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Review: Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (NES)By Ofisil At 23.03.2020 19:19

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Rattle and Roll are snakes, but aside from their forked tongues and legless bodies, a more accurate description would be snake heads, as they need to eat to gain their tails, which also act as health bars. What's on the menu, though? Rats? Bugs? No. Nibbley Pibbleys. What's that, you say? Small coloured spheres that roll, run, fly, and even swim. However, why should they bother? Well, these are on a mission to reach the top of a gargantuan mountain, but they need to gain enough weight before doing so, in order to open the exit of each stage. Does all that sound weird? You simply have no freaking idea! There's no grass, trees, and rocks in this alien landscape.

The ground resembles a checkerboard; the slopes of the mountain are filled with sharp pyramids; enemies are patrolling jaws, jumping spikes, and falling anvils; and, finally, the main antagonist is a giant human foot. Snake Rattle 'n' Roll sure has character. It managed to feel… far out, in an era where a fat handyman was chomping down mushrooms, flowers, and stars, in order to fight with turtles and walking shiitake. It looks great too, with its vibrant, and very… Rare colour palette. It's also nice how, the closer you get to the top, the more barren and dark the mountain looks, with the music following suit, as it all begins with funky rock and roll, with the OST soon becoming more ominous.

Now, forget all the nonsense about eating Nibbleys and avoiding/killing enemies with your tongue. These are the tip of the iceberg. Snake Rattle 'n' Roll is, above everything else, a platformer - and this is where the real challenge is. Typical of Rare during its NES days, this doesn't hold any punches. It's nowhere near as hard *cough*unfair*cough* as Battletoads, but it's definitely a title that deserves the Nintendo-hard label, and the reason for that is mainly the perspective. Since this was based in Marble Madness, it takes place on a pseudo-3D, isometric world, as in Solstice and Q*bert, therefore it's hard to truly "know" where you are.

The thing is, though, unlike Marble Madness where the player controls a marble (duh!) that rolls on the surface of the world, the snakes in here can jump, which makes it hard to "judge" distances, especially on those occasions where it's not possible to see the snake's shadow. True, eventually, most will get the hang of this, and manage to "read" the game like Neo reads The Matrix - instinctively. Players will even adapt to the touchy controls, and learn how to manoeuvre the snakes mid-air, and, most importantly, handle their momentum, avoid overshooting or undershooting leaps, and ending up in a lower section… or worse.

Yes, you'll die in Snake Rattle 'n' Roll. A lot. It's no wonder that after completing a level you are greeted with words the likes of "Amazing," "Excellent," and other "Radical" adjectives that would fit right in with Bill & Teds's Excellent Adventure. Apart from the aforementioned challenge of dealing with the top-down isometric, the game often demands doing some crazy acrobatics that require insane accuracy and concentration on your part - and never forget that the clock keeps on ticking while you try to survive the traps that await you.

The first couple of levels are nothing to write home about. A tricky part here, a treacherous corner there, but as a whole, it's ok. Then the snakes reach the second half of the journey: levels where you roam around with zero health; water sprouts that must be exploited to reach a high place… and die from not landing correctly; falling boulders and anvils that turn you to mush; and, last but not least, icy floor. Thankfully, you spawn exactly where you died. After all it's hard to imagine someone completing the very last level without a mechanism such as this, as the final stretch can literally drain all of your lives in less than a minute. This isn't an exaggeration. Good luck reaching the final door.

A pleasant adventure? Sure. An unfair one? Far from it. Can it be aggravating beyond imagination? You bet. When a game has only 10 levels, and from those the last four or so are nerve-breakingly challenging, then the fun factor tends to wane after the 100th try - but this still remains an entertaining ride, especially if enjoyed cooperatively with a friend. That being said, while more exciting this way, Snake Rattle 'n' Roll also becomes harder. Sure, you need half the mass to open the door, but you now both have to make each jump. Oh, and don't expect any extra lives from the points gathered. These are there just for bragging rights and that alone.

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Final Score
There simply aren't many platformers like [i]Snake Rattle 'n' Roll[/i] out there, if any. Rare's classic creation is one bizarre piece of video game history, and a pretty enjoyable one at that. Just make sure to grab something soothing from the local pharmacy, because, whether experienced alone, or with one of your unfortunate friends, this will humble you like only a few games from the NES can.

7

/10

User Comments
#1 Dragon0085 - on 23.03.2020 at 19:48

Wow I loved this game.  I was always really curious about how on the edge of levels you could see parts of other levels and wondered if this WAS other levels.

Also I had to play NES games with my game genie (long story) and for some reason it glitched the final big foot where it didnt die.  I pounded it for like an hour and it still never died.

#2 Ofisil - on 23.03.2020 at 20:01

Dragon0085 said:
Wow I loved this game.  I was always really curious about how on the edge of levels you could see parts of other levels and wondered if this WAS other levels.

Also I had to play NES games with my game genie (long story) and for some reason it glitched the final big foot where it didnt die.  I pounded it for like an hour and it still never died.


The final big foot - and door - still gives me nightmares...


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