Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Turbo Snake (Game Review)

Every game has something interesting. We've all seen Snake games -- I remember one I played on an early Palm Pilot and there were many before that. Wikipedia says it was in the arcades in the 70's, but grew to prominence when it was installed on every Nokia phone.

So, in case you're missing that Snake experience, here is Turbo Snake!



The creators even said on the Marketplace page that they were thinking of the old Nokia and the whole look and feel is certainly retro.

When you see the credits, it looks like this:



At first I was puzzled, because there wasn't any back button. It is very important in Firefox OS that you provide the user with a way to navigate your app completely. Then I accidentally brushed the screen and found there was a second page of credits:


This page had a return button, so this was okay after all, but never assume that the user will scroll down and that each page must stand alone.

So if you go back and touch Play, here is the game screen:



If you've played the game before, you'll figure it out. There aren't any directions, but you'll see the 4 joined black dots moving in a line. That's the snake. There is a red bit near the middle, and that is what the snake likes. Apples?

At the top you'll see the score on the left. By playing the game I determined that every time you eat an apple you get 100 points and every 1000 points you gain a level. There is a PAUSE button on the upper right that takes you to this screen:


You can choose to go back to the main menu, or continue with game where you left off. And you've probably noticed the 4 arrow buttons at the bottom. They move the snake. The more the snake eats, the longer he gets.

I haven't see the old Nokia, but I looked at some simulations http://www.johnjohn.co.uk/html/snake.html and they aren't very different from the snake games I remember from long ago. However, Turbo Snake has some problems, one big and one medium.

The big problem is that there isn't much challenge. In every other snake game, you have to stop the snake from hitting the edge of the screen. In Turbo Snake, the snake just keeps going and comes back on the other side. Maybe it is soothing to watch the snake move forever, but it didn't work for me. There has to be a certain amount of challenge.

Well, this game did provide some challenge. The four arrow keys work to turn the snake, but about half the time they don't work quick enough. I wonder if onclick was used for the touch event, which is slow. Or maybe something else, but the buttons just didn't connect and my snake would just keep going. After a lot of trial and error, I at least got to level 2:

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There's no reward for getting to the next level, and as you can see, the snake is now 14 dots long (starting out with 4 and gaining 10) but nothing bad will happen until maybe the snake is so long it runs into itself? I'm not patient enough to try, because the controls weren't good. And other games I've reviewed seem to respond better to touch.

Of course it would be nicer if you just touched the screen to make the snake turn left or right, and added walls, and maybe rewards. Every game could be made better, and so I have to say that this game works and you can play it, but it could be a lot better.

No challenge - lose one point.
Bad controls - lose one point.
No Help - lose one point.

I'd like to deduct a point because the art is so dull, but if it is emulating a monochrome screen, that's not a problem. But wait! If it has a red dot, that is an error in trying to emulate the original, so lose a point there. So only one point left and I'll give them that because the game works, more or less.

I'm often sad when a game doesn't turn out well, but in this case I think it might be fun to create a new version of the game as one of the sample games I'll be writing. Others will include a Pong game, a Space Shooter game (my favorite), some kind of Bubble game, a simple Roll-Playing game, and maybe even a Tower Defense game. If there is a particular category of game that is simple, let me know. I've almost covered the basics of game elements, but there are a few more to go. Oh, maybe a version of one of my favorite arcade games, Pengo. And .... well, its fun to play games and its fun to make them, and it is even more fun to make and play them on Firefox OS with HTML5.

But Turbo Snake needs a rating. For every Jumping Marcelo, there must be a Turbo Snake.


Cost: Free
Genre: Arcade
Score: 1 (out of 5)
Tested on: ZTE Open (Firefox OS)
Get it at: Firefox Marketplace