Monday, 15 April 2013

Snake Rattle N Roll (NES)

Snake Rattle n Roll title screen NES
And the award for twinkliest title screen goes to...

Alright, here's another requested game, Snake Rattle n Roll on the NES, created by legendary developer Rare back in the days when they made games instead of Xbox Avatars.


Man, the only way this could look more like a ZX Spectrum game is if they'd added attribute clash and had the background colour leaking into the sprites.

Okay, it seems that I'm playing as a head, sliding around a isometric checker-board world. I mean that literally as well, because there a checkers piece sliding around down there too. I'm going to spend a second getting used to the controls before I dare going near it though. I'm having to recalibrate my brain so that it understands pressing up on the d-pad will actually move him diagonally up and right.

Oh shit, I fell into the water and now there's Jaws music playing and something's coming to get me! PANIC!

See, this is why I need the practice. Fortunately my head can jump so I'm soon back on land and the Jaws theme switches back to its normal classic rock n' roll soundtrack. A bit unusual for a game like this, but it's bearable.

Aha, it seems I can attack things with my tongue! I blew the checker pieces to... pieces with a single hit, but this rogue foot's gonna take more licking before it stops kicking.

Oh... OH... I'm a fucking idiot. I've just figured out why it has a 50s rock n' roll soundtrack. What else would a game called Snake Rattle n Roll have for its tunes?

Crap, I strayed a little too close to the foot and took damage... and yet I still live. I'm not quite sure how the health system works in this yet, but I'm sure I've taken a couple of hits now and my snake still hasn't died yet.

Damn, how long can it possibly take to put one foot in the grave? At least I know I'm doing damage, judging by all those points springing out of it.

Okay cool, I've finally put the foot down and now I'm free to jump up here and activate this test your strength machine that's been taunting me.

Or... not. Nope, no matter how much I jump, I just can't activate it. Presumably it's the switch for that pink door as I can't go through there either. Damn, I can't believe I'm stuck so early on a NES game. 

Aha! I can jump over here and... nope, dead end. Well, no big crisis, it's a small map so I'm sure I'll be able to figure this out with a bit of patience.

OH SHIT, I've just noticed I have 14 seconds left to finish this level!


FOURTEEN SECONDS LATER.


TIME UP.

I think I may just go have a glance at some instructions before giving that another try. Just a quick skim through until I learn what I did wrong here.


SOON.


Okay here's what I was I didn't get first time around: these little balls spilling out of this yellow machine are edible and increase my tail's length when I consume them. Once I've got enough, the end of the tail starts to flash indicating that I can now jump onto the test your strength machine and open the level exit.

The trouble is, the tail length is also my health meter (that's why I able to survive a few hits earlier), so if I get hit I lose my flashing tail and have to go back to grab another couple of bites (while dodging the enemies springing from the nearby hatches).

Rattle's weight was considered acceptable in the end and I was allowed free passage through the pink door. Actually I think I may have overindulged a little if all of those dots refer to something I ate, considering my tail only needed to be around 4 dots long.

Roll on the other hand came up entirely empty, completely letting the side down, possibly because I'm playing single player mode and he's not even in my game. Just out of curiosity I checked out the two player mode for a second and both players have to share the same screen at once. Seems like it could work though.

Shit, I fell in the water again. The controls aren't bad, but it really doesn't take much to send the poor snake flying off a ledge. I'm just lucky there's water down there, instead of something more immediately lethal.

C'mon, now they're just taking taking the piss. I have to make precise diagonal jumps up a waterfall, where a single slip will get me washed right back down to the bottom again.

Still, it's not as hard as it might look, I'm getting the hang of these diagonal controls now. Crap, I just realised... I was so focused on making it up these steps that I didn't even notice I passed the weight machine along the way.


LATER.


Whoa, evil toilet seats? What is this, Manic Miner? I can definitely tell this is by a British developer as it's got that ZX Spectrum humour to it. In fact design-wise this is basically a classic 80s Speccy game that drunk itself into a coma one night and woke up on the NES in the 90s.

