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Snakes on a phone

Snakes on a phone

Way way back in the mid-1990s, I remember when mobile phones became more than just ways of talking to people. My then-new Nokia phone had a little mini-game called Snakes.

It was a very simple 2D black-and-white game on a screen that a Spectrum would laugh at, in which you controlled a little snake in order to make it eat things and grow larger, while avoiding its ever-growing tail. But it was just enough to occupy my attention span on any bus or tube journey, and there were reports in the paper of showbiz celebrities (such as Robbie Williams) competing with each other to attain a higher-and-higher Snake score. Thought they were dead busy meself.

But later Nokia phones that I owned seemed to abandon games altogether. My last phone was a Sony Ericsson W810i, and aside from its laughable excuse for a keypad, it didn’t seem to have any particularly compelling games on it.

Today, I got myself a Nokia N73. One of the great joys of getting a new mobile phone is diving into all the buttons, options and menus – without having read the manual, of course – to see what there is. That is, after you’ve frantically opened it and plugged it in only to belatedly realise that you need to insert the battery first. Which involves removing the battery cover which takes a degree in mechanical science – or a belief that you can rip apart the phone without damaging the new toy you’ve got.

Anyway, while I’m checking out all the new options – where’s the automatic keypad lock ?! – I find the Games section. And there’s a game called Snake. Oooh, past guilty pleasures abound, I think. Retro emulation of an old game on a new smartphone – how cool is that?

Nope. They’ve gone and reprogrammed it. With sound, music, lights, colours – and more importantly – re-set it in a 3D world. Now it’s no longer a simplistic, easy-going game that anyone can figure out. And now it’s even harder to play. Multiple distractions of light and sound everywhere. The blackness of the gamescape makes it feel like you’re in an oppressive world rather than a cheerfully simplistic one.

The most annoying thing is that since my commute is now 5 minutes long by car, I can’t play the game properly. And I really want to!

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