Ice puzzles have been used in mainstream video games multiple times. From Pokemon Gold and Silver to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, to Paper Mario, ice puzzles have been used…to a varying degree of success. Making a title based entirely around them – specifically ice block puzzles – is a risk for sure. Shivering Stone and Eastasiasoft have stepped up to the challenge, and while the core gameplay elements can be entertaining, the puzzles themselves lack the gameplay depth to prevent eventual – albeit brief – tedium.
Upon loading into Shivering Stone, players bear witness to a charming wintry aesthetic. Shivering Stone’s pixel art style wonderfully captures frosty weather to a tee, with snowy trees and paths alongside frozen lakes! Art design is integral for a game relying so much on aesthetic; it’s fair to say East Asiasoft have succeeded here. Playing Shivering Stone allows me to fully embrace winter and be immersed within a simple yet vibrant world.
Musically too, Shivering Stone gets off on the right foot. Its singular piece of music – while short (albeit repetitive towards the end) – encapsulates mysteriousness while feeling atmospherically on point. My only complaint is with it being the only piece of music. As such, after less than half an hour, I decided to put on my own music.
Initially, everything seems blissful: Shivering Stone takes pride in its aesthetic, and for the first few levels, everything’s going swimmingly. As one progresses through the game, you quickly find that very little changes. Trees and lakes move around, sure, but nothing new is added to the landscape. Something as simple as winter animals occasionally popping up in the background could have added some beauty and depth to the game world. Given the length of Shivering Stone, however, I feel as though I’m being a tad too critical. After all, the key component of a puzzle game is, obviously, puzzles.
Shivering Stone comes with 50 ice block puzzles. In every level, players must move ice blocks around in an attempt to cover all pressure pads. Subsequently, gates open, signaling the end of the level and opening future levels. Simple but effective…for the most part. Some levels are engrossing because they require thinking outside the box, but too many are straightforward, which is especially disappointing later into the game. In as little as 30 seconds, I completed a couple of levels later on, with some of the first levels genuinely providing greater challenges. As such, the difficulty is inconsistent.
If the gameplay formula experienced some sizable changes, Shivering Stone would have had a more appropriate level of difficulty. Snow patches are introduced around one third of the way into the title, allowing ice blocks to stop and remain in one place. Otherwise, nothing really changes. Puzzles fail to become much more complicated, and depth is missing. Imagine if there were multiple floors, varying sizes of ice blocks, slopes and more. This would undeniably boost replayability and general enjoyment.
Egregiously, I have one major gripe with Shivering Stone’s puzzles. Being repetitive is one thing, but forcing players to solve a puzzle in only one way is frustrating. On several occasions, Shivering Stone makes player take one route to success. Tough luck if you’ve found an alternative solution. Ice blocks will either consistently get stuck on invisible walls or move completely differently from how they previously did, just to prevent you from choosing option B. Further testing or colour coordinating pressure pads could’ve solved this aggravating issue. Instead, there were times where I felt as though the game was glitched.
East Asiasoft have proven that a game dedicated to ice block puzzles can be enjoyable. While the many enjoyable puzzles and the aesthetic are spot on, game design ultimately lets this game down at several points. Had later puzzles been more difficult – with further gameplay elements added – Shivering Stone would be an easily recommendable title. However, judging what we have, East Asiasoft’s newest release can provide fun – alongside an easy Platinum trophy, if you’re looking for a cheap, swift game to enjoy.
Developer: Eastasiasoft Limited
Publisher: Eastasiasoft Limited
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5.
Release Date: 5th January 2024
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Shivering Stone was provided by the publisher.