platform) or thrown into a rolling frenzy, flattening any enemy in its path.

This is the beauty of Snow Bros.. Most stages can be cleared with a single well-timed snowball. Climb to the top of the stage and snow up the enemy at the highest point, then use the resulting ball (which you can even ride, if you want) to defeat every other enemy and you'll get massive bonus points. You're allowed to turn multiple enemies into snowballs first, trapping them in place and sending them flying when another snowball hits them. As long as you only throw one ball with your own hands, you'll get the bonus. Levels can be cleared by simply picking off enemies one by one, but smashing several enemies with one blow is immensely satisfying. This is also a great way to avoid the invincible pumpkin-headed enemy that appears if you take too long to clear a stage (showing the game's arcade roots). The pumpkin-headed enemy can't be killed, but he's not terribly difficult to avoid when you only have one or two enemies left to pick off.

Enemies crushed by rolling balls drop items. Mostly, these are just food supplies that can be collected for bonus points, but occasionally you'll get a power-up in the form of a potion. Potions have various effects, most of which last until you lose a life. Collect three different jars, and your snowman will gain the ability to move faster and throw more powerful projectiles greater distances.

Snow Bros. consists of fifty levels, with a boss fight serving as the main attraction during every tenth level. Bosses are varied, including a fire-breathing demon, a terrifying blob that shoots Bob-ombs (nobody tell Nintendo), and a pair of birds that fly around the stage, landing for just long enough that you can damage them. Bosses all have minions, and are defeated by encasing those minions in snow and shooting them as projectiles (a fact that the game doesn't make perfectly clear). Just shooting a boss with your standard snow globs will earn you points, hinting that you'll eventually win if you do that persistently enough, but that's not the case. Bosses don't react very strongly to anything they're hit with until they die. Once you realize that minion-tossing is necessary, though, this ceases to be a problem.

Regular enemies are varied, too, moving around the stages and attacking in different ways. Some enemies can climb or drop down through platforms, some can fly at you with a head butt, or breathe fire at you, or spin into a tornado and fly around the stage. There's a respectable number of enemies for a game of Snow Bros.' size, and they're varied enough to need to be approached different ways.

Snow Bros. is a lot of fun alone, but it's even better with a friend. The game features full simultaneous two-player co-op. While there's not really anything special two people can do together (there are no team attacks and characters can't really interact with each other beyond rolling snowballs into each other), it's simply a really fun experience with a friend.

Graphically, Snow Bros. is very cute. Aside from a couple of bosses, player characters and enemies are cartoony and charming. Backgrounds are colourful with simple-yet-appealing wallpaper. Animations are simple, but Nick and Tom do a little flip at the height of their jumps, and it's adorable.

Snow Bros. also features a pleasant soundtrack that suits the game well. It's not the type of music that you'll be humming after finishing the game, but it sets the tone just fine and it certainly doesn't get old before you finish playing.

Snow Bros. was never a huge hit, and that's too bad. It's one of the best games of its kind on the NES, with a very nice aesthetic and simple, fun gameplay. If you enjoy Bubble Bobble-type arcade games, you won't do much better than this one. Snow Bros. is simply a lot of fun, and not to be missed by genre fans.

Rating: 9/10

Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (April 15, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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