Given the fact that there’s a simulation game that quite literally lets you run rampant as a head-butting goat, it comes as no real surprise that there’s also one that lets you distill moonshine, too. It’s a weird age for video games, that’s for sure. But as it turns out, brewing spirits under the guidance of a frowning snowman isn’t all that bad; it’s actually pretty entertaining, all things considered. However, is it entertaining enough to keep you from mowing grass or power washing a garage door in alternate realities? This, along with a series of other questions, were what kept circling back and forth in my head as I slugged through the bitterly cruel, spirit-centric IP, Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine.
For the record, I don’t know a single thing about moonshine, much less the process of concocting such a spirit. Aside from the fact that I’ve drizzled a few chocolate flakes on a cappuccino in Coffee Talk and made a few biriyanis in Venba, I can’t say I’m all that experienced when it comes to distilling unique flavors and getting snowmen paralytic on illegal brews. Needless to say, I was perfectly happy to accept such a challenge when Asmodev and Gaming Factory’s IP hit the glacier earlier this month. Question is, was it worth it?
While I’m certainly no connoisseur when it comes to the art of fine dining and high-proof spirits, I am, for lack of a better word, adequate—sufficiently skilled enough to be able to string a few ingredients together to craft something that packs a punch. Were these skills able to make my newfound career as a fledgling moonshiner any easier? Let’s talk about it.
Open for Business
Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine slumps you into the shoes of Quella, an influencer-turned-connoisseur who, in the heat of passion, decides to alter her course and enter the moonshine market. Aside from her thirst for a foothold in the industry, Quella also thrives to become something of a local legend to her newly appointed co-workers—a prominent alchemist who, with a little help from all the right tools and ingredients, has the potential to dethrone an anamorphic snowman named Zero from the business. Is it an unusual concept? Absolutely. Does it work? Weirdly, yes.
While Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine isn’t the longest game in the world (five hours or so ought to do it), its relatively short runtime does manage to cough up enough to keep you hot on your toes and gradually progressing from one objective to the next. And speaking of progress — there isn’t all that much to write home about. In short, you’re tasked with sourcing specific ingredients from an old wooded area, and formulating high-proof spirits to trial back at a rather ominous motel. There’s also a few mini-games, too—stints in which the bulk of the gameplay involves executing certain quick-time events and toying around with a myriad of concoctions.
There’s a certain weirdness to the whole scenario, that much is obvious. And that’s where Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine comes into its own — as a highly unorthodox, albeit somewhat controversial Polish combination comprised of witty humor and wacky storytelling. It works, even though it probably shouldn’t, and I can’t for the life of me figure it if I’m impressed by that fact, or slightly concerned over my newfound passion for such quirky ideas.
Simplicity is Key
There’s a certain beauty in doing the same thing thrice over to achieve the exact same result. For some, it’s a process that has the ability to drive you up the wall, but for a select few (myself included), it’s almost therapeutic—effortlessly satisfying, even. And that’s pretty much the whole point behind distilling moonshine, as it turns out; you gather supplies, execute a couple of QTEs, and concoct a new batch of vials and icy potions. There’s a certain amount of progress to be made, but for the most part, it really is the case of finessing the same old formula—a task that, while not the most convoluted in the world, can provide some level of satisfaction on completion.
Don’t get me wrong, there is more to Booze Masters than scooting around in the fields and creating lethal concoctions that, quite frankly, wouldn’t go under the authorities’ noses at any border control gate. In addition to the actual brewing process, there’s also a relatively large area to explore, as well as a motel that’s equally rife with a slew of interesting, albeit slightly eccentric and borderline moronic characters. And then there’s the tools that you obtain and upgrade, too. Again, nothing particularly fancy — but just enough to keep you on your toes and searching for more than a few new items for your latest recipe.
Speaking of recipes, Booze Masters’ core gameplay mechanics mostly consist of squeezing, crushing, and distilling ingredients, none of which are overly complex. In fact, if you aren’t simply pressing a button, then you’re gradually tapping it — and that’s about it, to be fair. So, hardly any reason to fret, after all. Does this mean brewing moonshine is easy? Not really. But then, I wouldn’t rely on Booze Masters for a lifelike representation, either.
Let it Snow
Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room here: Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine isn’t the cleanest looking indie game on the monopoly. It isn’t terrible by any means, but it also isn’t exactly pretty, either. For the most part, it’s borderline mediocre, and it doesn’t help a great deal that the bulk of its in-game scenes, voiceovers, and transitions are questionable, to say the very least. But again, I’m prepared to give credit where it’s due; it isn’t in any way, shape, or form, a high-budget IP, so I can certainly give it the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t exactly agree with some of the design and audiovisual choices, but I wasn’t going to slate them for any particular reason, either, for I knew all too well that it wasn’t going to be anything overly fancy, to begin with.
I’m not going to beat around the bush and say that Booze Masters is one of the most memorable indie games I’ve ever played, because it isn’t. And as much fun as I had trying to feed moonshine to a miserable snowman for five hours, I never quite reached the point during the aftermath of the credits where I was able to fondly remember the journey, much less the characters. Zero, perhaps — but none of the other Sim-like avatars that made an appearance throughout the short but bitterly animated campaign.
Of course, it isn’t exactly a story-driven game, so again, I can’t complain all that much. Sure enough, it would’ve been nice to have seen some level of camaraderie between characters, but the fact is, outside of the actual brewing process and bite-sized open world exploration segments, there just wasn’t a whole lot to connect with, let alone raise a glass over.
I’ve stumbled across a whole lot of weird and wonderful indie games over the years, and to be fair, I’d be lying if I said Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine wasn’t one of the better of the bunch. Sure, it’s a little controversial, and it’s certainly “out there” enough to swivel a few heads, but for the most part, the game is, strangely enough, rather fun. Its straightforward gameplay mechanics and A-to-B progression make for a surprisingly enjoyable romp through the motions, and while there is still a lot left to be desired, it does conjure some pretty good tidbits and humorous moments throughout its otherwise short story.
Ignoring the shoddy visuals and voice acting, there is enough of a game here to make it worth your time — especially if you’re all for the idea of engaging in a lukewarm parody of the Eastern European culture and the odd shenanigan, to boot.
If you happened to find the likes of VA-11 Hall-A a good place to test your palette, then you’re sure to find something to love in this quirky moonshine-centric simulation experience. Or better yet, if you enjoy the idea of rummaging around in the neck of the woods for supplies whilst under the watchful eyes of a snowman (don’t ask), then may I present to you the home away from home you’ve been searching for for the best part of a year or two. Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine: it won’t make you drunk — but it’ll provide just enough of a hit to leave you seeing stars for a handful of hours or so.
Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine Review (PC)
I’m Seeing Stars and Snowmen
Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine strikes out to formulate a quirky and oddly flavorful cocktail, and does so by mixing zany humor with original characters. Aside from all that, it does leave a lot to be desired, such as a wider variety of puzzles and gameplay mechanics. Swings, roundabouts, and snowmen, apparently.