People really love to make fun of snake games. I suppose that's what happens when you're so closely associated with Nokia and the rise of mobile gaming, but the snake game actually has a long and complex history, going back to 1976. If anything, the snake game is a great study in how a video game genre develops, then stagnates. Did you know that the very first snake game was a competitive two-player coin-op in which each player tried to corral the other into an error? If not, it might be because the developers locked into a formula 40 years ago and haven't bucked the trend since.
Temple of Snek, now out of early access, is an attempt to take that stagnant, much-mocked genre and bring it into the present, and it does so with admirable flair and ingenuity. It is the high-gloss, puzzle-packed Nokia game update that you didn't know you wanted.
Deep in the jungle lies a temple dedicated to the pagan goddess Snek. The wealth hidden in the temple makes it an attractive target for pillagers of all descriptions. But unbeknownst to those thieves, the temple houses a deadlier secret - Snek's avatar, a massive man-eating snake. The worshippers of Snek expect the snake to awake, kill all the intruders and then quietly return to torpor. The snake has other plans.
There is a developing story in Temple of Snek, but most of it needs to be inferred as the game contains no dialogue. There's a small amount of menu text to give context, but the rest you'll need to figure out through observation. Both the environment and the way the NPCs interact with it gives hints as to something bigger happening outside of the temple.
Unlike its action-focused ancestors, Temple of Snek is a puzzle game at heart. Each of the temple's many rooms is filled with spike traps, gates, and switches that trigger one or the other. The goal is to rest your serpentine body across those switches to gain access to the next room, all while taking care not to be impaled by a trap, bisected by a closing gate, drowned in sewage or otherwise killed horribly by the temple's many hazards.
Growth is the key to solving the temple's puzzles. Each time the snake eats a tasty human, she grows longer. This gives the player the tools to trigger more switches and thus complete more rooms, but it also makes navigating the temple's narrow corridors more difficult. The humans themselves are also an issue - while the basic raiders are nearly defenseless and can be easily devoured by touching them, the enemies that come later are better armed and can kill your fragile snake avatar if you're not careful.
It will probably take some time to get used to controlling the snake. She doesn't move exactly as you'd anticipate, and some of her mechanics aren't immediately obvious - e.g. she can hang in mid-air as long as part of her body is resting on high ground. Nevertheless, once you figure out how the game works, the puzzles themselves are quite intuitive.
There's also one other thing that might help you control your snake avatar: The sound.
The snake moves in time to the beat of the music. Rather than moving when a direction key is pressed, she moves one tile in the direction she's facing on the downbeat. This may make the game seem slow at first, but you will be grateful for this rhythmic motion once the snake starts getting longer. As mechanically useful as this is, it also adds to the overall feel of the game, unifying the sound and controls in such a way that it gives the entire game a steady pulse.
By puzzle game standards, Temple of Snek is fairly long - about as long as a typical metroidvania, which makes sense because it's structured like one. It's also on the challenging side, with many of the puzzles requiring very precise movements and careful planning. Both of these aspects may make it frustrating for a novice, but well-suited for anyone with a lot of puzzle game experience.
Temple of Snek is an action-puzzle game based on the snake game subgenre with a bit more flair than similar titles. It is a fairly challenging game that might be too much for a novice, but is ideal for anyone who wants a longer, more substantial puzzle game.
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