Posted 05 May 2020 at 13:22 by Dennis Tummers
If you have seen the 1994 movie Speed you can imagine that driving a bus at high velocity is no laughing matter. Well, what if that bus just keeps getting bigger and longer? That’s what developer Stovetop Studios must have thought. They came up with the brilliant idea of mixing the mechanics of the cult mobile game Snake (made famous by Nokia phones such as the iconic 3310) with driving. The result is Snakeybus, a game about a bus that grows longer and longer when picking up passengers.
The gameplay itself is pretty straightforward. You get behind the wheel of your Snakeybus, which drives automatically. The bus grows when you pick up passengers (they can be found scattered around the level) and drop them off at a drop-off point. You can speed up or slow down by pressing the shoulder buttons. The biggest gameplay elements come from the B button, which lets you drift to make sharp turns, while the L button triggers a jump or short flight.
Especially the jump is tricky. It has a cooldown, so you can’t spam it to get out of tight situations. Furthermore, jumping in water or on buildings means game over. But you will need it because you will often wind up all tangled up with a thousand-feet long bus crawling all over your level. A jump can be a good way to evade the tail of your Snakeybus. If you do wind up all tied up and you stall for a few seconds, or go out of bounds, it is game over.
You drive your ever-extending bus throughout a variety of levels. There is a dorm room, which feels like you are driving a Hot Wheels sized bus around an apartment. Other levels are more realistic, like levels based on cities such as Paris and Seattle. It can also get pretty weird in the abstract museum, or the 360 degrees tunnel level Coriolis.
What’s interesting is that these varied levels also have a variety of different art styles. The cities have a realistic approach, while the museum and the Suburbs put you in a cel shaded environment. Graphically, this is not an impressive game, though. There is some good use of lighting, but as for the rest, the graphics are plain without much detail on objects, roads, or the bus itself. The soundtrack is a nice ambient one.
There are a bunch of modes you can participate in. There is the Classic mode, where it is all about getting the longest bus possible and setting a high score. Time Race adds a time limit, and with that, an extra level of difficulty. Endless and Aerial mode are somewhat experimental modes you can pick. The first puts you in a level where you cannot crash and your bus just keeps on getting longer and longer. Aerial mode relies heavily on the flying mechanic, but is very difficult to control, and the least fun to play.
While the Steam version already received an update that supports multiplayer, the Nintendo Switch version for now is single player only. The game does have online leaderboards though, so your high score can be used online for bragging rights.
Extra levels can be unlocked by accumulating points, and you can also obtain different buses, from school buses to doubledeckers. As for the rest, it really is all about the high score. It would have been nice, if there were some more objectives or achievements for added longevity though.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Snakeybus feels like an experiment. It captures that true indie spirit by mixing two genres together that you would not consider mixing. And it works well. Furthermore, the devs have been experimenting with different graphical styles as well, and added some experimental game modes. And although in essence Snakeybus is a high score game without much more to it - and it does not look impressive - it is addictive, and the absurdity of it is great. It’s too bad the Switch version does not support multiplayer yet, here’s to hoping it gets added with a future update. The game is priced fair for what it is, and if you do not want to chip in now, it is one for the wishlist for that inevitable sale, as it will guarantee a couple of hours of strange snakey fun.
Very clever idea and brilliant concept
Good mix of realistic and absurd levels
Not much to do besides setting a high score
No multiplayer mode (yet)