Monday, October 8, 2012


                Does anyone remember the old standard issue cell phone game Snake? It used to come with almost every new cell phone that had a little digital screen on it. You controlled a little line, called a snake, as you navigated a 2-D plane in search of little dots, called apples. When you ate the apples your body would grow longer and longer and if you bumped into your body you lost. You would also lose if you hit a wall. Future versions of the game had different variations of this simple premise.

                Enter the XBL Indie Game qrth-phyl made by hermitgames, released on Sept 9th 2012. The game bills itself as an “Arcade documentary of maze/dot/snake mechanic within changing dimensions”. Most of that makes sense, with the exception of the documentary part. The website doesn’t do much to alleviate my confusion, stating that “The game plays in 3D, is adaptive and fuses elements of documentary.” I… I guess I’ll just forget about the documentary part of it.

                One of the first things I noticed about the game is that there is no tutorial. This isn’t too big of a deal, because the game is laid out simply enough. You move your little snake around with the left control stick on a flat plane and collect dots, which make you grow longer the more you eat. The first level has no obstacles for you to bump into, aside from yourself. When you eat enough dots, a square doorway opens up for you to guide yourself into. This takes you to the next level, where suddenly you’re traveling in a 3-D space, flying around. It was disorientating at first, but I quickly got used to it. I more had trouble with the fact that Y-Axis was set to inverted by default. I thanked God I could change it.

                The game continues to progress in this fashion, shifting between a 2-D planes 3-D ones. One plane has you free flying inside of a cube, the other has you traveling on the outside of a cube, which is sometimes a flat surface that flips around when you get to the edge. As for enemies there are green cubes that travel and grow like slow moving snakes, and the other are red cubes that appear and disappear at intervals. The entire time you need to keep collecting dots to grow, which will sometimes appear as you consume dots throughout the level. The objective is always to eat dots and not die until you make the gateway appear.

                As far as I could tell the game contains two items that you could collect. One is a green plus sign type thing that shoots lasers in four directions for a short duration, which you must avoid until they vanish. The other is a wavey blue thing that makes your snake short again and turns your body into dots which you can eat. This helps boost your score. The green one is usually easy to avoid, and doesn’t present too much of a challenge to avoid the lasers if you do happen to hit it.

                The graphics are very colorful. Normally it’s not difficult to figure out where you are and what’s going on, with the exception of the levels where you’re only dealing with the snake getting extremely long. Sometimes I had trouble seeing where I was going due to camera issues and being obscured by my own body. This issue only pops up during the free flying stages. Otherwise, the graphics are very nice, but I wouldn’t say I was blown away by them.

                The sound serves its purpose. I didn’t feel like I was enthralled by the music or that it was memorable, but I wasn’t rushing to put my TV on mute either. I wasn’t annoyed by the sound effects either.

                In summation I would say this is a good indie game if you liked Snake when it was more widely available. Its feature light, in the fact that there’s only one game play mode and a local high score list, so no comparing your scores with people around the world. Its difficulty scales nicely, and I never found myself being overly frustrated. I knew with practice and dedication I could get better. If this had a few more features (Global High Score at least) I could see it having a more lasting appeal to it. But 80 MS ($1) you’re not really taking a risk here, because there really is 1 dollar worth of entertainment here. 

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