Snare, Commodore 64

Snare is a game show of the future where the contestant puts their life at risk trying to crack the secrets of a deadly maze inside the temporal cavity of a dead billionaire’s garden. The game was written by Rob Stevens and was first published by Thalamus in 1989.

This maze, called The Snare, is comprised of twenty different areas, floating in a void, linked by concealed teleporters and guarded by robots. The surfaces in the maze are covered with pressure-sensitive tiles of various types, but with different environmental effects.

Before the billionaire died he entered the maze one last time, taking with him his most valued possession to leave hidden in there and thus the challenge of ‘beating’ The Snare to claim the prize was born. Over the years the popularity of running The Snare, to find the hidden prize, became more popular and was eventually televised globally, but everyone who entered the maze never returned alive. According to the game’s manual, these shows are “carefully edited” so as not to give anything away, which is a bit of a cop-out if you ask me…

Each competitor enters the maze in a hover ship armed with a plasma cannon and must find teleports that will relocate them and make progress through the maze. Pushing up will speed up the craft, and pushing down will slow it down (or stop it completely, if you’re allowed to – some levels don’t allow stopping). Turns are made instantaneously and the screen snaps ninety degrees about the ship when a turn is made. The craft can jump (by holding fire and pulling down), and can also leave a solid cable-like wall behind it (by pressing fire and pushing up). There’s a scanner in the top right that shows the player (in yellow) and any guardian robots (in red) in the area, and there’s a compass that displays the direction you’re currently facing. The craft is destroyed if it falls into any gaps in the scenery or collides with any guardian robots.

Various tiles affect how the ship can move in the maze. Arrow tiles will compel the craft to move in the direction of the arrows; pink tiles will prevent the craft from turning; black tiles prevent it from jumping; switches will turn something on or off, and can also alter various tile types (robot guardians can also use switches). Some tiles will turn into energy vents for a short time, and driving over them will replenish the craft’s energy.

While you can shoot – and I see some people describing Snare as a “shooter” – it really isn’t a shoot ’em up; it’s more of a maze/puzzle/action game. Shooting is so unimportant in most of the game that to call it a “shooter” is to not understand the game. When you’re trying to make a series of jumps, or avoid colliding with walls in a narrow lane, or lay some cables to prevent robots from getting to you, you really don’t have time to aim at anything and shoot it. Shooting stuff is low down the priority list when it comes to survival in Snare, so if you’re looking for a “shooter” then you’re probably better to look elsewhere.

Snare is initially a little confusing, but after you’ve figured out what to do (how to jump and how to deal with the various tiles) the game opens up nicely and becomes quite interesting. It’s not what I would call a ‘classic’, but it is a decent game with good graphics and challenging gameplay, worth playing now. The learning curve is steep; by level four things really start to get tricky, but if you’re dexterous and like a tough challenge then you’ll probably enjoy it. Martin Walker‘s music is excellent too.

Note: the version by Nostalgia has been enhanced with better instructions, a few graphical tweaks, a trainer, and a high score table that saves to disk, so that is probably the one to play if you’re trying Snare for the first time. I recommend playing the game without cheats to begin with, to get a taste of what’s it’s really like. The extra instructions definitely help, though.

More: Snare on
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