The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Top 9 Winter Levels

This is kind of a special christmas edition of Nostalgia 64 and as such, I’m giving The Zero a week off and locked him in the basement with about 4 games to play so he can moan about them next week. Snow levels aren’t dis-similar to water levels in that developers think we all like them and as it turns out, we don’t. The ice makes us slip and slide to repeated deaths and any enthusiasm that the upbeat seasonal music gives us is drowned out by horror and cursing, of course some games through fantastic design, mostly manage to keep us entertained despite that, so lets take a look at some of the best.

White Land 2 – F Zero X

I’m not going to lie, this is only very tenuously Winter themed, the track’s suspended above the ground and there’s only a vague white fog, so why’s it on my list? Because the tracks a halfpipe, a sweeping, swerving, devilishly evil half-pipe racing track. Also, it’s F Zero, how can you dislike F Zero?

Frappe Snowland – Mario Kart 64

Whilst on the surface, this level comes across quite tame. It’s snowy atmosphere, giant Mario ice statue and ice chasm still look pretty awesome 13 years later. Also, EXPLOSING SNOWMEN! Anyone who doesn’t understand the hilarity of exploding snowmen can get out right now.

Shiver Star Level 1 – Kirby 64

Snow? Check. Big snowman boss? Check. Ice lakes? Check. Going down a big hill on a tabogan/dinghy thingy? Awww yeah…

Shiver Region – Paper Mario

The Shiver Region in Paper Mario is quite far into the game and sadly at the point where the game can, for some people, feel like it’s beginning to drag. It’s shame they won’t take in this level because it’s so perfect with Paper Mario’s storybook style, wether it’s wandering in the snow, helping the penguins with a murder mystery (No seriously!) or getting lost in the fantastic looking Ice Palace, it takes full advantage of the games charm and just takes it to another level.

World 5 – Yoshi’s Island

A fight on the moon is the main boss battle, that’s pretty cool, but just the tip of the iceberg here. There’s ski-lifts, big down hill ski’s and some genuinely challenging levels, plus the SNES’ mode 7 graphics make the weather effects look gorgeous.

Snowhead – Majora’s Mask

Whilst other Snow levels are more joyful, this is the opposite. The Gorons are freezing to death and their tribe hero has already died, the music eerie and you get an atmospheric sense of dread throughout. But not having those would ruin the feel of the game, the area still feels enjoyable to explore, devilishly hard to navigate and the dungeon has one of the most fun Zelda bosses of all time in the form of Goht.

 

Walrus Cove – Diddy Kong Racing

Remember earlier in the countdown when I said that White Land was a kick ass track, but only vaguely wintery, well this IS very wintery and kicks ass. Why? There’s a BIG LOOP THE LOOP 5 seconds into the track, which is just awesome in every way. Also, the music’s Christmassy and there’s jelly ice for some reason.

Ice Cap Zone – Sonic 3

Sonic’s first foray into the winter level, complete with great music, slippy slidey icey…stuff, fantastic layered areas and speed powered platformers, utterly bonkers and breathtaking at once. Ice Climber The game is called Ice Climber. What more do you need? It’s all about climbing snowy mountains whilst fighting off polar bears and weird bird mammal thingys, it doesn’t really get much more wintery.

Freezeezy Peak – Banjo Kazooie

What else was it going to be? A perfect Christmas music score, snow and ice everywhere, polar bears, Christmas presents and a big frack off Christmas tree. The levels fairly big, but still feels small and intimate. There’s a giant snowman in the middle that you can climb up and sled down and smaller snowmen, known as Sir Slush who hurl snowballs at you like the snowball fight from hell. And to add to this, there’s even a couple of little snowtopped cottages, Whilst you can’t enter them, just their appearance warrants a mention because they just look like something out of a Christmas card. In fact, the whole level does and that’s why it’s number 1.

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