Snake Byte For VIC, 64, Apple, And Atari
Tony Roberts, Assistant Managing Editor
Since the advent of microcomputers, snake games have been a mainstay of the menu of available entertainment software. Generally, snake games are simple, yet they have the power to charm and challenge.
One of my favorite games in this genre is Cleanup, which was programmed years ago for the TRS-80 Model I. Despite its lack of color, sound, or sophisticated graphics, Cleanup remains one of the most frequently played programs in my game collection.
A more modern program of the same ilk is Snake Byte from Sirius Software. This program takes the same captivating idea, mixes in color and sound, a number of screens, and a time factor, and the result is a game I'll play again and again.
Gobbling Up Apples
The object of Snake Byte is to guide your snake to the apples that appear on the screen. Gobble up an apple, and another appears. Your snake also grows longer. Gobble up ten apples without hitting a wall or any part of your own ever-growing body, and a door to the next level opens. Thread your way through the door and you start over again, this time on a more complicated screen. As you move from level to level, the obstacles become more difficult.
As you play, bars on each side of the display inch toward the top of the screen. Should they complete their journey before you've eaten an apple, you are penalized: Three more apples are added to the total you must eat before completing the level.
In Snake Byte, the snake gobbles up apples and grows longer as it threads its way to more complicated screens.
Your snake is controlled from the keyboard; there is no provision for joysticks. The keyboard, however, offers several options. You can control up-down movement with your left hand and right-left movement with your right. Or you can play with one hand using the I, J, K, and M keys. A third option allows you to use the > and < keys to achieve clockwise and counterclockwise movement. Despite its simplicity, I was unable to master this variation.
Perilous Purple Plums
Another aspect of Snake Byte that adds to the challenge is the option for playing with one or two purple plums in the arena. The plums offer the potential for higher scores, but at the same time they add to your headaches.
The plums bounce around the screen, deflecting off walls, obstacles, and your snake. Unless a plum hits your snake on the head, no harm is done. Sometimes it is possible to use the snake's body to corral the plums, temporarily keeping them out of your way.
The Commodore 64 version is a little easier to control. Guiding the snake into the door that leads to the next level is more difficult on the VIC than it is on the Commodore 64. The more highly defined screen on the 64 provides additional room to maneuver through tight spots, and that's the part of the game you'll probably enjoy most. Even people who aren't normally exhibitionistic seem to love to play this type of game with an audience and have them ooh and aah as the player escapes impossible predicaments.
This game is more akin to a ballet than to a battlefield. It generates neither the hyperactivity associated with hyperspace flight nor the heart-pounding excitement of protecting a planet.
Snake Byte can even be a relaxing game. The snake, winding its way around the screen, has a hypnotic quality—a tonic that calms the nerves. It's enjoyable both when played for a few minutes as a counterpoint to more serious pursuits and when played seriously for the challenge.
10364 Rockingham Drive
Sacramento, CA 95827
Apple and Atari disk, $29.95
Commodore 64 disk, $34.95
VIC-20 cartridge, $39.95