Monday, July 18, 2011

The Top 30 Hardest NES Games Ever. Day 18

Snake Rattle and Roll

There aren't many games for the NES that make me as nervous while playing them as Snake Rattle and Roll.  This colorful, poppy arcade-style game is light and full of whimsy at first, but features some of the most tense moments I've ever had in gaming.

Built around the simple premise of controlling a snake who must gobble up little pellet creatures called Nibbley Pibbleys in order to gain enough weight to exit the area, you are flung into a wide variety of levels packed with traps, death-defying jumps, and deadly toilet seats and giant, stomping feet! Yeah, the game is wacky.  It is also a lot of fun.  Straightforward arcade style games like this are meant to be instantly engaging and then tough as nails.  Snake Rattle and Roll fits this formula perfectly.  The first few levels are fun and light hearted with some challenging spots, but mostly just enjoyable romps through brightly colored cubic landscapes.  Soon, however, you will start to see the difficulty creep in.  With only 11 levels, the difficulty sets in by level 4 and only gets harder.

The main thing that makes SR&R so difficulty is the controls.  They aren't bad or cheap like in Conan, but they are very, very loose.  When you press the control pad to move in a given direction you really move, and when you jump, you have an exceptional jumping range, so you really jump!  Further complicate that by putting these loose controls in an isometric format (Q*bert controls for those of you not savvy) and you are all over the place, literally.  You will need those first few softball levels just to get the hang of moving around.  If you cannot get the hang of the controls, expect your time with SR&R to max out by level 5.  If you do master the controls, you will open yourself to a lot of options and you'll have much more fun with the game, at least until level 9.

As I said before, with only 11 total levels, the difficulty in Snake Rattle and Roll has to ramp pretty steeply and rather quickly.  Midway through the game, just when you have gotten used to the way everything works,  the level design begins to vary wildly.  The underwater levels will require all kinds of new skills completely different from the ones you have been cultivating and you'll have to think in additional dimensions in order to succeed.  In the later levels the game becomes less about gobbling Nibbley Pibbleys and more about navigating some of the most treacherous arcade platforming you will ever find.  Seemingly impossible jumps will become commonplace and the ferocious stomping foot will plague you incessantly.  Then, in the final levels, the programmers decided that you have gotten too good at SR&R so they introduce a new playfield surface: ice.  If you thought the controls were loose before...

As you work your way through Snake Rattle and Roll, you'll get more comfortable with the controls and the game's expectations, but I cannot say that you can ever truly rest or expect to breeze through the levels , particularly not those in the latter half of the game.  You get plenty of opportunities to gain extra lives and extra continues, but you will need them all.  I've wasted two full continues on A SINGLE JUMP in level 9 before.  TWO FULL CONTINUES ON A SINGLE JUMP.  Madness I tell you.  Luckily the game is short, each level really only wanting about 5 minutes max to clear, but hours to learn and master.  Once you get better (I dare not say "good") at a level, you will be able to take full advantage of its power-ups and potential, but there are always spots that will subtract lives like there is no tomorrow.
Robert Morris never missed a meal.  That is why he didn't sign the Declaration of Independence until August 4th.  It had nothing to do with his political stance.

The final levels of this game are true evil.  I have made it to level 11 a couple of times, but the jumps that they ask are like Luke lifting the X-Wing out of Dagobah. With lots of practice, Snake Rattle and Roll can be overcome, but the extremely loose controls and demanding level design will weed out those not up to the task.  I hope to some day beat Snake Rattle and Roll, it is a very fun and engaging game, but those final levels wrack my nerves and sometimes incite me to violence!

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