Format reviewed: VIC-20
Developer: Mike Singleton
Before he made his name with the epic Lords Of Midnight, Mike Singleton created several sweet Vic 20 titles. There was Shadowfax, a galloping, graphical tour de force; the relentless stone throwing of Siege; and the ambitious 3-Deep Space, which entailed donning a pair of red-and-blue cellophane glasses to experience the third dimension, and almost ruined his pattern of only releasing games beginning with the letter ‘S’.
Snake Pit is perhaps the least well known of his early offerings. You control a grinning face tasked with gobbling up a screen full of eggs, while avoiding the jaws of seven giant pythons. Successfully scoff all the eggs and the tables are turned, allowing you to chomp on the tail of your pursuers and miraculously swallow up each serpent in one gulp, before moving on to the next nest.
It’s a simple, single-screen affair. But there’s subtlety. There are strategies. Only you and the red snake can eat eggs; the others must crawl along in the paths you’ve each created. Should you leave the cold-blooded killers encased or risk a swift foray to clear out a clutch of eggs? Should you cower behind yolk walls or risk the chomping fangs?
Choices are never clear and tension is always high, mainly due to the randomness of the snakes’ movements. Deadly yet dispassionate, they can surround you with venomous intent then slink off nonchalantly like you never existed. Indeed, when you’re eventually consumed, they continue to slither on long after your departure, as if your presence in the pit was but a fleeting insignificance.
I’ve often sat watching the writhing mass long after being swallowed, wondering how long it will take before the red snake devours the final egg, hypnotised by the undulating bodies and the repetitive hiss and rattle of the soundtrack.
It’s like snake charming in reverse.