It’s been a little over a year since the first time I laid hands on Snapshot at PAX East 2011. Once I had the controller in my hand, I didn’t stop until I realized a crowd had formed around me waiting to play the game. That was about 35 minutes after I started playing the game by the way. I knew it was going to be an awesome game and anxiously awaited its release. That day finally came about a week ago and I started the game with high hopes. Thankfully, it didn’t let me down.
In Snapshot you play a robot whose goal is… well I’m not exactly sure about that. Maybe I’m a little slow, but the story wasn’t made that clear to me. The story is told in photos that you flip through. No words, just stuff happening. What I can tell you is that the robot appears to be in some type of ship (or lab) where he was off, got turned on, and ejected from said place. It seems clear that he is searching for something, but whatever that is, I haven’t found it yet.
What you find out very quickly is that you are armed with a camera and that camera can literally capture objects in the world. Things like boxes, animals, platforms, etc. You can even capture things in motion and when you release them they continue with their original speed and force. You will use all of these as your tools to complete each stage.
The world of Snapshot is broken down in three ways. First you have your zones which change the overall environment and bring different elements to the puzzles. For example, the first zone is a forest in which mostly everything is stable and indestructible. However, in the next zone mostly everything is made from snow and ice; fireballs from cannons can destroy items you may need in order to make it to the objective.
Next are levels where each has an overall theme. These themes typically have to do with the puzzles and introduce new elements into the game. This was one of the best things about Snapshot as it was constantly introducing new things to keep game play fresh and interesting. There are many times I continued playing just to see what was next. It would be difficult to get bored with a level because each of them only has three stages, then you move on to the next puzzle set.
The objective of each stage is simple: get to the big floating star. There are a few challenges that each stage offers on the way to that star, and each of these challenge offers a medal. Throughout the stage there are a ton of stars you can collect. Naturally, you will want to get all of them, but it’s not necessary to collect them all in order to progress. In early stages, all of the stars will be on your path to getting to the main objective but after a handful of stages, the training wheels come off and you will need to search or use advanced tactics to get to the remaining stars.
Each level also has a specific item you can capture. These items are out of place and aren’t helpful to completing the level. However, if you collect all three in a level you will be rewarded with a medal. These items are often out of the way or blended in with the scenery. Lastly you have time. Each stage has a goal which you need to collect all of the stars in a certain amount of time. These goals are nowhere close to being easy. You will need to master each stage in order to hit its goal, and even then I wouldn’t expect to blow it away. These medals you can collect are really for completionists and aren’t needed if you are just looking to beat the game. However, it does give the game a ton of replay value.
Snapshot is a perfect blend of a puzzle game and a platforming game. In some levels you’ll spend 15 minutes figuring out the puzzle and two executing the solution, but in many cases it will be the other way around. Not only will you need to use your brain to figure out where to move various objects in order to get to your objective, you will also need to use platforming skills like quick reflexes, speed, and precision jumping to make it to the objective.
While it may not sound like a lot, using a spring to bounce in the air, taking photo of said spring while bouncing to capture it, then releasing it underneath you as you start to descend to bounce again can be a daunting task. It becomes even more difficult when you have to pull these moves over obstacles that will instantly kill you if you slip up. Speaking of slipping up, many of the stages of the game are unforgiving. If you mess up while executing your solution, or perhaps capture items out of order, you may find that you have to restart the entire level over. While the overall difficulty of the puzzles isn’t impossible, many of them will leave you scratching your head for a little while. You just need to remember that all the tools you need are provided for each stage; all you have to do is figure out how to use them.
Going against modern game design, Retro Affect decided not to hold your hand while you play Snapshot. There are no hints, no glowing items to show you the way, and definitely no dialog boxes popping up telling you what to do. Many times you may be put in a situation and left to figure out how to handle it. This is one of the things I loved most about the game. It definitely added to the difficulty, but it also gives you a much greater sense of accomplishment when you overcome a tough challenge.
The puzzles are well thought out, forcing you to think outside the box. Besides the puzzles, though, a lot of care was put into both the visuals and sound design. Snapshot looks like it was torn right out of a story book. The landscape of each level is well drawn and the animations are super smooth. The music of the game fits perfectly; a light electronic sound that is well paced and soothing, but at the same time, fits each zone. The wrong music in this game could have been disastrous in this game, since you will be spending a lot of time listening to it while you figure things out.
I’ve waited a long time to play Snapshot in my home, and I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Complex puzzles mixed with good platforming, nice visuals, and a great soundtrack makes this game a must for anyone looking for a good game to dig into. This is Retro Affects first release, but it definitely won’t be the last. I’m looking forward to their future project, whether it be an expansion of this game or something new.