We have all dreamt about it; the perfect White Christmas. Presents opened, selection boxes devoured, and then heading outside to build a snowman whilst the turkey cooks. Or, take it even further, ice skating on the frozen lake outside. It sounds idyllic.
But if ice skating isn’t for you, but you still want to get on that lake and enjoy yourself, there are other options. For example, have you ever thrown a stone on a frozen lake and tried to skim it? The noise is fantastic. In Shivering Stone, you have the stone and frozen lake. But rather than skimming them, you are pushing them around, all in a sokoban style puzzle game.
I’m not sure what world we are in when we are fenced off and locked in with just pressure pads on the frozen lake as the only means of escape, but let’s not dwell too much on that. In Shivering Stone you have fifty levels to work through, pushing large stones around a lake, attempting to get them to rest on pressure pads.
Videogame Knowledge 101 will tell you that anything on ice will continue momentum until it hits a wall or other obstacle, and Shivering Stone is no exception. The boulders will not stop once pushed unless they hit a wall, another boulder or, in later levels, a snowy patch on the ice. Using this knowledge, Shivering Stone will see you trying to move them around, positioning them so they stop on the pressure pads, in turn opening the locked gates for you to walk through. There really is nothing more to it than that.
Aside from a snowy patch introduced around level 15, there is nothing in terms of variation. Sure, the levels may get harder as you progress, but you are doing the same thing over and over again with no new features.
Accompanying you on this peaceful journey is some suitably wintery music that you’d best get used to. It is on a loop that doesn’t last very long and whilst it is pleasant enough, it does get tiresome over time.
Matching this are some very pretty pixel art visuals. The surrounding trees and snowscapes are very calming to look at. They occasionally sway in the breeze, with wisps of snow travelling over the screen. Or there are the paths, visible where the snow has refused to settle. If it sounds like I am running out of things to say, it’s because I am.
Each level would appear to have multiple ways to solve them, but woe betide anyone who tries to figure them out differently than what the developer has intended. On more than one instance the boulder I was pushing conveniently got caught on the perimeter of the lake. Sometimes, restarting the level can fix the issue, but other times you will simply need to find a new route. This is frustrating to say the least; being able to see a viable solution only to be told that this is not the correct method.
It makes no sense either to do this. Shivering Stone allows you to experiment, because the areas you are pushing blocks about can be quite large, giving ample opportunity to experiment. But experiment too much and you are made to feel punished: boulders will catch on seemingly invisible walls. Level 28 in particular was the worst offender for this, only allowing me to complete the level once I had sent a boulder round the houses to get to where it was needed. Having found a quicker solution to get to the desired location, my next move to push it to a pressure pad was suddenly blocked. The boulder didn’t line up properly, and I had to resort to playing the game by the developer’s rules.
Sometimes this may be down to paths appearing like a boulder will fit down them, only for you to try and fail. But there are also times where it simply will not let you proceed unless you perform the same correct pattern as intended.
But if you can forgive this restricted form of gameplay, then there is a bag full of easy achievements to be had. So much so that even before launch, Shivering Stone has received not one, but two title updates, boosting the Gamerscore to 3000 at launch. The base 1000G is unlocked after completing level 35, with the next 1000G for completing level 50. The second title update can award you another 1000G as early as Level 14.
This is another release by Eastasiasoft, so don’t be too surprised to see yet more title updates down the line, furthering increasing the Gamerscore on offer without adding any extra levels. Like or loathe this methodology, Eastasiasoft are famous for it, and seem keen to continue the trend.
If you like a good sokoban puzzle game, then Shivering Stone does it all with a nice snowy theme brushed on top. It doesn’t go out of the way to change up the formula, and sometimes it will leave you frustrated if you try to deviate, but it does what it sets out to do. It is cheap, cheerful, basic and pretty.