Monday, April 16, 2007

Snaky Jake Review

Snaky Jake, developed and published by Charlie Dog Games.
The Good: Combination of platform and puzzle elements, simple controls
The Not So Good: Mouse controls are not as precise as you’d want them in hectic situations, low replay value, unoriginal other than the inclusion of matching puzzles
What say you? A mouse-drive platform game that’s mostly by the numbers: 5/8

A large proportion of people seem to be afraid of snakes. From Indiana Jones to your Aunt Suzy (you know, the crazy one), shrieking seems to commence when once of these slithery creatures rears its head. Most snakes want nothing to do with you, and remember: they were here first (by about 70 million years). Capturing this cuddly creature is Snaky Jake, a platform game involving a snake named Jake (surprise!). You’ll guide him through his journey as he jumps from platform to platform, collecting fruit and gold coins (you know, like real snakes do).

Snaky Jake is rendered in two dimensions, but the game looks pretty good for a 2-D title. The game has a slightly distinctive style, although most of the game consists of obvious platforms with no real innovation as to why they are there. The settings consist of a jungle, a cave, a park, and a cellar; this serves to break up the graphical theme and make the game appear less monotonous. The detail on the main character is lacking, but the enemies exhibit a nice level of polish. There aren’t many special effects in the game, but the graphics do the job well enough. The sound presentation is better off: Snaky Jake has a good collection of appropriate sound effects and entertaining background music. The slightly cartoon-like feel of the game comes through in the sound, and it promotes a overall good setting for the game. Overall, the graphics and the sound of Snaky Jake are decent but not spectacular.

Snaky Jake makes it roots in classic platform gaming: jumping from platform to platform, collecting objects, and avoiding enemies. The game adds a couple of unique elements to the mix, the first of which is the control method. Jake is moved by using the mouse and clicking on his destination. This makes the game easy to control, but less precise than you would want, especially when aiming for narrow platforms or moving structures. The game highlights areas you can jump to, which takes the guess work out of how far Jake can go. This makes controlling the game very straightforward and anyone that can use a mouse can do it. The second unique component to Snaky Jake is the puzzle game within the game. While you are navigating through each level, you’ll collect various kinds of fruit. If you get a chain of three fruits of the same kind in a row, you get a bonus. Unfortunately, if the chain becomes too long (past the edge of the screen), you die, so you need to consciously make matches.

Snaky Jake offers several things to increase the difficult of the game. First, a lot of the platforms move. This makes selecting them more difficult, and it’s actually harder than it should be due to the limited area to click and the imprecise controls. There is also a selection of scripted enemies to avoid; combining these with the moving platforms makes Snaky Jake more challenging than most platform games. In addition, the game slowly scrolls as you play, so you need to be quick about your actions before the side of the screen knocks you off your platform. To help you out, magic stones that grant special powers (like destroying platforms or stunning enemies) are scattered around each level. Snaky Jake offers 60 levels to play through, but once you’re done there is no real reason to play the game again, other than going for a higher score. Snaky Jake lacks the replay value present in other games, since the enemy locations are the same each time you play and the game lacks a level editor.

While Snaky Jake adds some new innovations to the equation with puzzle elements and mouse controls, the game is fairly standard the rest of the way. I like the alternative controls, but they don’t offer the precise control required to navigate a lot of the levels. The developers have opted for a lower learning curve with simplified controls, so novice players will find the game more accessible, but expert players will have more trouble executing advanced moves. The addition of object collection dynamics to the game add another layer of difficulty to the equation, but I like this novel add-on that gives you another thing to think about while you play. Snaky Jake lacks the replay value required to keep you interested in the game for the long haul: the lack of random enemy placement and a level editor means that the sixty levels in the game won’t ever change. Snaky Jake might be a good starter platform game with wider appeal, but most people will find the repetitive gameplay and lack of expansion tools offset any new components in the game.