There’s something about platformers that speaks to me. Be them fast paced and slippery, or slow and blocky, I can safely say that I enjoy the genre enough to call myself a fan. And while I’ve played hundreds of them, from retro throwbacks to actual retro titles, I have never encountered one that leaves me so unsure of whether or not what I had played was endearing or not as Stinky Snake. This game is weird. It’s charming and it’s got a touch of creativity and childish inspiration behind it, but after beating it and writing this review, I am yet unsure of what to make of it.
By all measures, it fails as a platformer. It’s a frustrating, confusing game, and that’s the word I keep using, “confusing”. I don’t think Stinky Snake as a game has quite worked out what it wants to be. At its core it tries to be a collect-athon, even blocking the path to the next level until all the items are collected, but it doesn’t style or suit its gameplay towards that. The coconuts, the item you are sent to collect, are spread out in the most arbitrary of ways. Collecting them quickly becomes a chore, though you can use them as projectiles too. Simply touching the items collects them, but they are individually placed, and there were times where I had to run the same space three or four times to grab them all, because one just so happened to be placed not quite out of my reach, but in a place where it had trouble registering.
It makes already large levels feel even bigger, which might not be such a good thing. Levels are large, but not terribly varied, and it takes far too long for the game to start throwing obstacles in it that are defeated using skill rather than luck. One issue is that, more often than not, when I went to jump to hit an enemy, I would end up getting hit by an enemy above me on a floating platform. There is a skill to be learned for any video game, especially platformers; I won’t deny that, but there is a point where level design has to collaborate. Stinky Snake’s level design doesn’t collaborate, and in fact, it’s a hindrance more often than not.
It’s frustrating because there’s nothing inherently wrong with the game, it’s just not very fun. For every compliment I can give it, there’s two or three faults I find that make it hard to recommend. The controls are responsive but there’s no momentum, and the moment the button is no longer pressed the character stops faster than I jump to defend Sony. The characters and story put a smile in my face, being written and illustrated by literal children, but that means that the animations are limited, and I’m not exaggerating when they seem to have been made in Microsoft Paint. When the biggest compliment I can give a game is that it’s technically sound, that it plays well without any frame drops, and that it didn’t crash, then I’m truly at a loss.
Even now I hesitate to call it terrible. I don’t like to be caustic and the game has seen improvements. The updates are common, and while they don’t make the game good, they make it better. Stinky Snake has a solid foundation that keeps being added onto, but that doesn’t mean I can recommend it. I’ve had some fun with it, but that fun was short lived. Moving back and forth through the levels, I felt like I was in some old Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the background looping. I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere, and that sapped the small hints of enjoyment I did have.
It’s telling that I did not want to finish Stinky Snake. I can say that it gets better towards the end as it reaches a point where it stops blocking the goal line with items requirements and I can just head straight to the end. I thought that I could find some joy in speed-running the game or, at least, finishing it fast. I even joked that it was a Sonic tribute. Gotta go fast, indeed. However, even that simple joy was dashed because contact with enemies damage the character unless you attack them from above. It became quite easy to, in my rush, be hit and constantly take damage.
I will use that word again, confusion. Once more, Stinky Snake confused me. From it constantly changing how to unlock the exit pole, to having alternate pathways that lead nowhere, I didn’t, and still don’t, know what it’s trying to achieve. Some fun might be had, but it has to be dug for. This is one of those cases where the development story is more interesting than the final product, and isn’t that disappointing?
A review copy was provided by the developer.
Mcportugalem doesn’t award Stinky Snake anything.