For the longest of times (up until its release, actually), qrth-phyl (80 MSP) defied a full explanation. Also pronunciation, which continues to elude us all. From the cryptic trailer and description, you glean almost nothing except the now-confirmed suspicion that you’d be collecting dots. For what purpose or greater good, it was not said.
That purpose is now clear(er). qrth-phyl contains that classic arcade goal of getting the highest score, though calling it a glorified ‘snake game’ is not only incorrect, it’s slightly offensive. qrth-phyl is familiar yet distant, with a certain care that extends beyond the typical indie developer. hermitgames is not the typical indie developer. It immediately recalls the studio’s previous XBLIG, Leave Home, and qrth-phyl continues in carrying out that style with aplomb.
Dot collection is the chief gameplay component. Doing so extends your snake. You continue to grow. Do not run into yourself while circling the levels. Yes, you’ve done this before. It isn’t exactly a thrilling concept on its own, but with a new perspective and art on its side, that idea feels fresh once again in qrth-phyl.
It’s challenging (and fun) navigating the different layouts, shifting from a 2D plane to full 3D and back (the 3D camera here is just about the best I’ve encountered). There are some tricks to the old dog too, such as point combos for scooping dots in quick succession, or a powerup that shrinks your size and changes the excess tail into collectible dots. It works in reverse as well. The larger green dots give you more points, but also spawn laser traps. In tight quarters, these can be game-enders. Worse still are the corruptions.
These ‘corruption’ moments, when they occur, alter the level in real time, throwing up roadblocks and extending barricades in an attempt to rain on your parade, usually succeeding. Damn adaptive difficulty. qrth-phyl marks the rare occasion where you should shoot for average. Do too well, and the game thinks you’re the bee’s knees, taking it upon itself to ‘toughen’ things up for you.
Play through the game, and you’ll unlock the ‘Elements’ item in the notes section. These Out and In rooms are the ten single stages from the main game, ‘sequence’, but in a separate menu. The ‘elements’ work as quick little one-offs, one life to collect as many dots possible, It tracks your completion of each room and high score, which stacks and builds up your corruption percentage just as playing the main game does. What happens when that level reaches 100%?
Ah, well, nothing. At least that I saw. I’m not sure what I expected or wanted, a thumbs-up made entirely of cubes (would have been nice), but alas, nothing. I can’t hide my disappointment in finding the end of the rainbow was just the end, though it’s hardly a huge setback. I also wished for a peer-to-peer leaderboard during some of my high score runs, as that would have been a perfect fit, but again, the main game is easily able to make up for these absences (and I’ll always have Twitter to brag to).
It might be a little misunderstood, or maybe you were expecting a bit more (like me), but as the opening shot to the Uprising III, qrth-phyl is a more than capable lead-off hitter. As an arcade type, it does exactly what it should— short, thrilling (yes, really) gameplay and the eternal chase for a high score. It starts off as a homage to games gone by, and becomes the quintessential ‘snake’ game in the process.