Monday, 9 June 2014

Snake Rattle and Roll (NES)

Snakes, they rattle and roll.

Two snakes, one called Rattle, one called Roll in an isometric game by rare called Snake Rattle and Roll. That didn't quite pan out how I had originally hoped but I blame fatigue on this one. What we do have however is a rather charming little isometric 3D platformer by Rare that promotes team play and solo in the same way.

One looks dopey, the other looks like it takes things far too seriously

It's a little bit aloof but the basic premise is that two snakes, Rattle and Roll, have decided to climb a mountain filled with traps, enemies, spikes and Nibbly-Pibblys (I'll explain...) In order to find a spaceship and leave the moon. How they get from the mountain TO the Moon is something else but I'm not exactly going to pick apart this fine bastion of story-telling at this point.

Another bonus level, where the Nibbly-Pibblys are running away

On each level, you've got your snakes, you've got (almost always) a weighing machine and a rather unending supply of Nibbly-Pibblys that get spat out from generators or can be found under lids. Eating them will make your snake gain tail segments and more importantly, weight. Once you're heavy enough to ring the bell, the door will open and you can make your escape. Your tail will grow faster if you eat Nibbly-Pibblys of the Yellow persuasion (fast and tend to run the hell off quickly) or your own colour. Eating your friend's coloured Nibbly-Pibblys will get you a minimal boost.


Each segment of tail will act as a health point and getting hit, attacked, sliced, collided, bitten or such will lose you a point of health, get hit with no tail and your head blows up. You also lose a life. There are (thankfully) very few enemies that can one-shot you, such as falling to your death, spikes, Bigfoot (and Ice foot by extension) and heavy items like anvils and fishtails (to be used to climb a waterfall). Later levels will have more emphasis on boulders and such that can kill you quickly too.

Big fat snake, the only way to open the exits with weight machines.

On the way, you'll encounter a wide variety of enemies and objects. From checkers pieces to large feet, pincushions that blow out spikes, toilet seats (starting to sound like old 80s video games with random objects), ice blocks, bombs, fake lives and sharks. You've some weapons and items to help you out though, tongue extensions to make it easier to lick enemies to death (yes... including the foot, lick the foot to death), lives, continues, clockwork keys to speed you up, diamonds to make you invulnerable (hard as diamond perhaps? not sure the relevance) and more Nibbly-Pibblys than you really want.

The fish-tail power up lets you swim up this. I don't know where the snorkel set comes from though

Depending upon the location, there are some hidden secrets like level warps, for the really quick, a warp from level 1 to 8 is possible at the start of the game. While others are hidden around in places, some more obvious than others. There's also bonus rooms where you get a flurry of Nibbly-Pibblys (getting cramp typing that name out) that you have to devour quickly before they make a lap of the room and escape.

Magic carpets and flying icons, all the fun of a platform puzzle.

The dynamic of the levels change when you get further along, focusing more on jumping puzzles and later on being able to swim freely in free-space underwater though this is hindered by the lack of awareness of moving into the background unless you can see where your shadow is and the 2D perception in a 3D world REALLY hinders the progression unless you're very astute in picking up where your shadow is on the bottom of the pools. Some of the jumping puzzles are beyond annoying and later levels (ice... I hate ice levels) have decreased friction and sloped ramps to slide you off into the abyss and off the mountain with a comical "aaaaaaaaaaaarghhh" and a chipper little tune to announce your death.

Round 1, fight! Sorry... wrong game.

These niggling little issues aside, the game plays smoothly, the controls function incredibly well though you've that translation of movement where Up doesn't move you up, it moves you 45degrees around from Up to keep you moving in a compass direction along the 2D planar of the isometric view. In short, it gets fucking annoying, fast until your mind/hands adapt to the situation. It also is the cause of a lot of mis-aimed jumping and attacks as you can't tell how far into the background you actually are and appear to be the same size whether you're all the way back or right at the front of the screen.

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

It plays like it's based on a kids cartoon, the characters are bright and happily animated, being hurt makes them leap up into the air and gawp at the screen with a wide slack-jaws O.O face on their features while there's little in the way of violence beyond going pop, screaming aaaaaaaargh in a string of comical letters or getting pancaked by the heavier enemies in the game. The music is toe-tappingly pleasant enough though the more heavy music in the later levels does add to the sense that the game is tough from here on and the difficulty is about to ramp it up to the point that it's almost vertical.

Yes, you have to lick the foot. A disgustion solution to this enemy.

It would seem that the game, because of its fairly unique perspective, is difficult in only its control system and how it translates to the map/levels. Some of the jumps and traps are very fiddly (nibbly-pibbly?) and can be awkward at worst to navigate, and downright impossible save for blind luck or highly intuitive ability to control the game.

Despite this, it's still a very game, very enjoyable and fairly well polished. Another gem from Rare.