Friday, March 4, 2016

Isometric March Madness (Friday Night Rentals): Snake Rattle N' Roll

Snakes, why did it have to be snakes...

You've heard of March Madness? Well, how about some Isometric March Madness?  That's right, for the month of march the spotlight goes to those games with a unique "perspective" on things. Let's get geared up for this month of isometric inspired games with an old favorite of mine; Snake, Rattle N Roll.  I had a blast with this game back in the day. I remember trying out the two player mode with my mom and enjoying a bit of competition as well as we tried to snag the pellets--sorry--Nibbley Pibbleys, and raced to the goal. So how does this shifted view retro games stand up today? Well, snakes don't have legs so it can't stand up today any more than it could yesterday, but still--listen, let's just get to the review and remembrances, k'?


The basic gameplay feels like an update of the classic "snake" game you can find embedded in your old graphing calculator.  You're a technicolor snake with a mission to munch pellets. For each pellet you eat, you get a new body segment. Your main objective is to gain enough body segments to ring a bell which opens up a door leading to the next level.  For an isometric game, the controls are fairly straightforward--no pun intended. You can jump, and your snake's tongue doubles as pellet muncher and attack weapon. There are no bosses in the game, but it has plenty of obstacles, traps, and goofy enemies to make your race to grab pellets an interesting one. One complaint I had from back in the day that still holds true now is the razor-thin margin of error allowed for platform jumps over certain-death abysses. Like all isometric games, it's easy to misjudge a jump multiple times, and then run out of lives and continues without ever knowing whether you were even close to nailing the jump. 


Too bad your little guy doesn't have any legs to bop along to the music because the melodies in Snake Rattle N Roll really capture the 50's diner, bleating jukebox  peppiness you would come to expect from a game that has a rendition of the famous "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" tune:

"Shake, Rattle, and Roll"

The in-game music captures the spirit of the title track in way that's really surprising and really pleasing. Not only does it really get you swinging along, but it helps keep the action of collecting pellets--sorry Nibbly pibblys--fun and exciting. As I mentioned earlier, isometric games on the NES sometimes got on my nerves because I'd more often than not misstep, mis-jump, or just plain miss the mark when trying to get somewhere. Something about the inherent happiness of classic 50's tune can't help but make me smile--even as my snake plummets to his doom for the ump-teenth time.


Let's face it, you don't need Indiana Jones around to make you wonder why it had to be snakes. Personally, I liked the goofy set up back then. Colorful characters, zany enemies, and a point challenge with no enemies. I even liked the competitive aspect of the game. I also enjoyed that there were no boss battles in the game. Not to say that I don't like boss battles, just I don't think it would have fit with the tone of the game. 

Reflection on the Rental

I remember experiences I had with other isometric games (which I'll talk about later this month) and was worried about how much I would enjoy the game.  And to my surprise, it was actually pretty easy to figure out the jumping and chomping mechanics of the game back in the day and there's still some visceral enjoyment I get out of gobbling the pellets which I liken to gobbling dots in Pac-Man. When I was a kid I enjoyed having games I could play with my parents as well as my older brother. Oh sure, doing a fighting game like River City Ransom was fun, but my folks weren't in to that kind of game. Here though with Snake, Rattle N Roll was a game that I could get my mom or dad interested in playing, and even have a bit of fun being competitive. It was well worth picking up as not only did evoke memories of that time when I wanted to play a video game with my folks, but it also was great seeing if I had learned how to get past certain levels that frustrated me as a child and I would ask my parents to do. Unfortunately, I still get stuck.

I wonder if my folks would mind coming over to my house for a bit to help with something?

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