Wild Snake (SNES) review
"Hereís something for anyone who was grossed out by that pit of writhing snakes in the Indiana Jones movie. Wild Snake is a game that vaguely follows the falling-block puzzle-game format, but a more accurate label would be slithering-reptile format. You see, these snakes are incredibly realistic. They donít just drop from the top of the screen like boring blocks. Their twisty bodies wriggle down head-first, struggling against you and the controller all the way. The idea is to wrangle the snake o..."
Hereís something for anyone who was grossed out by that pit of writhing snakes in the Indiana Jones movie. Wild Snake is a game that vaguely follows the falling-block puzzle-game format, but a more accurate label would be slithering-reptile format. You see, these snakes are incredibly realistic. They donít just drop from the top of the screen like boring blocks. Their twisty bodies wriggle down head-first, struggling against you and the controller all the way. The idea is to wrangle the snake over to an area where it is touching one of its own kind. (The snakes come in a variety of sizes and colors, from dowdy speckled ones to cute green garter snakes and smooth black eels.) Once a snake comes in contact with another of its breed, the first snake disappears, and the second snake slithers on, fitting its body into the crevice created, until its head reaches something solid like a wall or a different colored snake.
Soon, a nest of intertwined snakes will form at the bottom of the screen, and you must continue to clear them or else the entire screen will become infested. As with other games of the genre, if the snakes reach the top of the screen, itís Game Over.
The greatest thing about the game as far as Iím concerned is that the snakes give off the impression of being real living creatures. They behave like snakes, not like blocks. For example, the snake always leads with its head, and its body follows. snakeís body always follows its head, and for that reason always travels downward and never straight to the side. So any lateral movement is only possible on a downward diagonal. The result is that the controls are not as precise as Tetris, and it isnít always possible to position the snake exactly where you want it. The pacing, therefore, is rather frenetic. Thereís also something rather creepy about how the snake continues to move after it has come in contact with something. Like water, the snake will continue to move until it has reached the lowest point in the pile. This just gives off the impression that the snake is unpredictable and has a mind of its own.
That being said, itís very easy to get into a groove with Wild Snake once youíve become accustomed to the controls. Even in the higher modes of difficulty, the game takes it easy on you for quite a while before becoming noticeably taxing. The game does not change levels every time you reach a certain points plateau, and the speed of the snakesí descent doesnít noticeably increase. (However, the speed they begin falling at it significantly faster than the blocks in Tetris do.) The lower levels of difficulty also feature two specialty snakes that fall with generous frequency: the first is a lightning snake that zaps all the snakes of whatever color it comes in contact with first. There is also a fat, straight snake that torpedos its way through an entire column of bodies. The only goal to strive for in Wild Snake is for a high score; there is no ending to speak of in the regular mode.
However, often the challenge of the regular mode still doesnít seem quite enough. As an alternative, there is the King Cobra mode, which is a sudden-death mode of specific, often time-dependent, challenges. For every challenge completed, the player moves on to the next level. The challenges become increasingly more difficult and creative; and could be things like eliminating 50 snakes in 150 seconds, or 20 snakes of 5 different colors, and so on.
Besides the rather monotonous rectangle playing grid, Wild Snake offers several other shapes to play with. As well as X and T shapes, an hourglass, and a cross, there is the same basic rectangle littered this time with solid blocks like an obstacle course. Given the unique movement patterns of the snakes that I have already mentioned, each of these different grids actually provide quite different experiences.
In terms of graphics, the game does offer the player a choice of background themes, which include things like forest, water and desert, each accompanied by its own average-quality musical ditty as well. Yet itís really the amount of variety in the snakes that keeps the game from being another drab middle-of-the-road visual effort. That and the rather cool opening animation of a king cobra launching himself at the screen with mouth and fangs gaping.
Overall, Wild Snake is something a little different. While not quite as polished a game as others in the same genre (the comparison to Tetris is unavoidableÖ), the uniqueness of using snakes is a welcome change from blocks or other inanimate objects.
Community review by alecto (February 18, 2003)
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