Hero of the TI-86 and scourge of the Algebra class, Snake has been a mainstay of practically every device you can find, but in the hands of Alex Szpakowski it has sloughed off its skin to reveal a new approach. Snayke is, at its core, the classic arcade game, but with modern resolutions, bloom, and smooth performance. On the whole Snayke is a cleanly presented game with a minimal approach. Navigable (and playable) with only the arrow keys, the world is comprised of flat shaded squares, smoothly fading out trailing lines, and gently transitioning color gradients in the background. This is accompanied by a beautifully effective soundtrack by Anton Riehl (full disclosure: he once bought my wife and I an excellent Thai dinner) which compliments the visuals with harmonizing purity. Snayke is beautiful in an abstract way, bringing about a calming aesthetic.
In my case this aesthetic was necessary. No single player game has caused me so much frustration as this one. Where Snake is an action game, Snayke is an endurance and puzzle game. The gameplay is zero sum: either you beat the level or you replay the entire stage again. The majority of the levels seem to contain a very limited number of solutions. The original Snake was about planning and moderation, but Snayke is pure execution within the constraints of the obstacles present, and that may come as a surprise to many players. The flip side to this, and consequently its disappointment, is Snayke does introduce a number of elements to shake things up such as: causal chain blocks of multiple configurations, teleporters, bombs, and just overall clever designs. Cleverness is an impression reliant upon the player, and I was not always that player, transitioning from a mild admiration to frowning disbelief, the level design can give the impression of jumping through hoops instead of completing anything. This is exaggerated by a progression scheme where few levels are unlocked at a time, and themes are utilized in distinct clusters. Annoyed by the previous level’s primary feature? Too bad, you have three more levels using a variation of that setup, and they are typically tougher.
Toughness is also a relative matter, but the game has only three difficulty settings which only govern player movement speed. As levels get progressively complex and any failure means a full restart, you can quickly run into a skill wall for which the only recourse is to start a new game at a lower difficulty suffering a full progression loss. This is a tedious experience, but beyond that the Slow speed is still rather fast which could put off more casual players. It is possible to become stuck in a level: you can create scenarios where one or more food blocks can not be consumed, and until you realize this, you are simply continuing in a now defunct game session with suicide or using the menu to quit or restart as the only available options. The elements are good, the delivery is good; simply rearranging the levels and adjusting them to maintain an appropriate difficulty curve would reduce the impact of reused design styles. Throw in a lower tier difficulty level and the game would suddenly be far more accessible, something it should certainly aim for with a potentially wide player base. What is more surprising about the difficulty options is the inclusion of a Slowest game speed in the multiplayer lobby, which brings me to the extra features of Snayke.
The game not only has local same machine multiplayer as a branch of the Classic mode that we all know, but that implementation allows for the inclusion of bots into a match, and power-up toggles. Add to this a rather intuitive in-game level editor, which uses a mouse interface for placing blocks which can be selected with the keyboard – I was able to make a distinct level in under a minute – and you get the recipe for a potentially very popular game among friends, with family, and as a creative outlet. The multiplayer asks users to share a keyboard. Utilizing the Arrow keys and WASD to navigate, they hunt for food blocks in what is roughly the classic mode but in distinct rounds with high scores. In addition, the game appears to save Replays to view at a later time, however the UI in this section includes an Open Folder option which so far has only managed to minimize my game, display My Documents, and freeze my mouse (mouse input was restored upon Alt-Tabbing back to the game and exiting normally).
Snayke definitely delivers the goods when it comes to the meta layer which may extend the base experience quite a long ways, and some could find it to be a great value. It contains over 100 levels, but if you aren’t good enough for just one of them you will find yourself missing out on all of the remaining content, essentially not experiencing the bulk of your purchase. If more levels were unlocked upon completing one it might not feel as constricted.
However, this is all from the perspective of someone not anticipating that style of content. I can imagine many gamers would enjoy every single level. It could be a perfect match for their skills, with the addition of replays, local multiplayer, bots, and an editor to make for excellent extras to a game that is a great deal for them. Snayke does provide a demo, which I encourage anyone remotely interested to try. Snayke is available on Windows, Linux, and Mac via Desura, and is definitely worth the $4.99 if you line up with its level design style.