SANTA'S SECRET VALLEY / AHA Software (Family Games) / PC

I never personally happened to encounter this budget Christmas adventure from the mid-90s, but upon doing research for it I was surprised to find it seems to have a sizable cult following that has nostalgic childhood memories of it. I'm guessing it was one of those cheap CDs you would see at Walmart electronics departments and such, enticing parents into buying it as an inexpensive and wholesome stocking-stuffer.

Whatever the case, the framework is that of a standard point-n-click adventure, on the very simple side due to the budget production. I'd guess Castle of Dr. Brain was a source of inspiration as it's a similar mostly-uninhabited world full of logic puzzles, though there is more simple "find item A and bring it to location B" stuff in this one.

The game begins as a middle-aged C. M0use simulator as the opening move is to sit down in an overstuffed chair and promptly fall asleep. While you're conked out, some tweaker climbs in through the window and steals all the Xmas goodies. Things then get off to a kind of weirdly bleak start as you follow tracks through the North Pole snowy wastes to some sort of chasm, then accidentally fall into the Stygian Abyss ... fortunately all the monsters seem to have gone to Hawaii for the holidays.

A quick jaunt through the cave leads to odd underground cottage with an elevator that takes you to the TransDimensional Interlocator, an initially baffling steampunky object that becomes the center of the early action. The initial goal is to wander through the cave maze, solving basic puzzles to get pieces and parts for the machine as well as finding some of Santa's missing goodies scattered about.

The game was designed with kids in mind, so the cave maze isn't very complex (though just enough so that paper mapping is probably a good idea). There's also a very robust and detailed hint system that is always available. Fixing the Infernal Machine and solving its mysteries enables you to take a train to the Secret Valley, which is a town setting that has a bunch of other stuff going on like a quiz game. From there you branch out to explore a few other areas like a lighthouse and castle, trying to round up all of Santa's missing loot and bring the mysterious perp to justice.  

This is tough to get running on a Windows 10 computer without a lot of trouble, but Family Games hosts a free web browser version at their site and sells an Android app port for a couple bucks (links below). It's definitely a budget title so set expectations accordingly, but it's nicely designed for what it is - an Xmas-themed adventure game aimed at younger kids.

Links :

* Free download (needs an older version of Windows to work though)

* Free web browser version and link to Android app port (which is $2.50 USD on the Play Store)

* Someone's recreation of it in Roblox

Videos : 

* Gameplay Video