Snake Rattle 'N Roll (NES) review
"To reach the archway you see at the very top, you must zig-zag your way along a series of jumps. You leap forward, grinning because you know you canít possibly miss the landing. And then you do. And again, and again. Many of these jumps arenít straight, either. Some require you to wrap your way around a cliff mid-air. The problem is, itís often hard to tell which move is required."
Rattle and Roll are two gnarly snakes that somehow managed to get their own game back when Rare didnít take three years to make each of its games. The game was Snake Rattle ĎN Roll, a poorly-punctuated romp through some of the strangest worlds NES owners ever got to experience. It was ahead of its time, a real graphical accomplishment. Unfortunately, its appeal wears off rather quickly.
The reason the game works is also its downfall. Rather than placing you in an arena with a view directly overhead or to the side, Rareís artists chose the isometric route. The result is that youíre stuck in a sort of limbo, similar to the approach that worked so well in Marble Madness. Here, unfortunately, it does not. Jumps take a more Solstice-like approach, which is to say that thereís a lot of guesswork involved.
But before we really get to the jumps, perhaps I should tell you about the object of the game. Itís simple, really. You are a small snake head and you need to survive a level. This means gobbling up little extensions to your body. If you are naught but a head and you take a hit, you lose a life. If you have some segments to your name, you last a bit longer.
There are two complications, however. The first is the fact that the levels are filled to the brim with traps. Slide over a manhole and lash out your tongue. You may find a radical bonus item, such as an extension or an extra life or a crank that improves your speed for a time. Or, you may find a big foot that stomps away your life in one hit. Or a bomb. You may also find a warp zone (in rare cases) or even a bonus round.
Bonus rounds are always a welcome sight because you donít take damage. All you do is whip about the screen and gobble up the goodies a vending machine of sorts sends in your general direction. In later areas, the extensions it spews like to jump out of your reach, or turn themselves into flat pancakes you canít quite eat. Still, the basic objective remains the same.
Once the bonus round ends, itís back to the proper game, though. And this brings us to the second of those two complications I mentioned, the end-level scale. Before you can complete a given stage, you must weigh your snake at its conclusion. If you have enough segments, youíll cause a bell to ring and the walled archway will open so that you can proceed. If youíve taken too much damage, or if you just never bothered to collect enough segments in the first place, itís time to head back through the stage working on your length.
This brings us to the heart of what makes the game unpleasant: its actual stages. As I already said, they take place from an isometric perspective that makes judging your leaps a tricky prospect. Thatís the bad news. The worse news is that the world of Snake Rattle ĎN Roll is filled with bottomless (or spike-lined) pits that will make quick work of your lives. Even though you have continues, itís not uncommon for the inexperienced player to lose three or four lives (perhaps even a continue or two) attempting to execute the same bloody leap.
Imagine that youíve worked your way through the first few introductory levels. They were quite simple, but now youíre into some real challenges. Pink cliffs (for whatever reason, Rareís developers seem to favor this color as they ratchet up the difficulty; must be some sort of sick inside joke) rise high above you. To reach the archway you see at the very top, you must zig-zag your way along a series of jumps. You leap forward, grinning because you know you canít possibly miss the landing. And then you do. And again, and again. Many of these jumps arenít straight, either. Some require you to wrap your way around a cliff mid-air. The problem is, itís often hard to tell which move is required. Early on, until youíve memorized the paths to success, thereís a lot of trial and error occurring.
In todayís three-dimensional age, with cameras you can rotate and friendlier continue systems, the perspective wouldnít have been the enemy it is here. But Snake Rattle ĎN Roll is an old game, devoid of the benefits modern technology brings to the table. And so the only thing you can do is take it for what it is: an aging relic that once was fun but now only entertains for brief spurts. Bring a friend along and itís twice the fun. But even then, Snake Rattle ĎN Roll is an appetizer at best. Nice try, snakes.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (January 31, 2005)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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