Look, I like Frozen well enough, but a part of me wishes that other Disney and Pixar franchises got the same amount of love and fanfare that this one is currently riding, such as The Incredibles and A Bug’s Life, of which the latter at least gets a cute, interactive movie inside the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom. Frozen is basically taking over the world (and Norway-land in Epcot), retail shelf by retail shelf, as well as seeping its way into videogame consoles through insidious free-to-play gem-matching microtransaction machines that I, for some reason or another, can’t resist checking out.
I began playing Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight on the Xbox 360 a month or so back, but then Fallout 4 came out and I grabbed an Xbox One and haven’t had much reason to turn on my older console since then other than to delete some downloaded games and move save profiles to…the cloud. Thankfully, much like TT Games’ LEGO romps, you can find Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight everywhere you turn, and so I downloaded it once more on my newest home console to give it another go and see if I could enjoy myself without having to spend any moolah. Paul’s golden rule is to never spend any moolah.
Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight is a match-three puzzle game. Y’know, Bejeweled…but with Disney’s characters for dressing. Or maybe the closer comparison is actually Candy Crush Saga. You are essentially matching like-colored gems and jewels to clear lines, create power-ups, and trigger combos for high scores. There are other elements at work, like trying to get specific items to the bottom of the level, a challenge I loathed in Hexic. Some levels have gems covered in frost, which can only be destroyed by clearing the gems twice. Lastly, some levels are timed, meaning the pressure is on to spot combos and keep things moving, especially near the bottom of the playing field, ensuring that a high score avalanche happens swiftly.
Ironically, I hit a wall right around the same spot as I did in the Xbox 360 version, which is in the level 20s or so, where Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight ramps up the difficulty significantly, but begins limiting the free power-ups that definitely help when you only have a few moves left and desperately need to see that crown drop down, not-so-subtly nudging you towards purchasing them with real-life cash. The pricing scheme is not friendly, asking $0.99 to add 15 seconds to a timed round, which, in reality, probably gets you four or five more moves. For some reason, I’m hardwired to try and play these free-to-play titles without using any of the extra abilities and items, to know if they are doable without them, like mostly in Pokemon Shuffle.
Also, you are given a limited number of hearts when you begin Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, with the chance to win more by logging in every day and selecting a random tile to flip over. I think I started with 16 hearts, and every time you lose a match or do not complete the required objectives, you lose a heart. I’m down to 11 now. Once you run out, unless you win more through the daily log-in thingy, you’ll have to purchase more to keep playing. Spoiler alert: hearts aren’t cheap. Well, that sucks. Still, I’ve found an annoying way around this annoying feature, and that is this: quit the level before it is finished and restart the game, and you’ll have the same number of hearts as before. Which means once you realize things are going poorly or you aren’t going to hit that high score tier, simply exit out and return again to try once more. Not the best way to manipulate the system, but it does work (for now).
There are some other problems at work in Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight, and they fall under the graphics and sound departments. Both are lifeless and feel like afterthoughts. This is Bejeweled with a light coating of Frozen stuff, like an overworld map of Arendelle for selecting levels and these strange, barely animated versions of the characters that simply stand off to the side and watch as you make moves. Every now and then they clap, but not because you did something right; sometimes they clap when you lose. It’s on a cycle. The music is of a generic orchestral style, but not very memorable, which is ironic when there isn’t much to begin with and it repeats on each and every level you play.
The film version of Frozen took the world by storm, though I didn’t end up seeing it until many, many months later. Once I did, I got it; there’s strong, adventurous characters and an unbelievably catchy soundtrack to bop your head and pretend you aren’t singing along to. There’s warmth in all the frigidness, and a triumph to see through to the credits. Unfortunately, you’ll find none of that in Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight.