Friday, 3 June 2011

Serpent (Game Boy)

I'm trying to post roughly one new review a week now. Have you noticed? I still don't get any comments, though. Waaah.
I almost had nothing to post about this week, though, as I've spent a lot of it playing the very un-obscure GTA2 and WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2011, as well as some games that I'm saving for future posts.
Anyway, because of this, I'm posting about a game I've known about for years and years and years, ever since playing it on a mysterious 32-in-1 cartridge I had as a kid. Mysterious for two reasons: the first reason being that I had no idea what the source of this cartridge was, and the second reason being that rather than the usual mis-spelled onscreen menu of games usually found in these carts, it had a little yellow rubber button you pressed to change the game. Another odd thing is that the label showed (really tiny) art for 16 games, meaning unlike most pirate compilation carts, it actually had more games than it claimed to, rather than less!
Enough of this nostalgic rambling though, time to talk about Serpent.
It's strange. You can tell from the screenshots that it's a snake-type game, of the duelling type. I've also played a similar, but simpler game on the Atari 2600, oddly enough also on a pirate cart.
The 2600 game was very simple, each player (there was no single player mode) controlled a snake that was constantly moving, and getting bigger/leaving a trail as it went. If your head touched that walls, your opponent or yourself, you lost.
Serpent has a similar basic premise, but is a more complex game. You start each fight with your body coiled up behind you, and it follows as you move around. It doesn't constantly grow, however. (I'll come back to this.) Also, when your head hits something head on, you don't lose the match, but rather a siren blares as your eyes go all googly. Stay like this for a few seconds and then you've lost the match. So, the goal is to use your snake body and your cunning to trap your opponent's head until it bursts. Alternatively, if you can completly surround your opponent's body, you also win.
Going back to the issue of the length of your body, if you create an enclosed loop, items will appear: white and black boxes with numbers or the letter M in them, as well as black and white missiles. The white boxes increase your body length by the number shown on them multiplied by ten, the black boxes decrease. The M boxes change your size to the maximum of 110 segments or the minimum of 20. The black missiles, if shot at your opponent's head will make them go faster, the white missiles slower.
There's eight difficulty levels, split into mode 1, levels 1-4 and mode 2, levels 1-4. The differrence between the two modes is that mode 2 has little tadpole things floating around the screen, which instantly kill you if they come into contact with your head.
My advice is to get some practice in mode 1 levels 1-2, then move on to mode 2 levels 1-2. Don't bother with levels 3 and 4, as they give the cpu opponent the ability to move their head from one of their body to the other, meaning essentially that the only way to win is to surround them. You don't get this ability, and adding in the length changing power ups, these levels are an unfair mess.
I like this game, it's one of the few from that strange cartridge that I still play today, and I recommend you do, too. In spite of the fact that essentially half the game is useless.
(This game is also called "Kakomun Hebi" in Japan.)