I thought I’d do things a little bit differently for Random Game Wednesdays this week. If you’re new here, the way that I decide what game I’m going to play for this feature is pretty simple. I choose a console, with no real rules on how to choose. Then, I count how many games I own for that console. I then go to a random number generator and enter the number of games as the highest possible number. The generator spits me out a number, and I count that number of spots on my game shelf to determine the game. For this week, instead of picking a console, I picked Rare Replay for the Xbox One. Rare Replay contains 30 games, so I entered 30 as the highest number. It gave me “11”. The eleventh game on the main menu is Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll.Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll is a weird game, and not just because Rare chose not to use the word “and” in the title. It’s an isometric platformer on the NES, originally released in 1990. At this time, the idea of a 3D platformer, even an isometric one, was a pretty foreign concept. The end result is a game that didn’t really have a blueprint to follow based on games that came before it. In some ways, that’s really good, as the game feels like nothing else you’ve ever played. On the other hand, some things about it are really frustrating.
The biggest problem, at least in my opinion, is the controls. I got used to them over time, but starting out it’s very challenging. When you hit right on a d-pad, you expect to go right, right? In Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, you go diagonally down-and-right. If you take your whole controller and tilt it to the right until the “plus” shape of the d-pad becomes an “x”, you’ll get something that more accurately shows what direction you’re going to move. It’s weird, but once you get your mind wrapped around it, it works.
As I said before, the game is a platformer, and thus it revolves around jumping onto platforms. What sets it apart from other platformers, besides it’s pseudo-3D perspective, is its eating mechanics. When you start, you’re a snake that consists of a big head and a single ball for a tail. Throughout each level, you’ll find lots of balls that your snake can eat. As he does, more balls will form on his tail. This serves as your health, but it also has another function. At the end of each level is a scale and a closed door. You need to be heavy enough to make the scale ring a bell, which opens the door. That means that keeping your tail long is about more than just staying alive, you also need it to progress.
Trying to stop you from getting to the end is the weirdest assortment of enemies. I’m honestly not really sure what Rare was going for with this bunch. Some of the enemies include clams that scoot around the ground and chomp you, some kind of shark thing that you only see the jaws of, and a giant human foot. It’s really weird and has no general theme, but in a way it kind of adds to the charm of the game.
The game has some really nice visuals and stands out among other games on the NES. Everything has a real 3D look to it, which is pretty rare for games of this era. Everything has depth to it. One of the cooler aspects to the graphics is the way you can actually see other levels while you’re playing. While playing, you may notice some platforms that you just can’t reach. In some cases, you might even see one of those scales, but there’s no way to get to it. This is actually a later level, and you’ll get to it eventually. Likewise, if you go the edges of cliffs in later levels, you might see previous levels. This doesn’t really affect the game in any way, but it looks really cool and creates a sense of progression.
The soundtrack is composed by David Wise, the guy famous for the Donkey Kong Country soundtracks. There’s a very similar level of quality to his work on Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll. Everything has this 1950’s rock and roll vibe to it that’s really catchy and fits the general mood of the game.
Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll is a really cool game that gets bogged down by some weird controls. They’ll lead to some unfair feeling deaths, and that’s pretty unfortunate. Otherwise, I like just about everything about the game. The graphics, the sound, the weird enemies, everything is wonderful. Everything except those controls. I’d still recommend that you give the game a try. Once you wrap your mind around how it all works, it’s a very rewarding and interesting game.