Snake, Rattle, and Roll is an oft-overlooked part of Rare’s NES canon. While bad games like Battletoads and the unfortunate Battletoads and Double Dragon (there were also 16-bit ports) captured gaming public’s imagination, Snake, Rattle, and Roll went under the radar.
That’s not to say it didn’t suck. But it still had its charm.
Snake, Rattle, and Roll is the story of two snakes (Rattle and Roll, get it?) who want to go to the moon. Because they are snakes, they can only do this by climbing a big mountain. Snakes are idiots.
Gameplay takes place on a 3/4 isometric playing field, and is very complex- the ability to jump vertically (and in one memorable level, swim) makes this game essentially three-dimensional. Of course, the NES having the limits it does means you don’t go behind much stuff. Thank God for that, because the game is hard enough when you can see where you’re going. This is one of those fun games where everything can kill you. Touch some pointy rocks? You die. Get stomped on by one of the many hopping foot monsters that inhabit this game? You die. Cliffs are your biggest adversaries, since falling off of one means you die too. At first the levels are pretty open and explorable, but this gives way to nightmare hellscapes made of ice (yes, it makes you slide) where every surface is slanted, all the pathways you can take are razor-thin, and there’s wind. Oh, and little shover-arms keep popping out of the walls to knock you straight to hell. And sawblades come out of the ground at random. And there’s rockslides. And a lot of the levels make you struggle against rushing torrential rivers to get anywhere. And did I mention wind? It’s also worth pointing out that every level has a timer, usually a short one.
If all this sounds like Marble Madness, well yeah, it’s kind of the same. Except you’re climbing up in defiance of gravity, and it’s less fair. It’s also much longer. Marble had about 5 levels, and Snake has like 12. And they’re big. Really big. At first you have health, gained by eating little living balls called Nibbly-Pibblies (really) and must fight enemies, but the game pretty quickly dispenses with all of that in favor of giving you no health and letting the levels kill you. There are still Nibbly-Pibblies to be had, but in each level they gain a new means of mobility. At first they just hop around stupidly, but by the end they strafe you mockingly on tiny rotors, daring you to eat them.
If you can endure the horrible difficulty level, Snake is a pretty fun game. The music is hoppin’, the level design is creative, if twistedly evil, and the art is very nice for an NES game. There’s some new (horrible) trick in each level to keep you guessing, and dying, for a long time.
PS: when you finally make it to the end, good luck with the final boss. You poor sap.
6/10 (8/10 if you like pain)