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Snatcher (SEGA CD)

87
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168596)
Written on  :  Oct 20, 2003
Platform  :  SEGA CD
Rating  :  3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars

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Summary

Better than its genre brethren, but does that really mean much?..

The Good

For a game involving little more than repetitive menu-cycling with an occasional meagre shoot-out, Snatcher is certainly a success. It is clear that a lot of attention has been paid to its setting and plot structure, aiming to make it as little boring as it was only possible.

Of course, Snatcher wouldn't be the same without the action segments. The furious shooting releases the stress accumulated during the investigation, and although those sequences are rather simple, they are certainly fun. Unfortunately, there were very few of those sequences, but there were many situations where you expected shooting, and this alone was curiously enough to keep you in suspense.

The monotony of menu choices is somewhat broken by a few more involving tasks, such as creating a computer montage of a criminal's face based on a description given to you by a witness; guessing the name of a hospital with a broken neon sign; searching a dark room by moving a flashlight around. But even the routine menu-selecting is well-made. First of all, you always get elaborated messages from your sidekick Metal Gear. No matter what you look at, even if it is unimportant stuff, Metal will analyze it and give you a description. Usually you can select the same option several times and get a different answer every time.

The story develops just at the right speed, without giving too much of it away in the beginning, and always introducing mysteries. Already the core plot point of the game - who am I? - captures the player's attention and makes him curious. The game always presents smaller mysteries, that are tied nicely with the main plot.

The story of Snatcher is pretty good, especially when everything is explained in the end of the game and you realize how seemingly unimportant events and encounters were in fact very important. The story is built like a big puzzle, with all the pieces brought to their places only during the ending sequence. Moral problems, philosophical outputs about mankind, world-domination, love are treated with typical Japanese clueless naivety, but not without passion.

In addition, Snatcher has great comic-style graphics and a memorable soundtrack with some atmospheric background tunes.

The Bad

Snatcher is a Japanese adventure. To put it bluntly, if there's anything wrong with it, it's this. The lack of movement, control, and general involvement is aggravating. There is no physical movement whatsoever in the game: the adventure mode allows you only to select menu choices, and in the shooting mode, all you can do is aim your gun and shoot. I'd be really glad to see some movement in the game: for example, navigating the turbocycle myself, or actually playing those nerve-tickling movie sequences. At least a point-and-click interface would have helped. Unfortunately, there is nothing of the kind. You are not physically present in the game world, and that is a serious flaw for gameplay mechanics.

Like most games of its genre, there is a common and very annoying problem of "triggering" in Snatcher. New menu choices will only pop out when you have already browsed through all other choices, even though those choices didn't bring anything to the development of the plot. That turns a good deal of the gameplay into an impatient selecting of all menu choices, looking and investigating everything, while knowing it bears no importance to the actual game events, and is there only to trigger new choices.

Most of the dialogues are okay, but some of them are surprisingly weak, and can ruin the game for some sensitive players. Voice acting is generally not very convincing - for example, Seed himself sounds rather silly. The writing suffers from "Kojima-syndrome", with some pointless moralizing and semi-educational material that is too obviously presented - something familiar to everyone from Metal Gear Solid.

Kojima loves movies, and most of his game plots are a mishmash of different themes he had drawn from popular blockbusters, sci-fi or otherwise. Snatcher is no exception, as the title and the entire premise not-so-subtly imply. But while the author's best effort in storytelling, Policenauts, uses the cliches to create appealing characters and genuine drama, the plot of Snatcher is noticeably more "gimmicky", and ultimately not strong enough to make us forget its gameplay deficiencies.

As opposed to some unnecessary descriptions and corny dialogue, I'd much prefer to see more action sequences in Snatcher. Most of them were also way too easy. There were in fact only three major shooting sequences in the whole game - one in each act.

The Bottom Line

Snatcher is better than the vast majority of Japanese adventures, but that still doesn't make it a great game. Primitive puzzle-less gameplay with no physical interactivity is a bummer no matter how you look at it. Only recommended to fans of the genre; for the rest, an acquaintance with the more interesting Policenauts will suffice.