Okay, I've got to drop down to the water, quickly scoot across to get onto that strip of land and then lick the... toilet seat. Eww. Then I can step back into the water and grab that tuning fork icon, which is actually a tongue length power-up I believe. The trick will be to get that near to the edge without being washed away down the waterfall by the current.

AAARRRRGGGG...

Well at least now I know where the waterfall goes. It goes nowhere.

Oh cool, a mysterious new power-up down there on the bottom left. I wonder what mysterious new power it holds. Something snake related no doubt, like... I dunno, a coiled tail I can bounce on for extra height. That seems like something Rare would do.

Whoa, was that a reverse controls pickup? I should be annoyed that just sent my snake screaming to his death, but I'm weirdly happy to actually come across one of the things. For such a legendarily shitty power-up, I really haven't seen many of them around that often in games.

Oh and it's immediately followed up by a spiky floor trap out of nowhere! I've discovered the Cliff of Arguably Ill-advised Game Design Choices here.

Anyway, that's my last hit-point and my final life. Game Over.

Fortunately using a continue put me right back where I left off and... what, seriously? MORE floor traps? Getting bisected without warning is kind of losing its charm to be honest.

But yeah, weirdly it seems like using up a continue is a lot like using an extra life, restarting me in the same place with barely any interruption, with the main obvious difference being that it makes my lives counter go up. I don't want to appear ungrateful, but couldn't they have just given me a shitload of lives?

I suppose it could have more consequences in two player mode, if player two is constantly screwing up and munching through all the continues as they go, leaving none for poor player one when they eventually slip up. Or vice versa if I'm player one.

Awesome, more little dots to eat. Aww, these ones try to run away with little tiny legs! Then when Rattle eats them alive, he spits out the severed legs afterwards! So cute.

Actually that's kinda disturbing really, now that I think about it. The game should be ashamed of making me do that just then. And again to this other dot.

Oh right, water tends to flow somewhere doesn't it? Farewell Rattle's final life! Hope I've got a few more continues left though.


SEVERAL RETRIES LATER.


Okay this is just ridiculous. Even when I make the jump to where the foot is and get onto the ledge, I end up getting washed down the waterfall at the top and find myself back here again.

Oh right I totally forgot to mention that although the game started out as a NES exclusive, it also made its way to the Sega Mega Drive two years later. Though only in Europe.

Mega Drive
The Mega Drive version is, uh, similar to the NES game. There's a few extra colours on screen but the main difference I've noticed is that I end up splattered against metal trees instead of pyramids when I'm washed off this bloody waterfall for the 15 thousandth time.

Man, I am never going to get the hang of judging these isometric jumps, on any system.

That's that then, I'm all out of continues. I flushed them all down the same stream. Still, I think it's worth me giving it one more shot, from the start.


SEVERAL LEVELS LATER.


More, floor traps! At least these ones give me a little bit more warning. I just need to make sure I stay clear from the blue pyramids, as a single touch is instant death. Pyramids are a snake's only real weakness, besides checkers pieces, feet, blades and toilet seats of course. Oh and Jaws obviously.

Oh plus falling anvils, can't forget them. I ran the gauntlet of falling metalworking tools all the way to the weight test machine in the end, then suddenly realised I'd forgotten something. Yep, I'd taken damage along the way so I should've known I wouldn't be heavy enough to trigger it. Time to go back to grab a snack I think. All the way back down.

Actually I have no idea where the last ball dispenser was now, it could be miles back. All these levels are starting to blur together in my mind now. Aw fuck it, I'm just turning the game off.


Snake Rattle N Roll seems like a decent game with a lot of charm to it I reckon, but it ain't really for me. I found the isometric platforming combined with instant failure obstacles and diagonally rotated controls led to much tragic loss of precious lives down bottomless pits. A few times I managed to fall off a perfectly safe looking stretch of floor because I strayed a little close to the back edge and whoops, no level boundary wall to avert my long lethal trip down through the endless void beyond. I'm also not a huge fan of having to watch my weight. 'You must have this much health left to exit the level' seems like a very strange system, designed to encourage a lot of unwanted backtracking.


If you have anything you'd like to say about Snake Rattle N Roll, my writing, this vast and awesome blog shaped thing I post at, or anything else remotely related, please feel welcome to leave a comment.

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