I thought I would give Snakebird Complete five minutes or so when I downloaded it. Of course, it ended up eating my entire weekend. Brilliant brain-teasy puzzles, each the size of a single thought, and those lovely flat, bright colours and that beautiful children’s book world!
Hmm. I bet I’m about to find out that Snakebird is annoying to describe. It’s sort of a puzzley, spatial-logic take on Blockade, or Snake. You play as a long, thin animal that grows every time you eat a piece of fruit. Your job is to get from the starting point on each compact, 2D level, to the exit. If there’s fruit, you have to make sure you eat all of it in order to open up the exit. If there are spikes you need to avoid them. If there are drops you need to navigate them without falling.
A lot of the fun comes from the rules. Snakebirds can form shapes as they move through the game’s spaces, which are all secretly grid-based. It’s almost like you’re colouring in sections in an Excel spreadsheet. A snakebird can’t pass through itself. When you have more than one snakebird, you can allow one to ride on the back of another to access high spots. If you have a long enough body, you can hook yourself around blocks and hang underneath without falling. Some levels have portals, which you need to enter in the right shape in order to appear in the right shape somewhere else. Others have bits of furniture you can move around.
What my rather bloodless description doesn’t get at is that Snakebird is wonderful, and each level is a joy because it’s an epiphany, and it yields to a bit of thought, making you feel clever while ensuring relatively breezy progress. It can also be picked at, like a bag of popcorn. Stuck on a puzzle? You’ll feel empowered to experiment, because the levels are short and you can undo turns and reset everything quickly. It’s perfect for getting stumped on one level, and then stepping back a bit before returning to discover that your brain has quietly landed on the solution while you’re away.
And this brings me to what’s possibly my favourite part of Snakebird Complete, which is the map.
The map is brilliant for two reasons. The first is that as you finish one level, you unlock a couple of levels around it, which means that you always have options when it comes to where to go next. Finish level 5, for example, and you unlock 6 and 7 maybe – you’re less likely to get properly stumped when you have two means of progression to choose from.
The second reason is this: sometimes, you’ll finish a level and unlock a bunch of other levels including one that feels like it should come much later in the game. So you finish 10, say, and you unlock 11, 12 and 47. 47?! Oh wow, let me at that one! What would level 47 even look like, from the perspective of a player who isn’t even into the low twenties yet? It’s a lovely winking acknowledgement, I think, that a game like Snakebird is often about learning something, learning how an idea works in stages, and learning how it evolves in careful steps. Giving you a chance to just jump wildly ahead now and then adds a lovely element of chaos to it all.
Snakebird Complete bundles together Snakebird Classic and Snakebird Primer, which is a suite of levels that’s just a little kinder to newcomers. The whole thing’s an absolute delight and it looks beautiful on the screen of the Switch. Give it a go and see if it eats your days as effortlessly as it’s been eating mine.