housenka.sh and others: Snakes on the brain

With such a huge influx of games last week, I had to take the drastic step of bundling some of them around a central themes. That was the case with the *angbands on Saturday, and I’m afraid it’s the case again today.

In Saturday’s situation, it seemed dangerous to lump them all together because there was the very real possibility that one of them was a truly innovative piece of text-based gaming genius. The original angband was, and I could always be wrong about one of its spinoffs.

This time though, it’s Snake knockoffs, and at the risk of sounding harsh, I don’t think packaging these seven games into one post is going to put any of us at a disadvantage. The genre has been done and re-done so many times since 1976 that I can only hope one day it devolves into programming obscurity.

In other words, if you’re an aspiring game programmer, do us all a favor and don’t create another Snake clone.šŸ‘æ

Let’s keep this short and simple, in the fashion of the 2048 clones we saw a year ago.

cNibbles:

2015-03-13-6m47421-cnibbles

Pros: Nice startup screen and attract mode. Will center itself against a large terminal. Has speed settings, as “levels.” Can replay a game, and replay the top-scoring game. Cons: Only plays at 80×24, regardless of your screen dimensions.

Overall: Probably the nicest game in the standard Snake vein, mostly because the replay option is unique among what I’ve seen. The proper start screen and attract mode make this more-or-less a complete package.

gnake:

2015-03-13-6m47421-gnake

Pros: Options for time-based snake length, multiple apples (targets), ‘bot snakes and screen dimensions. Has nifty “wallpaper” for unused area on screen. Speed settings could serve as “difficulty levels.” Tracks snake length and length of game. Cons: No attract mode or startup screen. Home page is gone, but accessible from archive.org.

Overall: A good version, mostly for its flexibility. The wallpaper is a nice effect. The only one I recall with the option for ‘bots, which is an interesting twist. Thanks again to archive.org for keeping this one around.

housenka.sh:

2015-03-13-6m47421-housenka.sh

Pros: Nicest start screen. Written in bash. Cons: Flicker effect from screen redraws made this unplayable.

Overall: Unfortunately I couldn’t get very far with housenka.sh because of the flickering screen animation. I’m not sure why that happens and I don’t think it is intentional, but it made the game unplayable. Excellent startup screen though.šŸ˜‰

maggot:

2015-03-13-6m47421-maggot

Pros: Decent use of color, and adheres to a very simple philosophy. An “info” screen (think: like a “version” flag), which is unusual. Has a “play again” option. Cons: Flickering effect again, although not as bad as housenka.sh. Random start point means you may crash into a wall within seconds of startup. Seems set at 80×24 but pause button skews the display. No obvious speed or level controls. A collision causes the game board to disappear, which can be frustrating.

Overall: This has more of a feel of a “programming experiment” than an actual game, and I’m willing to forgive its shortcomings on those grounds. It might need a lot of work before it has the completeness of cNibbles or the panache of gnake. (To build: Enter the src/ directory, then cmake . followed by make.)

msnake:

2015-03-13-6m47421-msnake

Pros: Simple ASCII graphics. Will scale to any screen dimensions. Adds obstacles and wall exits for wraparound effects. Pop-up menus and pause messages. Speed controls. Cons: Starts way too fast, which can sometimes lead to early collisions. No color.

Overall: Has a healthy number of innovations and as a result, kept my interest longer than most of the others. It’s a shame it doesn’t have color, and the starting speed should be set lower. Well done overall, though.

snake-ncurses:

2015-03-13-6m47421-snake-ncurses

Pros: Technically will scale to your screen size, although the game board does not. Complete top-to-bottom and side-to-side wraparound. Good speed and color. Has difficulty “levels.” Cons: Wraparound effect detracts from the challenge of the game. Requires 122×36 screen. Requires you specify a level at startup.

Overall: Enjoyable, particularly for its speed (which is quite quick, even at the “easy” level). But oddly enough, removing the walls from the game makes it a lot less fun than you would think. The mandatory screen size is essentially 80×24-and-a-half, but it’s still awkward.

terminibbles:

2015-03-13-6m47421-terminibbles

Pros: Title screen is nice. Very simple display and action. Double-wide characters in color, which may look better balanced in your font. (Also looks like “eyes” on the snake.) Difficulty settings. Has “sound,” sort of. Tracks high scores. Level progression, and the option to build your own. Centers the display, regardless of your screen size. Cons: Seems to only play at 80×24. Game end is a smash-to-black, and no attract mode.

Overall: Not much to complain about with this one. Custom levels and “progressive” modes are uncommon among this lot. The “eyes” effect may be more entertaining for younger players, and while a terminal bell isn’t really a “sound,” it’s more than most of the others have. Well done.


Snake games are only one step above minesweeper games in my book, and so if I sound somewhat unenthusiastic about these titles, I’ll apologize. There is no reason why the Snake game can’t thrill you as the be-all, end-all of gaming genres, and it’s certainly not my place to arbitrarily disparage an entire swath of games.

Still … with so much more that’s possible, isn’t this just a little … passe?šŸ˜¦