Snails is a clone of the now well-celebrated turn-based PC franchise, Worms. Team 17 has done more than just merely inspire Snails, its focus on empowering worm-like creatures (and as the title denotes in this rendition, snails) has been transplanted to the Pocket PC platform. For those of you who aren't familiar with Worms, perhaps you’re acquainted with its predecessors, like Scorched Earth. Basically, Snails is a game based on old-fashioned artillery physics that belong to high school trigonometric textbooks. Of course, this was (and continues to be) all fun, especially with more than one player. However, in Snails, the developers have decided to add random factors like wind and other wacky physics. Other weapons appear to defy common sense or put a spin on the
reliance of precise trajectory including items like area-effect explosives or humorous gag weapons included for the sake of comical purposes.
Because these types of games are friendly towards the mouse on the PC, Snails translates nicely towards stylus play. Whereas other titles require you to switch between the usage of keyboard and mouse, Snails is played almost solely with the stylus, with the exception of scrolling around the levels. Basically you can execute three options: Look, Move and Aim. The Look part allows you to pan around the levels. The playing areas themselves strike a distinct balance between being too cavernous for the PDA form factor and being too small for any tactics to be executed. The Move part allows you to move your snail. It also brings up panels below that allow you to urge your snails to crawl or jump to varying degrees. It all looks complicated at first but grasping the actual movement of your personae becomes second-hand fairly easily. One of the principle complaints I have about these types of games is the lengthy distance one most move from one place to another. Sometimes, you may eliminate all your opponents on one side of the playing field but you have to spend five turns to trek over to eliminate the last holdout. Luckily, the developers have added an airdrop feature. You simply aim roughly where you want to land and your whole turn is invested into sending your paratroop snail directly into enemy territory. Finally, there is the Aim function. This opens a sub-panel for weapons. In the earlier (simpler) levels, aiming is not so much a factor. But as the difficulty ramps up, I was frustrated by the computer player's pinpoint artillery accuracy. As such, I wish there were an aid for the human player in such situations. Altogether, the interface is well thought out and care has been given to every component of the game.
The thoughtfulness of the developers also extends to the humorous portions of the game. There are many numbers of exempla in the title, so I will highlight on a specific exemplum. Snails shares with its PC predecessor, Worms, the adoption of funny names. The main bulk of the single player campaigns pits you into the conflicts between Moogum, Lupeez and Nooginz snails (no typos there either). While the computer player makes its turns, there are humorous statements such as certain snails are "reading articles in a naughty magazine, hold on". Or, on the failure of certain levels, the game will chide you that you failed on the "cheesiest" level at the equally cheesiest difficulty. In another
instance, it would have chided me vocally but because it was only the text displayed at the end of a level, it could do no more. These elements of sarcasm added much to the overall feel of the game.
The developers of Snails also got the style of their title down pat. Everything is dressed up in a wide variety of cheery colors. The snails themselves are fairly cute, except the Nooginz who appear to have an evil stare to them. The levels are expansive taking place in everything from a barnyard to parodies of real landmarks like the Taj Mahal. Animation is good throughout and the snails themselves field a variety of expressions. The visuals are complemented by an extremely strong audio component. As a game of merely destroying each other, things can get pretty monotonous but there is a prolific amount of sound effects included from the cute "yoyoyo" sounds to the cacophony of explosives. Snails also includes a few ambient soundtracks which are well composed and fitting to the zany environments the snails find themselves ensnared in. My only complaint is the relatively few number of tracks.
This is linked to other flaws in Snails. One of the reasons why Worms was so enduring on the PC is the copious amount of freedom associated with the title's expandability. You could customize a team of worms from their uniforms to their names to the various weapon loadouts that you prefer to carry. Snails tries to capitalize on this, including a random level generator, but the disparity between its spiritual successor and this Pocket PC rendition is noticeably large. Worms also took off on platforms like the Dreamcast because of multiplayer play. The only multiplayer option Snails offers is hotseat play and this is not as feasible on the PDA platform as it is in front of a console or PC.
Snails plays out like those aforementioned titles; it does not progress in a non-sequitur fashion. Rather, the three campaigns included are rigid and linear. Moreover, they are linked together by wild and zany stories that have very little relation to the actual playing of the title. Though many of the levels are short, I found myself wanting a save feature as the game doesn't take kindly to you turning off the PDA mid-session. Otherwise the campaigns are easy to grasp and though there is no tutorial (or even manual, for that matter), the half dozen missions in the beginning should be a cakewalk for veterans and an easy entrance for novices. The placement of your snails in each mission is also dynamic and this promotes replaying campaigns, although there isn't any sign you can add missions later on. This brings in the deathmatch function. It allows you to spend a strict budget on buying weapons that you prefer as well as choosing a map, including a randomly generated one. Such options are nearly unprecedented on the PDA platform but standard everywhere else. Hopefully, other PDA developers will consider this a must-have in 2002.
Although I have cited that the customization functions are shy of Snails' counterparts and predecessors on other platforms, it is, notwithstanding, an outstanding turn-based title. If it had resolved those problems, it would have, no doubt, proved to be an enduring classic in the pantheon of Pocket PC games. In addition to showing a great reliance on classic
artillery-style tactics, Snails also possesses a witty sense of style. Coupled with some great aural effects, you have a package that exudes professionalism on a holistic level. Any casual follower of PC strategy titles will have probably noticed that turn-based games, have, of late, taken a beating. With the primacy of RTS titles being exerted year
after year, even well-crafted titles like Civilization III and the recent Disciples II are having a hard time, clawing at the few niche turn-based fans who are left. The complete resurrection of this genre will, as the RPGs were revived nearly half a decade ago, undoubtedly rest its shoulder not only on legendary franchises but also on small independent developers, like the producers of Snails.
[09/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer