Bullets, bullets everywhere.
Many games are designed to be difficult, but it can be a very fine line between being a challenge and being so frustratingly difficult that you want to destroy anything in the vicinity. Snorms is an isometric shooter made by French developer Jean-Baptiste Simillon, and it manages to be the right side of challenging.
The premise behind Snorms is pretty simple. You are a soldier who’s resting on his native island. However, monsters from space have invaded and overrun the island. You have no outside help, so you strap on your armour, get into your battle ship and try and figure out what’s going on.
Snorms is a shooter with a retro, isometric look. The game is divided into three chapters each containing several levels for you to go through. The aim is to make your way to the exit while fending off monsters and navigating treacherous landscapes with lava and water slowing your progress. You have a limited number of ships with which to make it and if you run out, you have to restart the map again.
As you navigate the maps, you can find a wealth of secrets hidden away, such as money, ammo and weapons. Killing enemies and completing levels gives you experience points and, as you level up, you can upgrade your ship, and money allows you to upgrade weapons. However, it’s not always simply a case of upgrading your weapons and them becoming more powerful all round, as there are slight trade offs to consider. For example, one upgrade might increase the fire rate of your pistol weapon, but you’ll have to sacrifice a small amount of damage to get it. This makes upgrading more of a tactical decision, so you might choose to keep some weapons as they are while upgrading others.
The retro style of the graphics is very pleasing, and the variety in the maps is also good, with one level having you going through a stone building and the beaches outside dodging turrets, then the next level having you navigate a series of rooms with lava and toxic waste pools, climbing up to higher floors and trying to activate doors. The enemies have variety as well, with sentries trying to shoot bullets at you, big purple monsters hurling fireballs at you that twist and turn to try and hit you, and turrets firing flames at you. The soundtrack for the game consists of various chip-tune tracks, which fit in great with the retro graphics. The gun and battle sounds are nice and meaty too, with the shotgun sounding particularly satisfying.
Snorms isn’t easy, but it’s not unfairly so for the most part. There is the odd instance where you might not be able to find an enemy firing at you behind a wall because of the viewpoint, but generally you need to be tactical and know when to fight and when to fly off and regroup. Before you pick up a key item or hit a switch, it’s a good idea to clear the room of enemies first, as more will invade the room once you’ve done it, and if you get too crowded you’ll die very quickly. There are also many secrets in each level, and you might want to play a level again in order to find everything.
Overall, there’s around 10-15 hours of game play to be had here, with probably more depending on how much of a completionist you are, and it’s a fun ride to take. If the levels already included in the game aren’t enough for you, there’s a fully featured level editor which allows to create levels to the standard of those in the main game. It’s perhaps not the most user friendly thing to navigate, but there’s a full tutorial included to guide you through the process and the results can be pretty good.
Snorms is a fun, well designed and challenging shooter with a cool retro look and an amazing soundtrack. It’s also great value, with a huge number of levels and a level editor for less than £6. If you want a shooter that’s a challenge without simply being a ‘bullet hell’ game, then this is for you. Highly recommended.
Snorms is available through Desura or directly at the Snorms website.