Overall Score 75%
Is it better to attempt a solid and playable version of an already well established genre or to try to break new ground and pioneer a totally new experience even if the game itself is a bit of a clunker? We get all sorts of games to review here at Bytten, and this weeks offering definitely fits into the first of those two groups. I personally would like to see more ground breaking titles rather than rehashes of old games, but I know that this is not the case for a lot of casual gamers, and this is the market that Snaky Jake is pitching to.
The player will almost immediately feel at ease with this side scrolling platformer, where Jake (the snake) has to adventure through 4 different environments to collect 6 shards of a magical crystal so that he can return home. There are 60 levels to play through with 15 in each environment type. The different level types offer fairly much the same gameplay but do look distinctive enough so that the player feels a sense of accomplishment at the completion of an environment and a sense of progress through the game.
There are stationary and moving platforms, pin-wheel style rotating platforms as well as swings and vines on some level sets. Jake needs to jump from the starting point on each level from platform to platform, eventually ending up at the goal. Of course this would be pretty boring if it werenít for the staple enemy types that must be avoided (or crushed from above in Super Mario style) peppering the environments, and Snaky Jake does have a good variety of these. The snails in the early levels are woefully easy to get by or squish, but as the game progresses, the enemies become more numerous and a lot quicker. The bees and ghosts in the later levels will have even the better players cursing into their monitors.
A game in a genre with so many peers, and many good ones at that, needs to stand out from the crowd, and two features in Snaky Jake caught my attention as innovative. There are collectibles scattered throughout each level on various platforms that vary in each level set, so as an example Iíll use the first environment (the jungle) which contains fruit. As Jake picks up fruit it will trail out behind him in the order in which he picks it up. If he can pick up 3 of the same fruit in a row, all fruit of that type disappears from the chain and he gains special benefits as well as a score bonus. If the chain gets too long (by picking up fruit in the wrong order) and reaches the edge of the screen, then the chain is ignited like the fuse on a cartoon bomb. The lit fuse can be extinguished by making another combo in time, but if Jake loses all his fruit, all his power gained is reset to zero. A great majority of the levels auto-scroll to the right once started, and so this feature adds a bit of excitement to the platform hopping. The other feature that I found cool was that the game is controlled entirely by the mouse. Point and left click on a platform and Jake will jump to it if it is range. Platforms that are in range are automatically highlighted. Combinations of left and right clicks enable different special moves as the game progresses. At first this sounded like an unintuitive way to play a platformer, but after a few minutes I had become a huge fan of the control setup.
Importantly for a casual game, Snaky Jake looks colourful and slick. The artwork is well done, elements move smoothly in full-screen or windowed mode, and graphical effects are very good. The sound effects complement the on-screen action nicely even though the one musical backing track becomes repetitive over time.
I played through all the levels over a few days, and it took me about 3 hours in total. Unfortunately, without collecting every single coin (picked up for points along the way) on every single level, Jake is not allowed to return home, and that is neither something that I have the time nor inclination to do.
As a platformer in the traditional sense, Snaky Jake is a solid and entertaining offering that will appeal to all age groups and is well suited to children. It lacks somewhat in appeal to me as a gamer and is not an example of software that I would consider buying. Try as I may, I could not readily find any bugs or faults apart from one annoying feature where hitting the Esc key will (as expected) pause the game, but hitting it subsequently will dump you back at the level select screen. Gamer instinct tells me that this second keystroke should unpause the game, and this frustrated me more than once. Credit where credit is due though. Iím serving up a Bytten Silver Star this week.
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