'Dawn of the Plow' review: clean up the streets (iOS/Android)

by Eric Frederiksen

February 16 2014

Dawn of the Plow puts you in charge of a snowplow with one job and two rules: keep the roads clear, do it fast, and don't hit anyone. It's harder than it sounds. (Rating: 3 out of 5 stars)

The second I heard of Dan FitzGerald's new game, Dawn of the Plow, I knew it was my destiny and duty as a card-carrying Minnesotan to review it.

Dawn of the Plow is a small game, but it's not casual. When you're playing it, it demands your attention and rewards your devotion. It's not an easy game, but it's fun when you get the hang of the controls.

Even a car isn't easy to control in the snow, and a giant truck with a curved sheet of metal on the front isn't any easier. If you stay on the road and time your turns just right, you can stay on the road and keep moving, but then you won't get any of the handy power-ups like the bags of sand and the off-road tires.

The reward for keeping the streets clear on your block is that the cars constantly criss-crossing through make their way off the map, increasing your score incrementally with each successful pass. Cars become "unhappier" the longer they have to wait to get through, and this is your impetus to keep moving and focus on the roads. If your approval rating drops too low, you'll find yourself out of a job. That push to rush is balanced by a one-strike rule: If you hit a car, you're fired. Game over.

There's a lot of information to manage at any given time, and sometimes it almost feels like too much. The isometric viewpoint contrasts with the unforgiving controls. Tapping left turns your plow left, but relative to the plow itself, not your actual viewpoint. It can get confusing. Plus power-ups dot the map and disappear quickly. The roads loop around, and going off the map at one end could send you careening into a car on the other side if you're not watching out. Your plow can stop on a dime, but when you get into a groove, it's easy to forget. Sometimes it feels like the cars are programmed to turn right in front of you to keep you on your toes.

Designer Dan FitzGerald created Dawn of the Plow with a charming 16-bit aesthetic that just seems to feel right with the material. Fitzgerald is also designing a game called Dog Sled Saga with artist Lisa Bromiel, and Dawn of the Plow feels like it fits in well with that game stylistically. The duo are the patron saints of 16-bit winter games, apparently.

The game was kept small by design, but it still feels like it's missing a few things. A small leveling system or even some plow customization could've been a fun way to enhance the replay value. As a Minnesotan used to snowbanks so full of sand that they're more brown than white, I could also see room to add a sand dispenser or other snow plow attachments.

What's here is fun and surprisingly rewarding, but the replay value wears out more quickly than it need to.

  • Dawn of the Plow
  • Developer: Trichotomy Games
  • Platform: iOS (played), Android
  • Price: $1.99
  • In-app purchases? No

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