Review: Snake Deluxe 2
Everybody loves a good mash up scenario. Take Nokia's classic 'Snake' game from the earliest mono-screened feature phones. Take a modern multi-level, multi-scenario game framework. Mash the two together with lashings of timers, powerups, customisation options, cut scenes, high score tables and help pop-ups. The end result is Snake Deluxe 2, a major Symbian title that has been around for ages but which we haven't covered for at least five years, and certainly not in this latest touchscreen, nHD resolution, Belle FP2-compatibility-fixed version, updated recently, here tested on the Nokia E7.
At this stage in Symbian's life cycle, I think it appropriate that we celebrate a few of the titles in Symbian's back catalogue that haven't been given the attention they deserve, if only because we covered them years ago and every subsequent update has only been 'incremental'. However approach such titles as fresh entities, and especially here in view of recent compatibility updates, and they suddenly look a whole lot more impressive than we remember them on the QVGA-screened days of yore...
Snake Deluxe, five years ago!
The premise of Snake hasn't changed - a fruit-gobbling snake that grows longer with every bite and which is not allowed to come into contact with the edges of the playing area, obstacles or its own body. Designed for the d-pad-driven phones of the early 2000s, Snake isn't a perfect fit for the touchscreens of today, as we shall see, but it's fair to say that CrazySoft have done a sterling job of both maxing out the gameplay and keeping their version of the title updated as each new Symbian form factor, screen size and OS version come along.
Presentation has improved a lot in the intervening years and Snake Deluxe 2, now working on latest Symbian Belle versions, now looks the part in almost every way. The graphics were completely reworked for nHD resolutions and look rather splendid on the AMOLED screens of devices like the E7, N8 and 808...
As with the original Snake Deluxe version, there's a timer for each piece of food: fail to collect it within the time limit and you lose a life. There's also a selection of bonuses around the place which give you extra lives, extra points or extra time. The three play modes shown above are Easy (which lets you play until you die on any unlocked level), Hard (same as Easy but with shorter time limits and a faster snake) and Adventure, effectively Easy mode but you have to work your way through all the different levels in order, with a boss level after every five ordinary levels. The boss level involves standard snake gameplay, but you collect lightning bolts instead of food, with each bolt damaging the boss. The boss retaliates by occasionally scattering objects at random in the level which you have to avoid. Once you've collected your quota of bolts, the boss is defeated and you're then onto another area of the game, another region of the island...
The level design (arrangement of obstacles, vegetation and background, and so on) are the same as on previous versions of the game, but everything's that much lusher and more colourful than I remember it(!) The snake animation is smooth enough and doesn't depend on the presence of a GPU, which is why this runs quite happily on the likes of the Nokia 5800 and N97 too.
Control of the snake is by tapping on the left, right, top and bottom of the screen (you don't have to be too precise) and you're able to turn the snake by 90 degrees at a time, as appropriate - the system generally works well and without lag, making precise turns around obstacles quite possible, even when the snake starts to speed up.
There is one huge caveat though - there's no multitouch support, meaning that if your finger or thumb is still in contact with the screen from one directional move while you tap with another to carry out the next, the touchscreen press is lost and, usually, the missed opportunity means crashing the snake and losing a life. You do learn from experience to tap quickly on the screen and not linger, for this reason, but the lack of multitouch does make navigation harder to perform when the gameplay's faster.
The gameplay area is actually quite small and roughly corresponds to that from early versions on QVGA screens, but this isn't actually a problem - in fact, until I pasted in the screenshots above, I never even considered the matter. When playing, the active area is just the right size and other screen space is attractively decorated to add atmosphere and provide essential statistics (e.g. time left to gather the current fruit).
The overwhelming impression I was left with is one of playability here, in that with three possible game speeds and two difficulty 'levels', there's fun and challenge here for anyone. The default is 'fastest', but if (as was the case with me) this still proves too tricky (I'm a gaming lightweight, it seems) then knock this back a notch and hey presto, the game is perfectly pitched again.
Snake Deluxe 2 isn't your classic Snake - it's better. And with knobs, bells and whistles on, and combines puzzle solving with arcade reactions. If you can master quick tapping on a capacitive touchscreen without getting your fingers all twisted up then this is a very definite recommendation from me.
Published by Steve Litchfield at 15:27 UTC, February 9th