Snufkin: Melody Of Moominvalley review: a simple pleasure

I didn’t really know anything about Moomins going into adventure game Snufkin: Melody Of Moominvalley, besides that their heads always looked palatable to me – like bleached kidney beans. Plus the Moomin merch I’d seen over the years in official Moomin shops or the odd gift store was delightful, so if someone had rocked up with a pencil case adorned with Moomin heads back in school, you bet I would’ve been jealous.

And having finished the game, I’m unsure whether I’ve truly learned any more about the Moomins and their friends. But then again, I’ve come away thinking that it’s a pleasant universe to spend a few hours in, where the wild is celebrated with rebellious song. If you’re after the video game equivalent of a walk through the woods on a warm afternoon, Moominvalley is the place to wander.

Snufkin and Little My ride a pirate ship through stormy seas in Snufkin: Melody Of Moominvalley.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Raw Fury

Anyone is welcome in Moominvalley, as its premise doesn’t require of you a frightening familiarity with its lore. The story begins as you, an adventurer called Snufkin, bid farewell to your pal Moomintroll (it’s at this point I learned that Moomins aren’t cows, but trolls) as winter rolls in. Time passes until the snow melts, spring awakens, and Snufkin decides he’ll venture back to Moominvalley to see his pal again. But wait! There are signs ordering people not to do things? The earth has been trampled? And Moomintroll has gone missing?!

Very quickly it turns out that there’s a rogue Moomin called The Park Ranger, who’s not only behind the signage and the trampled earth, but a series of gated parks guarded by the police. Absolutely outrageous scenes! And scenes you’ll put a stop to over the course of your adventure, as you hunt down your pal Moomintroll. Herein lies the game’s overt environmental message, that Moominvalley shouldn’t be confined and compartmentalised to fit silly human wants. It’s far prettier when it’s free.

No, it’s not a nuanced take, but it’s arguably one that needs hammering home no matter what. And I think Moominvalley’s brand of environmental respect is taught well, as Snufkin’s success lies in spreading joy through music. Well, specifically a harmonica, then later a flute and a drum. You’ll explore a small open world map, sending out sound waves of delight to see the kindness of your “bwee”s and “bmmm”s repaid in little gestures that simultaneously rejuvenate the valley, and help you navigate its challenges.

Snufkin sends a crocodile to sleep in Snufkin: Melody Of Moominvalley.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Raw Fury

Each of your instruments sends out an aura of some form, and you’ll need to match said instrument with a creature who bears a “use this particular instrument on me” badge. Do so and it’ll raise a circular bar (a bit like Breath Of The Wild’s stamina wheel) which, when maxed out, makes the creature do something. For instance, the harmonica’s tune creates an AOE ripple that might befriend cutesy Creeps hiding in a load of bushes, and you can then lead them to a big boulder that’s clearly got outlines of two Creeps next to it.

Later, the flute sends out a cone that can send creatures to sleep, like angry bees or protective crabs, while the drum can wilt troublesome ferns and crumble mounds blocking your way. The only real semblance of depth lies in pathways being blocked early on metroidvania-style, as you first need to reach a certain level or unlock a specific instrument for the job. There isn’t a level grind, though, don’t worry! Throughout your adventure you’ll collect level up juice (Inspiration) by completing little side quests, exploring little nooks, and mostly running through twitching bushes. It’s a natural process that just sort of happens, because the map’s compact enough and the optional pathways so unfussy that you’ll level without much effort.

So for the most part, Moominvalley is a simplistic puzzle game where the solution is easy (even I found the solutions easy, this never happens) and the path forward requires little to no brain power. You’ll shift rocks to climb ledges, pull logs to create makeshift bridges, and sometimes parp your flute if you need to send a snake to sleep. If Cocoon‘s puzzling adventure is smooth, Moominvalley is a Skittle skimming across an ice rink.

Fillyjonk says,
Most of the sidequests fall into a similar camp of charming and mildly exciting. They’re the sort of fetch quests you’ll complete before you’ve even talked to some of them, as you naturally pick up lost toys or mushrooms or whatever else Moominvalley’s inhabitants seem to have misplaced (everything). Sadly these quests don’t necessarily lead to a better understanding of each of Moominvalley’s curious residents. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Raw Fury

Folks expecting a challenge won’t find it here, but I think the frictionless puzzling suits the breeziness of the adventure. Moominvalley is a chill place designed primarily for a bit of fun, and it’s lovely being able to explore and progress in a world that’s not out to get you. And even if there’s not much experimentation to be had with its musical instruments, some stealth sections do have you use your noisy nous in novel ways.

Across Moominvalley are a handful of parks, all erected by the pesky Park Ranger who wants to impose trimmed lawns and ugly walls on Moominvalley’s lovely soil. So it’s up to you to liberate these plots of land by outfoxing the dumb police, knocking over statues, and ripping out signs that display any form of order. Again, it’s very basic hiding-in-bushes-to-avoid-lines-of-sight fare, but little flourishes like sending walking guards to sleep with a tactical hit of your flute, or diverting their attention with a slap of the drum, are very charming indeed.

Snufkin and Little My look out at the moon while standing on a rickety bridge in Snufkin: Melody Of Moominvalley.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Raw Fury

Outside of your tasks and your ultimate goal of finding your pal, Moominvalley is a wonderful place to exist. The soundtrack by Oda Tilset captures the feeling of a playful springtime walk, with lazy strings and jovial pipes giving way to some pleasing plinks and plonks. Some headline tracks also feature Sigur Ros, giving them an extra hit of Ros dreaminess when the game’s more pivotal moments kick in.

And the entire thing really is a stunner, all presented as if you’re leafing through Snufkin’s tale and Moominvalley leaps off the pages. I found myself stopping frequently to admire the bob of some crabs in the water, or soak in the views like when the moon lit up the sky as I crossed a rickety bridge. There are even some bespoke spots marked by small towers, each of which exist purely as spots for Snufkin to relax for a bit, transforming your screen into a shimmering wallpaper and transporting you straight into Snufkin’s happy place.

While Snufkin: Melody Of Moominvalley wraps up a bit abruptly and doesn’t get the band back together as deftly as I’d have liked, I can’t be too harsh on it all. Snufkin’s adventure is focused on simplistic fun, where you meet some pals and uproot some order, all within the span of an afternoon. Pair this with a cuppa and a fluffy blanket and that’s a holiday to remember.

This review is based on a retail build of the game, provided by publishers Raw Fury.

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