You know, I generally consider my favorite video game console to be the Super Nintendo. But lately I'm noticing more and more that a lot of my very favorite video game memories and nostalgia come from the NES. I think this can be very simply explained by the fact that I was younger when I was playing NES, the memories are fuzzier, and somehow warmer. My sense of wonder was strongest at that time of my life, and perhaps my sense of security as well.
Snake Rattle n Roll is a strange and silly game. It is also a good example of an NES game that was special to me. I saw this game in Nintendo Power and I was mesmerized. I really don't know why, but I had.to.have.it. I think it was the isometric view, with the checkerboard patterns on the ground-- It just looked like fun! Before I got a hold of it (took a while), I used to pore over the pictures in Nintendo Power and imagine what it was going to play like.
It ended up being a pretty fun game. And strange. You eat colorful balls called 'Nibblie Pibblies" and your enemies included moving toilet seats and a big disembodied foot. And one more thing: You destroy your enemies by licking them. A toilet seat and a foot. By licking them. This is just the sort of potty humor that kids love. (of course the pun was intended)
There was something about the level design that, to me, indicated secrets. I always thought: how can I get up to that platform? What's up there? Is there a secret area? Isometric platforming can take a bit of getting used to, but there were some cool jumps and heights I could manage. And some limitations as well; you could fall to your doom without actually falling, if you tried to jump to a lower platform, and fell a certain distance before reaching it. Occasionally I did get to a hard to reach platform, and was rewarded only with my own satisfaction at having accomplished my goal. Which is still pretty cool. Like climbing a fence or getting onto the roof of my house. Just glad to have done it.
I got a similar sensation when I first played Mario 64. Especially outside the castle, I just wanted to climb and go and discover what was hiding behind the mountains, around the castle. It was Yoshi. And you needed a canon to get there, and then you didn't even get to ride Yoshi. Not so much fun.
I've seen modern versions of this exploration for exploration's sake, like ulillillia getting really high in Bubsy 3d levels. Also people scaling mountains in Skyrim. It occurs to me that that is somethign I want in a game like Proteus: climbing. There really isn't that in Proteus.
Discovery, where is that sense of discovery in games?
That will have to be a topic I return to at a future date. I was talking about Snake Rattle and Roll. A co-op game, I remember playing a lot with my younger sister. I got pretty good at the game, but it was TOUGH. I don't think I ever beat it. I may have gotten to the final level once or twice, but I'm not sure if I cheated to do so. I do know that the levels got progressively harder, and the last couple levels were skin-of-your teeth, hanging by your fingernails- TOUGH. Like a good NES game should be.
P.S. Plumbing the internet for happy nostalgia is usually a productive enterprise. It's led me to cool stuff like a monster map of the original Dragon Warrior. With Snake Rattle n Roll a particularly awesome bit of fan art came up: A sewing together of the different level maps (see below) and a speed run overlaid on said map! I really couldn't ask for a better tribute. Bravo!
And then it turns out that the game was actually designed as a giant mountain which you scale until you get to the top and then launch to the moon and fight an ice-foot. Of course! Check out the image below.
here is the source page for the above image