Snow Job


Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 9

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7

FMV. Full Motion Video. We made a big mistake years ago when we ran the FMV genre out of town like a common pygmy. Sure, it was a fad and was grossly misused (I still can't believe they tried to do a basketball game and several fighting games in FMV style), but there were some very practical game styles that worked wonders in this format. Those who quickly dispel silly games like Sewer Shark or Supreme Warrior may not have had the pleasure of experiencing the games that truly used this "gimmick" to its best advantage. Games like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and Dracula Unleashed are fine examples of how video could be effectively fused into a solid game.

One of the last such solid titles appeared on the 3DO Multiplayer system circa 1995. This game, featuring a cast of unknowns highlighted by B-movie actress extraordinaire Tracy Scoggins and requiring the player to solve a mystery in a gritty city atmosphere never really got the attention it deserves. The game is Snowjob.

Tracy Scoggins is the District Attorney whose life is in danger. You're the ex-boyfriend who also happens to be a private detective, determined to save her. You've got a few friends in the game, including the computer/technical geek who hooks you up with all kinds of gear, and the chief of police who assists you on the sly. Everyone else that you meet, more or less, couldn't give a fuck about you or your investigation and they'll need to be dealt with.

There are essentially three kinds of game screens. The most common is a 360-degree (with about 90-degrees of up and down) view of the area you're in. The familiar interface allows you to look, use, take, or talk to things on your screen. Many areas have sub-areas that you can walk to. Although nothing moves on this screen, it's still quite impressive, and you sometimes have to look very carefully in this mode since everything is photo-realistic. They didn't make it easy for you by using sprites to replace the objects you can interact with, but your cursor will indicate when you've passed over something when you can interact with it.

The second screen is your inventory, where again you can look at, use, or discard items. Like any good puzzle-solving game, you'll often have to figure out which items can be used in which areas, and at what time. Many items have to be assembled, combined, or repaired. It will take a little brain power but you'll figure it out.

The third screen is the map. Places appear on the map as you learn of them in the game. For example, when you read in the paper about a murder, the crime scene appears as a location on your map. You can quickly travel from place to place, each trip takes you back to the 360-degree interface screen. Traveling on the map assumes the use of a subway and costs you some money and some time. Ah, about that...

Your primary enemies in this game are money and time, or rather the lack of it. Run out of money and you may as well pack it in (or cheat). Run out of time and you'll either get one of the many "bad endings" or will find yourself with nothing to do a few days into the game's story. The good news is that you'll be notified at the end of a day if you haven't completed that day's objectives. You CAN continue at this point but the only way to win is to back up and figure out what you didn't do on that day.

There are also a few mini-games along the way, varying in cheesy-ness (this is one of the game's weaker points). The daily crosswords are pretty good, if not a little clumsy to navigate, but the "arcade games" are laughable. The "Knock-Out" game is a reverse Breakout with a bikini-clad girl under the blocks and "Phaser Tag" looks like something out of the Action Max library of VHS games. You won't be impressed with these, but at least they DO serve a purpose. Each mini-game will lead you to a clue or important area in the game, so bear with them.

All of this and I haven't even discussed the actual video segments of the game! They're fairly well-done. I've seen worse acting on any Sci-Fi channel exclusive, really. The cast is a mixture of stereotypes and not-ready-for-prime-time television actors, but they get the job done. There are some surprisingly bad scenes (the voice acting from your character is commonly among these) but also some surprisingly good ones. The script is definitely mature in nature which helps, though hearing "shit" and seeing bullet-wounds in a game like this still catches me off guard. During the video segments you will often be required to "choose a path" in the conversation. Some of these choices are obvious, others are not. Usually when a day isn't completed properly it's because you chose the wrong conversation path, I found. Hitting on the stripper isn't a good idea, for example.

So where does the assessment leave the overall review of Snowjob? Well, you have very good visuals and sound, an easy-to-use interface, and a decent story with a number of paths and side-stories. It loses a few points in replay value, but that's to be said for most any "solve the story" game. Listen, even if you simply HATE FMV games, this one is worth a look.

I'd recommend seeking this one out! It's a solid game that will keep your attention for awhile, even if it doesn't have enough Tracy Scoggins for my tastes.


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Last updated: Sunday, October 31, 2004 10:17 AM