On Monday, February 17, I left the house for the very first time in five days after getting seriously snowed in. I mean, yeah, we live in the middle of the Pennsylvanian woods, so this was bound to happen eventually. And yes, the above picture is the actual abode Tara and I live in, and that’s her Jeep there, stuck in the middle of the driveway. Anyways, she was able to eventually get out, and after some more shoveling, I too got my lackluster and turble-in-da-snow Chevy Cobalt out and was able to reconnect with society for a brief moment before returning home with plenty of yummy groceries. Alas, it was not meant to be because, while I was able to get down the snowy driveway just fine, getting back up it was another mess. Flash-forward two hours, and all is well, but now I’m thinking about ice stages in videogames that I actually enjoy spending time in, unlike real life.
Onwards, with the five chilliest places I don’t mind getting stuck in…
The Ice Caves (Spelunky)
During my early days with Spelunky, getting to the Ice Caves was a big deal. It meant mastering the Mines and Jungle levels well enough to hit a series of levels as unlike the previous ones as possible. In the Ice Caves, you can slip and slide on blocks of ice, and so can gems and items and enemies, making it dangerous and chaotic for all involved. UFOs, yetis, and mammoths guard their territory aggressively. Also, the entire level takes place over a dark, endless abyss, meaning if you fall incorrectly, you might not ever hit ground and get back up. It’s not quite as deadly as the Temple levels, and I actually find the Ice Caves to be much more relaxing than any other section in Spelunky. Much as of that is due to the snappy, jazz-fused soundtrack, but I also think it has something to do with its unconventional openness; if you have the jetpack equipped, you can fly to and fro and see all that it has to offer, with few threats in your way. Perfect for ghost mining, too.
World 4 – Gorilla Glacier (Donkey Kong Country)
With great snow comes low visibility. Pretty sure that’s a famous quote said to Peter Parker. And that’s what I remember most about the Gorilla Glacier worlds from Donkey Kong Country–a lot of snow, blowing this way and that. Now, the levels don’t start out that way. In fact, you begin in Snow Barrel Blast, which paints a pretty picture of a clear sky and a lot of snow on the ground. As you progress, snow begins to fall and intensify, to the point where it becomes difficult to see. Toss in some hectic, heart-pulsing music, and this is starting to sound like a nightmare–but it’s strangely not. I remember it so fondly as a sign of the power of videogames, the power of the SNES, and when the snow would start to come down heavy many, many years later in games like Skyrim, I always knew where that technique–for me–started.
The Colder Climates (Journey)
I will keep this as brief as possible, since the snow levels arrive late in Journey‘s journey, right in spoilery territory, but man…they are something special. Especially if you are able to have a nameless co-op friend at your side, like I did my single time floating through the game. You basically have to traverse through the blinding snow, trudging up white hill after white hill, all while avoiding some big baddies soaring overhead. The controls work really well here, as it is actually so much harder to move in the snow than the desert sand, hitting home that you are in one bad place. That said, it’s gorgeous and gorgeously orchestrated. I played with another player, and we took turns checking to see if the coast was clear before chirping that it was time to dart back out into the blizzard.
Winter (Animal Crossing: New Leaf)
There’s a surprising amount of things to do in the winter in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and that’s all on top of the general number of things one can do as mayor of a village full of spunky animal residents. Building snowmen and snowwomen opens up chances for new collectibles; the snowwoman will give you special ice furniture for bringing her a certain number of snowflakes, and the snowman plays a game of Bingo with you for as long as he is standing. But walking around is nice and peaceful, the soft crunch of boots on snow peppering the soundtrack. Plus, I’m not as distracted as much as I am in the spring and summer by a dozen different bugs and butterflies to chase after. You still gotta watch out for those dung beetles though.
Canada (Sly 2: Band of Thieves)
The Sly Cooper franchise has a serious affection for snow levels. No, really. They are the one constant across all four titles. Here, have some proof in the form of a very direct sentence using a number of semicolons. In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, you go to China; in Sly 2: Band of Thieves, the gang ventures to Canada; Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has them moseying back to China; lastly, in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, the trio find themselves lost in time, stuck in the bitterly cold Ice Age.
In Band of Thieves, Canada plays home for two separate, but subsequent episodes and is visually depicted as large expanses of snow, tiny mountains, and ice-covered walls. There’s also moose carrying flashlights, but I think that’s based on actual findings, what do I know. The first Sly game was very linear, but the second outing began to open things up more, offering a hub and a larger area to explore at your leisure. And you could pick between any of the three heroes, and each traversed the snow differently. Aw, this was back before Bentley ended up in a wheelchair, too. My bad.
Well, that’s five really cold, frigid places that I’m okay getting stuck with. Do you have any others to add to this snow pile?