Overall Score 72%
A little boy is out in the middle of nowhere. It's dark, and the land around him is filled with deadly snakes. His only defence is his handheld torch - these snakes are frightened of the light. But how long can he last, with the snakes closing in on all sides?
Sneaky Snakes, not to be confused with the Gameboy game of the same name, is a simple challenge for the iPhone and iPad. You control the boy, in the centre of the screen. He cannot move, but he can rotate his torch beam a full 360 degrees. Snakes close in on all sides, but those lit up by the torch will slither away again. If they slither off the screen, they've been scared off for good - if not, they'll head back towards you when you look away. If they reach him, he'll be bitten and need to use one of his limited medical kits.
There are a number of different types of snake, and they come in different sizes. Big or little makes no difference, but small ones are harder to spot - however, some colours of snake are faster than others, either when advancing or retreating or both, so you'll need to watch out and apply a little strategy. The black snakes are particularly hard to see coming in the dark! It's not all bad, though - a range of other creatures appear around our young lad, and if you tap on them they'll drop powerups. These include the rare but powerful smart-bomb lightning strikes that clear the screen, the simple but effective torch upgrade (light up a 170 degree arc at a time for a limited period) and the wonderful sonic glasses (see those snakes coming!), as well as extra medical kits.
Graphics are simple but effective, with a number of different colour snakes and generally cartoon graphics that play smoothly. The snake colours can be a little indistinct in some cases - black snakes are deliberately hard to spot, but the similarity between orange and copper snakes is a little too close for my liking, especially given how dangerous those orange ones are. Sound is limited to a single backing track, which can soon get irritating, and a range of sound effects - these can be very helpful, as they include the boy calling out when he sees nearby critters and serve as a useful alert if you're after powerups. Unfortunately there's no option to vary these two aspects independently! I'm not sure what the point is of a complete mute option when the iPhone/iPad comes with a built-in silent mode, but maybe that's just me.
Sneaky Snakes has three difficulty settings and one saved game "slot" (you can resume an existing game, or start a new one). If you lose all your medical kits, you have the option to restart that level with five new kits (the same number you start the game with). There is no limit to retries that I'm aware of. This seems to apply to all difficulty modes, which vary by the number and range of snakes that attack. Beginner mode introduces each snake type one at a time; Extreme mode sets all varieties of snake on you from the first level!
Levels vary the game a little both by their settings (every ten levels feature a new location) and by their goal. Sometimes you'll be told to keep all snakes away for a set number of seconds. Sometimes you'll be asked to scare off (the screen) a certain number of a particular snake. Most difficult are those that have you collect a number of powerups, though you won't be penalised for using them once you get them - these require holding off the snakes until creatures appear and you may not get the powerup you're after when they do. Every tenth level is a bonus round - hold off the snakes for a short time, and tap as many creatures as you can while they spawn around you. Use those powerups sparingly - you'll need them on the later levels!
Even so, it can get a bit samey. This is where the iPad/iPhone excels - you can play Sneaky Snakes for short bursts when you're able, and quit in between levels until you're ready to continue. Beginner mode is very easy to get into and I lasted for ages on that - the other levels are considerably tougher, but play in the same fashion. I couldn't play this game for hours at a time, though initially it was rather compelling, but as a little relaxation while waiting for the bus or queuing at the supermarket, it'll last you a long time.
One final word of warning - I am not aware of any scientific studies that show snakes are afraid of torchlight. I cannot guarantee this will work if you end up surrounded by real snakes!
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