Tag Archives: Snake? Snake!? Snaaaaaakke!

REVIEW: Snake Party

Not to be confused with another way to say there’s a bunch of dudes clustered in one location, or a very strange (and very specific) kind of reptilian gathering, Snake Party ($2.99) represents another notch in the classic ‘snake’ game category. And it’s kind of a sort-of sequel / upgrade to the eight-years-earlier Snake3601 from the same developer. That’s also kind of very similar-ish?

At any rate, you have the familiar mechanic of your ‘snake’ chasing down ‘targets’ that can both extend your time left on the clock and increase your body size to eventually-ridiculous lengths (phrasing!). The challenge, of course, is to manage that growth within the confines of a given level, avoiding walls and obstacles, as well as your own self. The rooms are varied as such, with over 100 challenge stages, the difficulty increasing as you shift from different tiers as often as you’d like, including Easy, Expert, and Insane2.

Each tier is suitably stocked to offer variety and plenty of said challenge. Victory conditions and modifiers for every level change as well, with some asking you to collect a certain number of targets, or navigate for a set time with infinite growth, obstacles blinking in and out of existence, etc. This mixes things up nicely, ensuring you never get too comfortable completing a single task or playing in one set pattern the entire way through.

There’s also various survival modes to test your skill, and four-player couch battles return with their own devious modifiers, letting you compete for high score, bragging rights, and the always-precious free space to move around in (things get cluttered fast, no surprise). That would probably be the ideal way to play the game, but for XBLIG, it might be limited to who you have available in your immediate surroundings and how many controllers you have.


Though the biggest question, of course, would be how much you enjoy the Snake gametype, and if you don’t mind essentially playing the same game as what you already can find in your web browser, your phone, your watch, your calculator, or any number of other places that Snake clones exist. Given its similarity to the previous Snake360, too, you might have already had your fill of it in this particular presentation.

Even with those drawbacks and aforementioned games, Snake Party is plenty fun and plenty challenging, albeit close to the same thing you’ve seen and done before. But, if you’re new to it, or play too much Slither.io, or just enjoy the arcade-y hook of it in any form and / or have four controllers on hand, there’s more than enough content to keep you busy, be it with friends or going solo.

  1. Eight(!) years ago; man, Xbox Live Indie Games has had a hell of a run, when you think about it. 
  2. And while Hard is predictably tough to handle, and Expert is difficult stuff to anyone but the most-practiced Snake-titioner, Insane is just… just… why would you do that to yourself!? 

REVIEW: Avatar Stealth

Indies are traditionally bite-sized servings, so it makes sense that an indie would take for its main subject the ancillary, often-overlooked side / tutorial modes in bigger games. Specifically adapted in this case, Metal Gear‘s VR training missions. Well, to a point, minus gadgets, weapons, or cardboard boxes. Avatar Stealth (80 MSP) is a sneaking mission.

That my avatar is currently dressed as Corvo from Dishonored is not only a testament to my impeccable taste in game characters, but befitting for a game based on the tenants of stealth. Sadly, none of the gruesome takedowns or special abilities from that game (or any other espionage-laden title, for that matter) are present in Avatar Stealth. As stated, your only option in a pinch is to hide and pray your sorry avatar’s ass off that you’re not caught.

Avatar Stealth - Screen

Much like the venerable Solid Snake, your avatar can crawl into tight spaces and hug walls / objects in the environment, which shields you from sentries’ eyes and allows a view to the goal so that you can plan your route. Visually, it matches its inspiration almost sight cone for sight cone, splashing neon and wireframes over everything, including helpful color-coordinated lighting in the likely event you draw unwanted attention to yourself (yellow = hide / don’t move, red = you’re fucked).

The game will automatically create random levels for you, or you can tinker with the generator yourself in Customization mode, which will give you a more tailored experience. You can freely change the size and layout of rooms, as well as how many guards will patrol and how much they can see. While this (possibly) takes some of the mystery and challenge out of the game, it is a secondary choice for practice runs or for those who prefer not to leave their fates up to an A.I. to decide.

Avatar Stealth - Screen2

Once the game is in motion, the idea works, mostly. The guards’ line of sight is clearly represented, as is the sound your movement makes (pro-tip: running isn’t a good option). The mini-map is invaluable. Ironically, given the source material, the camera is not as cooperative. You’ll be fixing it more than you’d like, usually when you least have the time for it. It’s particularly bothersome when peering around corners, as your avatar can accidentally come ‘unglued’ from whatever surface you’re attached to, stepping right out into the open. And once you’re spotted, it’s a short chase then game over, no retries, even in VR.

Those issues and frustrations knock it from the top-shelf, but the randomly-generated levels and customization options keep the sneaking fresh-ish, most of the time. Avatar Stealth may be an imperfect impersonation, a cheap stand-in, but that’s not such a terrible thing.

REVIEW: qrth-phyl

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.


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