Genre: 2D point-and-click Adventure
Release date: February 2, 2017
Reviewed on Android; also available for Windows
The Frostrune begins when a summer storm leaves you shipwrecked on an island in the year 965. You find an abandoned village with signs that residents left in a hurry, not bothering to gather their belongings. The mystery deepens as you discover strange patches of ice that remain frozen despite the warm temperatures. As you take steps to uncover the cause of the ice, you explore a “historically accurate” Norse village…a step back in time that has been created in exquisite detail, with special attention to the culture and religion.
Your adventure is driven by the discovery of runes – letters that are more powerful than our current alphabet. Each is a symbol of a cosmic power or principle which is invoked by writing or speaking the rune. True to Norse philosophy, The Frostrune allows a peek into the magic and mysticism that was a part of that world. As you encounter various runes, you are granted access to a spirit world that exists as a layer of separate reality. This world is visible with Spirit Vision – the result of combining your own spiritual gifts with a magical staff. When the staff is wielded, the dead are visible and they guide you on your way.
Ultimately, your quest is to discover the source of the permanent frost and banish it from the island.
The first thing one notices about The Frostrune is the beauty of the graphics. The game is presented in 2D hand-painted scenes with limited animation. The artwork is complemented by a full Viking-era sound track of ambient noise and original music. All dialog is spoken in Old Norse with English subtitles. While the use of an ancient language adds authenticity, this is one aspect of the game that wore me out. My options were to mute my sound entirely or to have someone whispering a foreign language in my ear ad infinitum. I admit that I rarely listen to dialog in its entirety. I tend to read-and-click to skip to the next response - an option not available in The Frostrune. For this (somewhat) impatient gamer, waiting for the Norse whisperer to finish a sentence that I did not understand was frustrating, at best. I would have liked to see an option to turn the voice off but still listen to the rest of the soundtrack.
As a standard point-and-click game, navigation to an adjacent scene is accomplished by clicking on a door or path in the current scene. It is not always obvious when an adjacent scene is available. This means that I initially missed a section of the game landscape because I did not recognize a path. An arrow is provided to backtrack to the previous scene.
Puzzles are a mix of inventory-based find -and-use activities and those that require you to interpret stories and/or match patterns and symbols. All are based on Norse culture and mythology and add to the educational value of the game. Inventory is managed by pointing-and-clicking to take or use objects. A pouch icon is provided to access inventory which is opened only when you are using an item. Otherwise, inventory items are hidden from the main view.
Hints are available as a main menu option and are unlocked as you explore new areas. However, hints are numbered rather than titled by problem. Thus, you may end up getting information you do not need in a search for help with a specific scenario.
Except for the Norse voice-overs, I enjoyed this game. The scenery is beautiful and I appreciate the attention that Grimnir has given to details. The puzzles are well constructed and make sense. I admit that I resorted to using a pencil and paper regularly to record symbols for later use. Perhaps my aging gamer brain simply has too many files open! The Frostrune is not difficult and the only time I got truly stuck was when I missed a path and had not seen the area that included an object I needed. All and all, it is a worthy adventure for the thoughtful gamer.
+ Beautiful graphics provide a step back into Viking times
+ Creative puzzles complement the historical experience
+ Spirit Vision adds complexity to the environment
- Norse language track wears thin