Review: Father Frost HD – an iOS port of the point-and-click Russian Fable

Father Frost HD screenshot - cottage
Review: Father Frost HD – an iOS port of the point-and-click Russian Fable

Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod (HD version for iPad and iPhone 4 only)

Game Name: Father Frost

Publisher: Centauri Productions

Developer: Bohemia Interactive

Genre: Puzzle

Release Date: March 25th 2011

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Developer Summary

A story about love, spite, greed, modesty, humility and seeking. It is divided into four acts – according to the four seasons. That means you’ll visit some of the game locations several times, but every time at a different season and at a different time of day.

Together with the humble girl Nastienka and the gallant hero Ivan, you are about to solve challenging puzzles and overcome many baited traps, and in the end you’ll try some of the wedding pirozhki. Awaiting you are mysterious beings and magic objects, wild beasts and domestic animals and pets, guileful highway robbers, the evil hag Baba Yaga, Old Man Mushroom, prudent Father Frosty and many other traditional and non-traditional fairy-tale characters.

I want Nastya to be my wife, uhuhuhh!!! (sic)

What We Think

A near-direct port of the Windows game from 2002 entitled Fairytale About Father Frost, Ivan and Nastya, Father Frost maintains the whimsical charm of the original, but suffers from its wildly out-of-date attempts to localize this classic Russian fable, and some clunky point-and-click game design choices.

Father Frost for iOS screenshot - cottage
Ivan's crib. Word to his mother.

Turn On Your Hearth Light

The hand-painted backgrounds and characters are gorgeous and have certainly been enhanced for their new home on the iOS platforms. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention went into the creation of the folk tale world. Tapping along the screen will result in some wonderfully fluid animations. Regrettably, the same character models are used for close-up conversations between characters, and the level of detail doesn’t hold up under the magnifying glass. Beautiful folk music is scored through most of the scenes. For the most part, Father Frost presents itself well.

By tapping various parts of the scenery, players can interact with the world around Nastya and Ivan. Some items can be stored in the inventory to use while solving the various puzzles that present themselves. There is no great degree of difficulty, and the few troubles that do hold a player up are usually because something obvious has been overlooked. When in doubt, tap everything!

I’m Knitting Socks, But I Don’t Know Why…

A quick Google search will reveal that Father Frost is a beloved Russian fable, along with a brief synopsis. Bringing it to a western audience poses some challenges. Without knowing the back story, the point behind Nastya’s menial chores is muddied, and fumbling through feeding chickens, cleaning the yard, and getting hay the horse is more than a little tedious, especially in the crucial first hour of the game.

Father Frost for iOS review - screenshot -bandits

The game play suffers from some serious inconsistencies. In the night scene, Nastya must lull her stepsister to a deeper sleep with a piece of candy. Before she does this, her sister’s light sleep will prevent Nastya from removing her sock. The next morning, to fool her stepsister into thinking she has eaten too many sunflower seeds, she waltzes right up to her while she is wide awake and rubs soot on her feet. Her sister doesn’t so much as flinch.

Certain event flags are on before they are necessary. Upon picking up a garden hoe, Nastya states “Now I can pick that beet”. What beet? Sure enough, a beet is required to solve a puzzle later in the game, but at this point it hadn’t even been discussed.

While getting a feel for the game, I tapped the “help” button for some advice. This, however, does nothing more than roll the developer credits.

Father Frost for iOS review - screenshot - step mom
My stepmom was actually really nice. Lucky, I guess.

Spoony Bards Need Not Apply

I can’t say it any nicer than this: the localization is pretty bad. Some of the attempts to capture western slang are downright laughable. When attempting to mix or use items in the wrong spots, Ivan will declare “That’s garbage!” or “Lost Job! It doesn’t work”. Nastya’s step mother will poke her head out once every few minutes to remind her that she thinks of her stepdaughter as “viper’s venom”.

The voice acting is also pretty terrible. It doesn’t seem as though the voice actors aren’t familiar with the English language; they just aren’t very good. The animal voices in particular are handled with an overly grandiose flair. I suspect that the voice tracks have been recycled from the original Windows game, and they really don’t hold up to today’s standards.

Though beloved fables may last forever, games from 2002 portraying said fables do not. The music and scenery were glorious in the 2002 Windows game, and they remain so today. With no attempt to replace the cheesy voice tracks and shoddy vocalization, Father Frost plays smoothly, but still leaves an awkward feeling.

Father Frost is available at the App Store. Price: USD $4.99

[xrr rating=”3/5″]