Mobile gaming has come a long way since the old LCD Game & Watch devices launched by Nintendo. While the concept of true portable gaming really took off with the launch of the GameBoy, millions of people worldwide were playing games who weren’t traditional gamers… those who, in the late 1990s turned to Nokia for their chosen mobile phone provider and were introduced to the wonders that was Snake. It was the first real mobile phone game and one that capture the hearts of a generation. Incredibly simple but fiendishly addictive and now, 15 years after the original was released, it’s been translated to PlayStation Mobile in this game by Carrot Creations.
While Snake had been around long before Nokia (taking its inspiration from the Light Cycles sequence from Tron and having spawned countless arcade and home versions) it was Nokia that really put the game on the map. The game was easy to pick up and understand. As the player, you took control of a snake and simply had to eat fruit and other food that appeared on the playing area one piece at a time. As you ate each item, your snake grew in length and – over time – picked up speed. As you reached the edge of the screen your snake appeared on the other side (a necessity later on in the game) and it was game over if you crossed over your own tail. In the Nokia version, at random intervals bonuses would appear for limited periods of time that you could also eat for extra points.
Your score was based on what you ate and how fast your snake was moving at the time. As I said, simple but extremely addictive. The game was updated over time to add walls and mazes, adapted into pseudo 3D and other tweaks but a lot of gamers are still fond of the original. So that brings us onto the PS Mobile version… The first thing that springs to mind is why would anyone want to buy a game based on a monochrome mobile phone game no matter how addictive the original was? Are there any enhancements, new game modes, original twists or changes to make this new and refreshing?
In the first release of the game the answer generally was no but since then developer Philip Morby has gone back and updated the game a number of times and in the interest of fairness I felt that it was only right that I re-evaluated the game in light of the changes he has made to it. So on with the PSM version and the basic game remains exactly the same as the original and – to be frank – at first glance looks almost the same. Played against a black background, it looks incredibly sparse with a white border around the screen, the same white lines used for the mazes and solid lines used for the snake itself (with the exception of a pair of eyes) and a square to represent the food. That’s it. There is nothing else to look at in the game making it incredibly bland. Even the most simplistic of PlayStation Mobile games have offered considerably more in terms of visuals and this could have been so much better here.
There are options to change the colour of the snake and food but it’s really pointless and Considering the fact that even the Nokia version resembled a snake this is a very poor show. I appreciate that it was their intention to recreate the original game as authentically as possible but a visual makeover wouldn’t have strayed from the spirit of the original. Onto the other game options and these are more extensive. Once you start the game itself you are presented with a choice of four difficulty settings and a selection of 15 different level designs (increased from the original six different maps in the first release of the game), and two game modes. The first is the Classic mode which anyone who has ever played Snake before will be familiar with will know, and the second is Time Attack where you’ve got just 90 seconds to eat as much food as you can. On screen you’ll see several pieces of food and more appear in random locations as you eat them so it’s a race against the clock!
Network support has also been added since the first release and while there’s no multiplayer option or trophies (which I know will disappoint some) there’s extensive leaderboard support with separate leaderboards for each difficulty setting and each game mode making a total of eight leaderboards to challenge your friends on giving plenty of long term appeal for the socially-minded gamers out there.
However, there are other changes to the original Snake concept… the bonus spiders found on the original have been missed out making this a fairly limited affair and while the basic challenge still remains, the game quickly becomes monotonous compared to the original. Also, there is no progression in terms of speed – the snake starts out at a set pace and this never changes – something that was a major part that made the original so challenging. Finally, the controls themselves simply aren’t as responsive as the original. Despite using the d-pad (compared with having to use the numeric keypad on a phone), it’s not as easy to make quick turns. The final disappointment is the sound… or the lack of it. Granted, phones back in the 90s were limited to little more than beeps and blips but at least Snake had them – this game is limited to a single beep each time you eat something and I found that saddening when other games in the same budget price range offering more in that department.
The game itself… don’t get me wrong, it is still a fun game to play, even all the years after it was first released and certainly the Time Attack mode is a novel twist on the game that really does make things a bit more interesting. As for the new maps – some of them are downright vindictive in their treatment of the player and really do add an extra challenge to the game giving it more long-term appeal than you might think even with the limited nature of the game itself. It’s certainly not pushing PlayStation Mobile by any stretch of the imagination but it’s enjoyable nevertheless.
It is a reasonable attempt to recreate Snake for PlayStation Mobile and at the moment it’s the only clone of the game available and – to give the author credit – he is continually updating the game with bug fixes and adding new features and content – so for the price it’s hard to be too critical. However, as I said, it has missed several of the key features of the original and the controls aren’t as responsive so it’s not quite there yet as being the perfect clone you might expect. If it is intended to be an update to the game then it still needs more work and certainly if it received some form of a makeover and a few other tweaks, it really has the potential to be a great Snake clone. As it stands, it’s a fun, playable diversion and certainly has plenty to offer with the game modes and ample level designs, but it’s not completely there yet.
At A Glance
- Title: Snake!
- Publisher: Carrot Creations
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 14Mb