Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine Review
Look, there’s no good way to say this, so I’ll just say, er, type it: Eastern Europe is weird. Every time I boot up a game that was made by a developer from a country on the strange side of the German border, or chat with someone from a place that used be part of the USSR, I experience first/second/third-hand more casual racism, alcoholism and references to folklore than I do when driving around the northern part of my home state of alcohol addiction and hunting, which is also known as Wisconsin in the United States. At a certain point, I have to believe that whatever’s in the Baltic and Black Seas has turned some percentage of the people who live next to them a bit loony. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it is certainly a thing, and that thing is, if nothing else, showcased in the wonderfully bizarre Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine, largely for the better and only occasionally for the worse.
Describing Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine is not an easy task. On its Steam page, its developers state that it’s “an unsettling first-person adventure game with elements of plant cultivation, puzzles, and lots of high-proof beverages”, and while all of that is technically true, the blurb completely fails to mention that the game is also just kind of kooky. Its story, which takes about five hours to complete, involves you taking control of Quella, a budding influencer on not-Instagram who travels to a run-down motel somewhere in Eastern Europe and almost immediately finds herself involved in a plot to help a pair of moonshiners break free from the wrath of an anamorphic snowman named Zero Karoten.
If that doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry, because Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine’s gameplay actually does, somehow. The title's core loop, unlike its tale that is told with poorly rendered cutscenes, is relatively straightforward, assuming of course that you play it while you’re plastered. To help characters including Doctor Professor (yes, that’s his real name, and before you ask, yes he looks like Rasputin) and Jerry (yes, that’s also his real name, and even though you absolutely didn’t ask, he is frozen onto a magical lounge chair for the bulk of the game), you need to craft an assortment of alcoholic beverages. To do so you must first farm core ingredients, and then distil them into spirits that are absolutely not legal to drink in the United States, by way of what more-or-less equates to quick time events. You also need to explore a haunted forest, which you do walking around after consuming some of those aforementioned spirits, collect literal doodads to upgrade your still, and engage in a small variety of minigames.
And although I’d like to say that Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine’s gameplay and story are bad, or at least not enjoyable, they actually aren’t; the title is genuinely fun to play as long as you have a strong tolerance for casual racism and offbeat references to Eastern European culture. Although neither aforementioned part of the game necessarily evolves throughout its short runtime besides when you get access to tools like a pink flamethrower, and there aren’t exactly a lot of twists and turns that are anything close to being logical to sit through, there is a whole lot of charm and zany humour to an experience that takes place almost entirely inside of a place that you’d only ever see in real life if you’re exploring the parts of your country that you probably shouldn’t be exploring. Don’t get me wrong, Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine is no S.T.A.L.K.E.R or Metro when it comes to, well, anything, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to pretend like you’re getting drunk in-game while you presumably also get drunk in real life off Sugarlands Maple Bacon Moonshine. Everything about the title is well-tuned enough for it to actually be considered to be good, and that’s before you get into its oft-mentioned weirdness.
Really, the only objective problem with Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine is that it’s not exactly a technical beast of a title. Its graphics and audiovisual design leave a fair bit to be desired, and there are plenty of ways to skirt around its weird upgrade system if you’ve ever ridden a horse in Skyrim up a mountain. The game’s animations especially are lacklustre, and although it runs perfectly fine on what may as well be considered to be a potato by modern PC standards, it won’t be winning any awards from Geoff Keighley come awards season this year for its textures.
But, honestly, does any of what I wrote in the previous paragraph really matter when talking about a game that’s all about making moonshine as a livestreamer who is trying to escape a motel that, at one point, has a helicopter-looking thing shot down over it or has a story that involves UFOs that aren’t actually UFOs? The answer to that question is very obviously no, and if you think otherwise, I’m not exactly sure what to tell you. The questions that should be asked are whether or not Booze Masters: Freezing Moonshine is fun to play, whether or not it’s a welcome departure from the overly serious tropes of the modern gaming industry, and whether or not it cements Poland as being a country partially made up of people who are a little bit kooky? The answer to all of those is yes, and so is the underlying question about whether or not you should buy the game, as long as you aren’t opposed to experiencing something that’s, y’know, just plain weird in all the right ways.
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