Three thoughts occurred to me when I saw Shadow Snake (by playpanic) on the Kongregate home page:
1: A new game with 3 badges and a challenge? Awesome!
2: Mouse-only avoidance game? Sweet!
3: So whats the gameplay like? Ooooohhh nuts – this is going the same way as Oroboros (by funface), more on that later.
So your a snake (type thing) and your goal is to eat little pacman-esque nuggets while avoiding the little gribblies that inhabit the game. One serious criticism right there: If the game is all about not crashing into things please don’t call it shadow snake – if I were an insubstantial shadow this would be a whole lot easier. Maybe I’m being picky, but after a few hours of this incredibly frustrating game I’m not in the mood to be charitable. They should have called it Solid Snake (and been sued) or just Clunky Snake With An Annoyingly Long Tail (CSWAALT for short – an acronym as unwieldy as the game itself).
CSWAALT – better as a Breaking Bad themed Counter Strike map.
The basic game mechanic for these games is unfortunately hugely flawed. The best analogy I can think of to describe what controlling that bloody tail is like would be trying to reverse a car while towing a caravan – yes I understand that I technically have control over the damn thing, but getting it to go where you want is beyond the realm of mortal men. The game if fine for the first few levels where there are few things to avoid but things quickly get unpleasant as the screen fills up with the random little bastards.
Oroboros (a very old game from the depths of kong) did the exact same thing with a very similar game mechanic, and it too suffered from a game mechanic which makes it basically unplayable, but at least there there was some ability to kill the things trying to kill you. But hey – maybe you like this type of game, aced Oroboros and have a savant-esque ability to control computer snakes. Then this game is for you, right?
Wrong. Shadow Snake 3 manages to make some huge errors in basic game design which are totally unrelated to the gameplay. Here are a few:
1: Upgrades are incredibly expensive, and have to be bought anew every 7 levels (i.e. bought separately for each ‘Temple’ chapter). From scratch. For no observable or explicable reason. I can’t even think of a reason why they might have wanted to do it this way – other than a hatred of all gamers. After much complaint from players the game was updated to allow you to sell upgrades from previous temples (at 80% of the original price) but that doesn’t help much since you have to replay earlier levels to unlock later ones. Selling anything before you’ve unlocked all the levels is a huge risk.
2: Compounding the expense problem is that when you replay a level you get basically nothing. I’m going to let the numbers talk here: Upgrade costs range from 500 (the cheapest thing on the cheapest stage) to upwards of 32k (i never got any higher, but that’s for a level 3 speed upgrade on the final set of levels – 5 upgrades total, so it probably peaks at around 100k). The first time you complete a level at a given difficulty level you will be awarded somewhere between 2-8k (perfectly reasonable). Repeat any level and you’ll earn less than 100 of whatever currency this is (ying-yangs, apparently). Someone did the math and this basically means that for a final upgrade you’ll need to replay levels around 100 times. ARE YOU INSANE?
3: I’m just being picky here but I really didn’t like the vibe of the game. We earn little ying-yangs, battle in the earth/air/wind/fire temples and each level is introduced by a thoroughly irrelevant quote from Confucius. It’s not that a bit of spirituality or deeper meaning can’t improve a game – Loved is a fun little game that does exactly that – but only if its related in some way to what you are doing. Shadow Snake just dollops on as much ‘meaning’ as it can like a fat kid making a peanut butter sandwich, and is therefore rendered completely meaningless.
So yeah… not my favorite game. The graphics are fairly good I guess, and the genre could go so far. I loved Flow – a great game playable for free (I don’t want to link to it because I’m not sure where it originally came from, but search ‘flow game’ and you’ll find it) which uses roughly the same mechanic, but a game is sub-standard when I play the 3rd installment and feel nauseous at the thought of playing 1 and 2.