Moomintroll has always been the most immediately recognizable part of the Moomins, but he’s arguably not the most beloved. That honor belongs to Snufkin, Moomintroll’s nomadic best friend. With his harmonica, pointy hat, and carefree attitude, Snufkin has drawn adoration from around the globe, and that’s something that Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley, a new adventure-exploration game from Norwegian developer Hyper Games, seeks to capitalize on.
“For most Nordics, we grew up with the Moomins and I think it’s a big part of the cultural heritage of all the Nordic countries,” says Are Sundnes, co-founder and CEO of Hyper Games. Two years ago, Sundnes was on paternity leave, reading one of the Moomin novels called Who Will Comfort Toffle? to his then-five year old, and immediately began thinking about a game that would work with the Moomin license.
Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is the answer to that question, an open-world adventure-exploration game told entirely from the perspective of Moomintroll’s friend. “When we decided to go for an adventure and explorational game, he’s definitely the most adventurous character,” Sundnes explains, adding that Snufkin has a lot of skills that are “very well suited for a game.” Many of those skills may be recognizable to you if you’ve ever played a Legend of Zelda game; in fact, Sundnes believes that older Zelda games may have drawn inspiration from Snufkin for protagonist Link – especially in the instances where both are playing music.
After settling on an adventure starring Snufkin, it was time to pitch the Moomin license, which is still owned to this day by the Jansson family. “What they liked about us is that we’re smaller and more artistically focused,” says Sundnes, adding that the entire development team has a “lot of respect” for Jansson and her original books. “When we went to those meetings, I already knew everything about the books and that license, and I think that really came across,” the CEO adds. It’s because of Hyper Games’ ambition to create something that they’re proud of, not focusing on profit and money, that they became an underdog for the license, Sundnes says, and that’s what the Jansson family liked about the developer.
Snufkin’s tricks and tools
In thinking about the actual gameplay of Snufkin’s adventure though, Sundnes had one design direction: no swords. The director thinks a lot of adventure-exploration games chiefly deal with “using pointy things,” and looking back on adventure games of the last few years, like Tunic, Death’s Door, and others, it’s hard to argue. “We didn’t want to do that, not because we’re designing a kids game, but because it doesn’t feel right for this world and this license,” says Sundnes.
From the director’s perspective, it’s “interesting” to create something that isn’t combat-based. Even games in the distant past are littered with sword action, like the Zelda games Sundnes highlights as being inspired by Snufkin. “80% of the time you’re going round and using a sword, and so we had to replace that with something that’s more interesting,” Sundnes explains.
To dodge swording, Sundnes and company turned to Snufkin’s harmonica. Famously, the adventurer carries a harmonica everywhere he goes, and this became the focal point for the upcoming Melody of Moominvalley. Hyper Games wants to use Snufkin’s harmonica as a tool for overcoming environmental puzzles, and even for interacting with characters. In the game’s debut trailer for example, we can see Snufkin raising up a sea beast to act as a platform with his harmonica. The studio has teased that Snufkin will adventure around Moominvalley completing tasks, quests, and puzzles for inspiration, which he can then turn into new songs that will unlock brand new abilities.
In terms of who Snufkin will complete said quests for, Sundnes confirms that the entire Moomin family will be making an appearance in Melody of Moominvalley. The game’s debut trailer might have omitted the iconic Moomin family entirely, but Sundnes wants to reassure fans that they’ll meet the entire retinue. “I think most of the well known characters will be featured throughout the game,” Sundnes teases, potentially lining up some other pleasant surprises further down the line.
In fact, every character in Melody of Moominvalley is plucked from Jansson’s original novels. Sundnes and Hyper Games are being surprisingly strict with referring back to the original source material, omitting original characters that the 90s animated show created, even though Sundnes knows audiences around the world grew up with it. “For us it’s very important to always refer back to the original works by Tove Jansson,” Sundnes says, adding that with the “art style and characters and story we tried to channel all the inspiration from those original works.”
With Melody of Moominvalley though, Sundnes wants the new game to spur people to pick up Jansson’s books for the first time. “Probably a lot of people will encounter Moomins through our game, and that’s very cool to me,” the director says. Sundnes doesn’t think a lot of people know Jansson’s original novels all that well, and they’re probably more aware of the animated series, or even the comic strips that Jansson herself penned. He’s hoping Melody of Moominvalley will change all that.
Right now, Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is targeting a 2023 release for PC and consoles alike. Hyper Games is still hard at work on the project after over two years of development, and although the first chapter of the game is effectively done, Sundnes knows there’s a long way to go yet, with over four hours of main story being the goal for the dev team. We’re yet to even see the Moomins, but Snufkin’s new adventure is already looking like a treat.
Looking for something to play while you wait for Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley? Check out these games like Zelda, or the best adventure games you can play right now.