Indie Game Radar: Snakebird

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I was holding off on talking about Noumenon Games’ Snakebird because I’d hoped I could finish it in some kind of timely manner and pitch someone to publish my review of it, but at this point the game has pretty much beaten me. I may return to it at some point, but all I can do in the near term is talk about this criminally underplayed game and warn you that it may crush your spirit.

Snakebird is one of those rare examples of a truly unique idea for a puzzle game serviced with good level design and wrapped in an attractive graphical style — pretty much all the ingredients for a great puzzle game. This is one of the better recent Steam releases that almost no one is talking about.

Noumenon basically took the classic Snake and turned it into a puzzle game where you have to traverse platforms and reach a goal. In Snakebird you control a snake-like thing with the head of a bird that grows a bit longer when it eats fruit. You have to collect all the fruit in each stage to unlock the goal, and then figure out how to reach the goal without falling off the stage, hitting spikes, or trapping yourself. There are some physics and gravity-based rules to learn too.

Snakebird is also the hardest puzzle game I’ve played in a while. It’s one of those games where you really have to plan ahead to avoid putting yourself in unwinnable situations, which can occur with a single wrong button press. It has a quick undo button and you’re probably gonna be using it a lot as you optimize each and every move. Very early on I reached a point where I spent an hour planning out my moves for just one puzzle.

The game also has a full-blown Mario-style map system for its levels, around 50 in all I think. Each “biome” of the map, like a snow area or a water area, is attached to a new gimmick to diversify the puzzles. The map also let’s you take multiple paths through it so if you’re stuck on one puzzle you can try a couple other ones.

I think a main reason Snakebird is so hard is because the difficulty ramps up so quickly as it introduces new gimmicks but doesn’t take a lot of time to teach you their tricks. You might get one simple level that teaches you how controlling two snakebirds works or how you’re supposed to move boxes around, but after that the game immediately tosses you into shockingly complex applications of those gimmicks.

Other than that, Snakebird is a really solid package that’s unique, well-developed, and well-designed. It’s coming to mobile soon but Noumenon doesn’t know when. I don’t see why it couldn’t end up on the consoles either.

Oh, and Snakebird is the perfect kind of game for the Smach Zero. It runs on SteamOS and probably doesn’t need a dedicated video card at all. It actually feels like the kind of puzzle game someone could have developed for the Game Boy Advance 12 years ago.

BULLETS:

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