E3 2012: Snapshot hands-on (Vita)
I'm a sucker for puzzle platformers. I love the fact that developers can take the formula so proudly perfected in Super Mario Bros. and add a layer of challenge that's very unlike that game. See, when we played Super Mario Bros. on the NES, the game challenged us because of its level design and enemy placement. It was a wonderful challenge, and one that is fondly remembered by many. But puzzle platformers take that 2D platforming blueprint and throw in a more intellectual challenge. That's why I've been watching Snapshot very closely, and it's also why I checked the game out at E3 this year.
Also, indie games are, like, my thing, so it makes all the sense in the world that I wanted to play Snapshot. Moving on ...
You control a character named Pic. This adorable little robot is armed with only his wits and a camera, which you must use to photograph key elements in your surroundings so that you can manipulate them. For example, if you see a platform that's too high for you to reach and also spot a crate that you can't get to, all you need to do is aim your camera lens at the crate using the right analog stick, snap a photo of the crate, and move the image toward the inaccessible platform. Doing so will drop the crate to its new location, where you can then push and adjust it so you can climb that obstacle.
Crates aren't the only objects you'll be able to take pictures of. The world of Snapshot is littered with key items placed in clever locations that will require players to explore stages to find what they need to progress. Springs, keys, and other items can all be found in the varying stages, and players will need to look around for them and take pictures — which must be rotated depending on the position of the doors and other obstacles — if they want to tackle what I can only imagine will be the increasingly difficult levels later on in the game.
Pic's camera can hold up to three snapshots at any given time, so you need to make sure you get rid of any pointless shots you may have taken when trying to solve a puzzle. Though the levels I was playing during my E3 session only required me to take pictures of one object at a time, the fact that the camera holds three images indicates that later stages will probably feature trickier puzzles that utilize all three of the camera's empty slots, which should make for a fun (and tough) experience.
Taking pictures may be the featured mechanic in Snapshot, but that's not all you'll be doing as you try to reach the end of each stage. The actual platforming gameplay is very tight and rewarding. Pic can jump pretty high, hang on to edges, and slide under narrow passages. There are also collectible stars strewn about the levels, which warrant further exploration. During my demo session I noticed that the game didn't penalize me for skipping stars, but I can see these collectibles being a hit among completionists. I know I certainly wanted to go back to levels I had cleared to collect some missing stars.
Gameplay aside, the visual and audio presentation in Snapshot really appealed to me. Each of the game's levels is full of color, and charming details are seen throughout. The hand-drawn style of the backgrounds, detailed foregrounds, and glowing stars all make up the lively environments in Snapshot. The music is also enjoyable to listen to and complements the art design wonderfully.
I had an absolute blast demoing Snapshot. I really wish I could have played it a bit longer, but alas, I had appointments to get to on the show floor. The time I spent playing, though, I was frequently challenged and pushed to continue forward in search of tougher puzzles. And thanks to the sheer charm of Snapshot, I constantly found myself with a stupidly silly grin on my face. Watch out for this one on the PlayStation 3 and Vita later this year.
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