Review by Retro

"Great game that just manages to be beyond your control at times"

A lot of things in life are weird, especially some of the people that inhabit planet Earth. It'd be interesting to take a look into the mind of freaks whose whole purpose in life is to get as many tattoos and piercings as they can, or those that decide to jump off buildings or out of planes without thinking that their lives could be at stake should their parachute decide not to obey.

Apparently, the same holds true for snakes. Two snakes, Rattle and Roll, are on a mission to....well, I dunno. There seems to be no storyline whatsoever in Snake, Rattle, 'n Roll. You must decide before even starting whether to play by yourself or with a friend in a co-op two-player mode. The blue snake, Roll, is like Luigi of Super Mario Brothers fame; he only gets to play if a second gamer decides to give the game a try.

I feel sorry for anybody who doesn't want to give Snake Rattle 'n Roll a try! I mean, it's lame as can be. Here you are controlling a snake head at the start, and your objective is to find what looks to be living pieces of candy, and then eat them. As you devour more and more of these perfectly round goodies, your tail will grow longer until the last segment of it is flashing. When that happens, it's time to find the scale and jump onto it. If you weigh enough, the bell will ring and the exit door will slide open. Slither through this door to magically enter the next level!

That's Snake Rattle 'n Roll in a nutshell, but it's not that easy to get your scaly ass from one level to the next. For one, there are a lot of enemies present that aren't too fond of snakes. Bouncing mushrooms, curled-up black snakes, and containers that clap their mouths continuously seem to be lurking around every corner. They're not much. They can easily be destroyed by whacking them with your forked tongue or by bouncing on their heads a few times. Most people who have a conscience hate snakes with the deepest of passions, but for once, there are no humans to be seen! However, there are several human foots that hop around like it's their sole mission in life.

As a snake progresses through the eleven levels of Snake Rattle 'n Roll, he'll come into contact with other mindless enemies, of course, some of which cannot be defeated. What could a snake that always wears a grin possibly do to anvils that fall from the heavens and sharks that have a hunger for anything that swims around in the sea a bit too long? Nothing!

Some living enemies may seem very tough your first few games, but from the very start, it's easy to see who your main adversary is: the controls! Snake Rattle 'n Roll is played using an overhead view, much like that of Marble Madness. I compare it to that classic because it plays somewhat like it, resembles it very much with its pseudo-3D graphics, and Snake Rattle 'n Roll even uses the same sound effect for falling off a cliff. But you'll be doing tons of leaping from platform to platform, which gives the game a unique platforming feel.

Anytime you're hit by an enemy, you lose a segment of your tail; lose all segments and the snake's head will spin around frantically before exploding like a firecracker. Oh well, you deserve to lose a life if you let the enemies get the best of you, but you don't deserve to be slave to the overly loose controls and poor level designs that will haunt your progress from start to finish. You'll be plummeting off a lot of cliffs, just to hear your snake yell in anguish as it falls to its death.

There are two things that make jumping from ledge to ledge too tough for its own good. One, you'll be having to change directions a lot while in midair (bad design). For instance, to reach a certain ledge, you must jump to the right, and then before landing, you have to press up (confusing!), all in good timing. And this is present in what seems to be the majority of jumps. You're more than likely to lose at least three lives trying to make just one of these jumps, whether you're playing the game for the first time or you're a veteran of 10+ years. Rattle and Roll can jump surprisingly well, but their hangtime isn't really one of their best assets. Two, the controls are too loose and touchy. I find myself overjumping several small, square platforms just a little bit, or winding up being a tad short. DAMNIT!

On top of the offbeat controls, Snake Rattle 'n Roll is a pretty hard game in itself! There are several parts of the game that will pose an almost unbearable challenge. The part that always leaks me dry of lives is the end of level seven. Several small bodies of water have geysers shooting up out of them, with a draining waterfall on the right side of each one. Seeing that the next set of platforms is sitting high, you have no choice but to swim over the geysers, let them propel you into the air, and then quickly maneuver your way to the next safe ledge while in midair. Needless to say, anytime you find an extra life, you need to run to it and hug it tight, cause boy do you need them!

All right, enough complaining about the bad controls and poor level designs. They stick out in my mind so much because they're really the only things I don't like about Snake Rattle 'n Roll. Everything else about the game is just.....excellent. I'm particularly a fan of the game's originality. It's amusing how those candies change form every level. They'll be running around on two feet in one, bouncing around on springs in another, and then using wings to soar with an eagle's grace later on. It's also funny how the snakes chew up their food (hmm, I thought snakes swallowed their prey whole) and then spit out the legs, wings, etc.

A few of the levels are blooming with a decent amount of originality as well. You must use flying carpets as moving platforms in one level, and another is totally made up of gorgeous blue ice blocks that are even slippier than they appear to be. My personal favorite level to visit (of the ones I've experienced) is the one that is totally absent of enemies, except for the time itself.

You start off by jumping into a pond, fully submerging yourself under the heavy weight of its water. Then you're left swimming beneath the surface in a pristine-looking environment that has nothing more than a few of those delicious candies swimming around in the form of fish. As usual, there are the three different colors of these ''candies,'' blue being the slowest, the pink ones swimming around at average speed, and those energetic yellow ones that are worth the most points due to their being the most difficult to catch. But there are also some mysterious black ones that must be tongued three times before they turn into a fast yellow candy. You simply swim around slashing your tongue out to catch enough of them to make the closed door open. Then it's on to the next pond of fish. I love that.

I also love the sounds that I hear coming from my television while I'm playing Snake Rattle 'n Roll. Like the crisp, clean graphics, the sounds and music seem to fit the game to a tee, and they're very nice. When collecting such items as tongue extensions, diamonds, and clocks for extra time, loud, fluid sounds will be heard. Call me insane, but when I see an extra life, diamond, etc. waiting to be collected, I look forward to picking them up, partly so I can hear those sounds. Nintety-nine percent of the music has a cheerful sound to it that just relaxes your mind (but it's not good enough to make you overlook the controls!) as you take on the levels' challenges full force, but one or two tracks are more upbeat and evil-sounding. One thing I noticed, though, is that some of the tracks repeat. Since the music is pretty good, that's no sin, but better variety would have been nice.

And I love Snake Rattle 'n Roll, believe it or not. It's always a fun title to play (by yourself; playing it with a friend can be nerve-racking, since the better player is left waiting for the other to catch up or die off), and I'd even go so far as to call it one of my favorites for the system. Rare has shown the world several great games throughout the years, and this is certainly one of them. It's just those darn controls and blahful level designs.

With only a few continues, you'll be very hard-pressed to complete your journey. If you reach the swimming level (level eight), you deserve a pat on the back. If you can beat the game, I don't like you. But no matter how much you hear me or others complain about the two bad aspects of Snake Rattle 'n Roll, the truth is, most of us like it a lot. And I think you will too.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/22/01, Updated 06/29/03

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