This week I had intended to try out a single Christmas-themed game, but much like the platter of seasonal snacks provided before a Christmas lunch, I could not help but sample a bit of everything. These three free games — Corgi Christmas Adventure, Jingle All the Bells, and Santa’s Mailroom — are a perfect selection to keep the younger family members entertained during that sluggish stretch of afternoon where everyone is trying to stay awake, but still feeling a bit too full to break out the backyard cricket set.
Corgis are firmly entrenched as a part of the holiday tradition within my family. My parents both had kept them as childhood dogs, and my generation did the same, excited barking serving as a soundtrack to every family gathering. None were well trained enough to deliver presents though, unlike the short-legged protagonist of Corgi Christmas Adventure.
The Christmas corgi is delivering presents to a rough part of town, a task far too dangerous for Santa or his reindeer. A home infested with rats opens into a spooky forest, full of ghosts, bats, and even an enormous demon who needs to be pelted with many presents to pacify. Delivering presents is not always a glamorous job, but even forest monsters are deserving of festive cheer.
I was unfortunately faced with serious control issues during Corgi Christmas Adventure. The platforming controls worked well, the corgi navigating the world with ease, but shooting the present cannon was another matter. The cannon is supposed to aim towards the cursor, but I could barely get the reticule to move at all. I tried out the game on another computer in case it was an issue with my mouse, but there the reticule did not move at all, fixed in the bottom right corner of the screen. Beating the game was still possible but was made far more difficult by the finicky controls. Some alternate aiming options — perhaps the arrow keys, or even a lock-on when close enough — would have made combat far more enjoyable.
While the controls were a bit tricky, I was a fan of the warm pixel world of Corgi Christmas Adventure. The titular corgi is suitably adorable, and the intense gradients on the backgrounds gave the game really dramatic lighting. A simple rendition of “Jingle Bells” adds festive flair, keeping to the theme without smothering everything in green and red.
Corgi Christmas Adventure has some control issues, but the core platforming is sound. I certainly enjoyed the chance to reminisce about my own Christmas corgi memories. For more platforming games, developer Andrew Silver has made several other titles.
Jingle All the Bells is a silly physics sim about a man in a Santa outfit trying to raise money for charity. The player shakes his bell by dragging the mouse back and forth, enticing passersby to donate to a good cause. However, each pedestrian has their own opinion on what kind of ringing sounds good, with people donating more cash if the bell is flailed around wildly or shaken at a steady pace.
For such a simple concept, shaking the bell at the correct tempo for each customer takes a surprising level of precision. The volume of the bell varies greatly with how hard Santa’s arm is shaken, and keeping a steady beat adds almost a rhythm-game aspect. No pressure is involved in the experience, however: Santa tallies up how much money he’s earned for charity at the end of each day, but there’s no endpoint to the game. So if one section proved too tricky for the public to donate much, the player can always try again the next day.
Earning money unlocks cosmetic accessories for Santa, changing up his appearance and the song played by the bell, as well as detailing what the charity would be using the money for. The charity supports some odd but wholesome initiatives, like giving babies high-fives and providing chew toys to reformed ex-cons.
Jingle All the Bells stars probably the cutest Santa I have ever seen. That is probably not a big competition for Australian Santas — hot weather and fur-lined costumes do not mix — but this one certainly looks like someone you could trust with your money. The passersby have large, expressive faces, making it easy to tell if they are enjoying your current style of bell-ringing. Sound design is kept minimal, but the cheerful chiming of the bell against the wind blowing adds a nice atmosphere to the game, a spot of coziness amongst the cold.
I really liked Jingle All the Bells. The game takes a single idea and polishes every aspect around that thought, creating a focused experience. For more playful simulation games, developer The Stork Burnt Down is working on Home Improvisation, which is due out mid-next year.
As someone who has worked for the post office, I can verify that trying to find the right parcel this time of year can be a nightmare. Sorting parcels in Santa’s Mailroom, however, is quite a peaceful puzzle, relying on logic rather than trying to find things as quickly as possible. A mix-up has occurred in Santa’s mailroom, and five presents have lost their tags. Clues are hidden on five Christmas cards scattered throughout the office, giving hints as to which present goes in which slot. When all five presents are correctly lined up, pressing a big red button will send them flying off into the night, just in time for Christmas day.
The logic puzzling in Santa’s Mailroom is surprisingly tricky. I played through on Medium, with Easy and Hard options also on offer, and I spent a good half hour shuffling boxes and names back and forth. The clues are reminiscent of what you would find in a Professor Layton game, such as, “Rathina’s present is immediately before the purple one,” or, “Murali’s present is either second or fourth.” Between the names and the presents, quite a bit of logic puzzling is required to get it right. Fortunately, if you do hit the button on the incorrect combination, an error sound occurs rather than a game over.
What may be an issue to some players is the reliance of knowing the colors of the presents to solve the puzzle. Due to the warm mood lighting, two of the parcels looked purple to me, no matter how I squinted at the screen. I eventually decided the lighter purple one must be blue, but that uncertainty made the rest of the puzzle harder. A unique wrapping paper pattern for each gift would eliminate this problem.
Aside from color issues, the little postal office is decidedly cozy. The shelves are full of wrapping supplies, and the Christmas cards have just the right level of traditional cheesiness. Level design is well thought out for the puzzle, too — each hint is written on an overhead screen when found, so the player does not have to constantly check the Christmas cards for clues. I appreciated the variety in music, too: After playing quite a few Christmas games for this article, I was solidly tired of “Jingle Bells.” Santa’s Mailroom has more of a radio station approach to its music, a wide variety of Christmas tunes that I did not hear repeat during my playtime.
The logic puzzles might be a bit too tricky after a few eggnogs, but I really enjoyed Santa’s Mailroom. I feel this one could be a good choice for the whole family, everyone working together to solve the puzzle. If you enjoy exploring cozy worlds, developer Antishow has also made a playground simulator in Recess.
Should you be celebrating any one of the many December holidays or just having a well-deserved day off, I hope you all have a wonderful time. Next week we will be playing dstnce, a life simulator where you play as a boggly-eyed cube. The game can be downloaded from itch.io. If you would like to share your thoughts, discussions will be happening in the Discord server.