Snapshot: A downloadable 2D sidescroller designed with moody music, cute animation, and an ambiguous yet touching story featuring a character who must navigate levels using clever physics puzzles. Well, that doesn’t exactly sound like the most original concept these days but I’m always willing to give a charming indie game a chance, particularly one that involves using a clever mechanic to manipulate the game world. Essentially, that’s what sets the best downloadable indie games apart from the pack. Braid takes a simple time mechanic and builds on it in ingenious ways, Limbo has a brilliant visual design, and Shadow Complex melds the design philosophy of Super Metroid (AKA: The greatest game ever made) with smooth Unreal Engine 3 action.
Snapshot, the latest game by Retro Affect Studios, is the story of a Robot who, along with his trusty camera, is trying to find his way home in a strange, unfamiliar world. What does this indie platformer do that elevates it above others of its type? Hit the jump to find out.
Your main tool in Snapshot is a camera which serves as a ‘copy/paste’ device. When you photograph certain items, they literally get picked up and can be placed elsewhere. t first, this mechanic is very simple to use, but variations of it are quickly introduced. During the act of pasting, items can be rotated and manipulated. Also, momentum transfers from snapshot to replacing as well, like how it’s done in Portal.
Clearing a certain number of levels within a world will open up the next one. You don’t necessarily even need to clear all of them — about 20/30 seems to be the threshold. Besides finding your way to the butterfly/jewel/exit, you can collect stars and a snapshot of one hidden item in each level. Additionally, the game keeps track of how long the level takes, and provides a suggested completion time. These collectibles and features are in no way essential to completing the main game, but exist for achievement hunters.
Giving credit where it’s due, it is clear that the minds behind Snapshot are chock full of ideas. The basic gameplay premise is neat, and it strives to make sure you are never bored by the same mechanics. There are 36 zones in total, each with a new trick that needs to be mastered. The developers work hard to be inventive, which is commendable, but honestly some of the puzzles come across as being a little half-baked and probably shouldn’t have been included in the final product. .
What makes puzzle-platformers like this so appealing is how they take a basic mechanic and exhaust as many permutations of it as they can. With Snapshot these basic mechanics are present, but they get pushed to the periphery almost as soon as you learn them. As a result of this, by the end of the game there isn’t really a feeling that you’ve used all the mechanics together to achieve something. There are also some weird difficulty spikes at certain points. About halfway through the game, some puzzles implement fail states that force you to start again — having to use a particular item, dropping it accidentally, and having to restart the level because it can’t be retrieved. Granted, the player never loses more than a couple of minutes to these occurrences, but it represents something that simply shouldn’t happen in modern level design.
For all the gameplay ideas that are presented, the lack of variety and inspiration in the environments is noticeable. Snapshot is separated into four main worlds, and while they are visually distinctive from each other, within them they are just a bunch of reused assets rearranged. It is somewhat odd that on one hand, the gameplay design philosophy is ‘bombard the player with something new in every zone’ is problematic, yet it is wrapped in an uninspired game world.
Snapshot‘s visual style is colorful and cute, but not particularly striking or original. The character’s animations are deftly handled with nice little touches (i.e. holding onto his antennae while crouching), but there is a definite lack of the same attention given to others.As a collection of interesting platforming levels, Snapshot is a cool little game. As a cohesive gameplay experience however, it is far less successful. While there is the core of a fantastic experience here, the developers seemed to spend all their wild creative energy in conceiving puzzles but ignoring the idea that what makes them great is how they flow together to create a truly satisfying experience. It’s a charming enough title and worth checking out, but it’s far from the best of its genre.
[+Full of ideas] [+Solid Platforming] [+Other modes for replayability] [-No flow to puzzles] [-Annoying Fail States] [-Samey environments]