Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is an adventure-puzzle game for the Nintendo Switch. It sets out to bring a relaxing experience to players with its charming aesthetic, cute critters, and melody-inspired gameplay. 

If you’ve never heard of the Snufkin series of books from Finnish author Tove Jansson, you’re not alone. This game served as my introduction to the charming world of Moominvalley, though the characters appear to be semi-popular in Nintendo’s homeland. This serendipitous discovery was made as I reviewed the game while traveling Japan. 

The story of Melody of Moominvalley begins with a sweet scene at the end of autumn. You control Snufkin, a human drifter who befriends the critters of Moominvalley. As winter approaches, Snufkin says farewell to his best friend, Moomintroll, a white bear-like creature who waves him off at their meeting spot on the bridge. Once winter recedes, Snufkin returns to the forest, only to find that things have changed and the animals are in danger. Even worse, his best friend is missing. It’s time to set things right again.

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Your two main tasks are to find Moomintroll and to restore the forest to its natural state. The areas surrounding the village have been converted into parkland, robbing the critters of their home. 

There’s an environmental message weaved into the gameplay. With the village and surrounding forest being transformed into parkland, Snufkin pulls out park signs and (rather quickly) restores trees and grassy areas back to the way they were. Interestingly, the creatures causing the disruption aren’t human; they appear to be the same species as Moomintroll. It goes to show that anyone can destroy the environment. 

There are a couple of gameplay elements used to push the story along. Exploration is key, with simple puzzles used to open new areas. These might include finding a key to unlock a gate or tiptoeing around policemen to avoid being captured. Perhaps you’ll need to find the missing items required to build a raft, or race a leaf down a stream. The objectives are neatly listed for you and clearly marked as complete when finished. They’re generally straightforward to solve, aiming for a more relaxing affair. There are no lives or hearts to count, you simply go about your tasks until you complete them. It’s a refreshing change of page as well as ensuring things are accessible to younger players. There’s also plenty of variety to keep things interesting.

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To achieve these objectives, our protagonist wields several musical instruments. Snufkin begins with a harmonica, increasing his repertoire with extra instruments as he levels up. He uses these to communicate with various creatures. Often this ties in with the puzzle element, using music to move creatures or encourage them to help you. It’s a unique mechanic that’s easy to pull off via the ZR button. The sweet melodies are tinged with melancholy, and I enjoyed using Snufkin’s instruments even just walking around. 

Snufkin’s character is worth mentioning as it adds to the personality of the game itself. He’s a hero, sure, but he’s also a vagrant musician who drifts between seasons. In other words, he’s cool, calm, and collected. Other characters may take advantage of his helpful nature, but he’s always mindful of it. He’s clever enough to be aware, kind enough to do the right thing, but still has room for a few chuckle-worthy comments along the way. It’s a nice balance that’s part and parcel of the story.

The game’s aesthetic is lovely. There’s a picture-book style to the graphics, using a duller shade of green and blue to accentuate the forest’s plight. It’s purposefully a little subdued and complements that slightly melancholic vibe of Snufkin’s instruments mentioned earlier. It helps paint a picture worthy of its source material.

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Overall, Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley provides a relaxing adventure full of charm. There’s something unique about this one; the storybook approach coupled with a musical slant and wrapped in an environmental message feels special. It may not be a long game, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable while it lasts.