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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (41891)
Written on  :  May 10, 2019
Platform  :  VIC-20
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars
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This excellent game should have been released in the arcades first

The Good

Before they had success with Prince of Persia and the Carmen Sandiego series, Brøderbund Software made some classic games in the early Eighties, with one such example being Serpentine, a title so good it should have made its debut in the arcades. The game was initially released on the Apple II, but was eventually ported over to the VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Atari 8-bit computers.

The player controls a serpent that must roam around a maze. Three other serpents enter the maze one by one, and your job is to devour each one of them, starting from the tail. Helping you is a frog that hops around the maze, and if your serpent eats it you will start to get long. To make matters worse, a serpent occasionally leaves a speckled egg behind, and you need to eat this before it hatches into another serpent. Once all the serpents have been eaten, you return to your safety zone ready to proceed to the next maze.

I find Serpentine a difficult game since it is not as easy as it seems. If you chase the one serpent, it takes ages to catch up to it, even if you are a short distance away. If I just follow one, I ended up turning a corner by accident, and there is the likely chance that the other serpents would end up in the same area. Using shortcuts help you reach the serpent quicker, but since the serpents have no pre-defined paths, I ended up facing my enemy and crash into it. I found that the safest way to avoid all this is to keep eating frogs before the serpents do.

This excellent VIC-20 port was done by Creative Software, the same crowd who ported Choplifter over to the machine. This version is the only one to feature the snake theme, and this blends well with the theme of the game quite nicely. During the game, you get to hear the hisses of the serpents, adding to the game’s atmosphere.

Graphics are not bad. You and the other serpents have different colors. The frog that appears on screen is not animated, but I think that is because the VIC-20 isn’t capable of doing much animations, so the frog just appears in a different section of the maze. A nice touch to the game is the way the serpents turn green when you are allowed to eat any part of its body, not just its tail. I was surprised that Creative managed to cram so much into one cartridge, and this means you don’t have to install some memory expansion to get it working.

The Bad

I noticed some slowdown when there are more than one serpent on the screen; it's as if the VIC's CPU could not handle the large number of sprites at once. Also, when you have managed to eat more than one serpent but lose a life after that, you have to restart the level all over again. Very annoying.

The Bottom Line

Serpentine for the VIC-20 is an excellent game where the object is to devour each serpent, while protecting yourself at the same time. A frog hopping around the screen can be devoured to give you an advantage over the other serpents. Graphics and sound are great, and like many games of its time, Serpentine will make you say "Oh, what the hell... just one more go." So, the bottom line: if you like early games from Brøderbund, pre Prince of Persia and Carmen Sandiego, this game is definitely worth a go.