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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Snare (Commodore 64)

Once upon a time, way, waaay back when, I had my own website. It wasn't anything flash... I was bored and so I decided to make a little website in an attempt to learn basic HTML. And it worked quite well, to a degree... although so lacking were my skills that the reviews were stitched together using JPEG and PNG images that I'd created, rather than through code. The problem was, it was on GeoCities, so it only took about eight views before my bandwidth allowance was smashed, thanks to those images. Still, it was quite a nice little ZZAP! 64 rip-off, if I do say so myself. It was called Retro-Active Reviews. Did you ever see it? It's gone now. Quite sad.

One of the games my team reviewed (yes, I had a team!) was the Commodore 64 game, Snare. A Thalamus release (their seventh) coming on the heels of the amazing Armalyte, it was probably one of their lowest-profile games, and to be honest I probably didn't give it a fair shake at the time. Had puzzle elements to it, see. That was about seven or eight years ago, though... time to give it another shot, I reckon.

Look, the arrows point the way. How hard can it be?

I remember the advert for Snare... "One man's killing joke". As the story goes, in the year 2049, Andre Thelman, one of the world's richest men, died. Prior to this, he'd spent years building a massive twenty-level maze in a temporal cavity in the grounds of his home. Once finished, he ventured into this maze with his most prized possession, where he promptly snuffed it. Rich, then, but not very smart.

In the years since his death, the rumours built this treasure into legend, and many have died attempting to retrieve it... to the point where all attempts are now televised, in what must be something a bit like The Running Man. Well, as far as contestants getting offed on live telly goes, anyway.

Oh, for fork's sake... which way do I go?

Snare puts you in the seat of a ship designed especially to conquer this maze. It can accelerate and decelerate at incredible rates, it can jump and it can shoot. This is important... there are huge gaps in the maze that you really wouldn't want to fall down, and this is no empty, ghostly relic... guardian ships are on patrol, ready to ward off treasure hunters at a moment's notice.

Actually playing the game takes some adjustment... it's not like anything else you've played before. It sounds straightforward enough, but as soon as you take your first turn, you'll be confused...

Success! Those sparkly star-like tiles are the teleport to the next level.

Designed, I'm sure, especially to mess with your mind, Snare snaps the screen ninety degrees with every turn you make. I now know what Automan's mate felt like. Your brain just can't cope at first... it's really difficult to condition yourself to the fact your ship always points up the screen, no matter what direction you're actually travelling in. Once it clicks you become OK with it, and it's just one extra puzzle to stay in tune with.

The switch on the left has activated the bridge. Hurry... get across while you can!

It's very cleverly done, with the initial levels gently working you into the game, introducing you to the different tiles in a way that you can learn their effects without too much danger. And your ship, despite the ninety degree snap-turns, is fairly manoeuvrable, being able to accelerate and decelerate at speed. At least, it can to start with... you don't half get a shock when you reach a level where you can't stop!

What's going on here? I thought the Triple Jump was in Hyper Sports!

Snare is a very well-conceived and well-executed game. It's a bit of a mindbender, and it's satisfying when you manage to successfully complete a level you've struggled with. I enjoyed it a fair bit more, second time around, so I'm really glad I gave it another chance. Oh, and about that "killing joke"... thanks to emulation, I've discovered what Thelman's most prized possession was... very naughty indeed, Thalamus!


  1. Is the ship displayed at a different resolution to the background? That looks really odd...

  2. Yeah, it kind of looks like 3D or something. That's just the way the ships are drawn.

  3. The ship uses a technique called hi-res overlay, in which a sprite with twice the horizontal definition of the screen it appears on is rendered over a low-res sprite to detail the object.

  4. I used to play this quite a bit when I was a kid, very addictive