Indie Games Uprising III: qrth-phyl
Reading like an Aztec name for some giant reptile, qrth-phyl is the first title to be released as part of this year’s Indie Game Uprising. Essentially a 3D update of Snake, the free game on the old Nokia mobile phone that we grew up taking turns to play at the back of class, it doesn’t sound enticing. Nor the reason one would have put down the money for a current gen console. However, passing up on this one would be a shame, as it really is worth your time (and that £1 down the back of your sofa).
Presentation is vital and first appearances are important. From the moment this booted up there was real evidence that this was going to be more than another piece of something with zombies fluff. Filtered soundwaves curl around each other and swim out of the speakers as the _ sign blinks away next to the onscreen options. Selecting the notes option opens up the instructions, level data, and your playtime represented via a swirling string of blocks. Previously unlocked area types can also be tackled for high scores. All the dots consumed adding to a corruption percentage; what happens when this reaches 100% is yet to be seen.
Activating the sequence option sees the 2D retro look transfer into the new neon 3D world. Beginning on what is a 2D plane, the goal remains what it originally was: consume dots without smashing face first into anything. With each block the snake devours it grows in length. Fill the grid shown via the onscreen hub and a section of the floor falls away, presenting an inviting black tunnel. By moving into it head first a new area is opened, and the 2D environment morphs to the inside of a cube or rectangle.
Outside the cube the rules of gravity apply and the snake is grounded, while inside you’re free to fly around. This creates a constantly rotating style, and along with the variances of design and sound, creates an evolving experience that is said to adapt the more you play.
As you continue this trend, eating dots to call the gateway, swimming through to the next section, moving in and out of the shifting cubed shapes, the difficulty begins to increase. Soon the snake must circle around itself, dodge lasers that are tripped by specific coloured blocks and avoid structures that grow from the ground or move freely. Sudden mutations will cause an alerting sound as the walls distort or new constructions appear around you. The sound design overall is impressive, adding further to the illusion of higher production values than it no doubt had.
Thankfully, movement is tight. The axis of control is refined and the camera placed to allow as good a perspective as is possible in a 3D environment of this nature. This feels play tested. The maneuvering and dexterity possible allows you to swoop and dive through small gaps.
Everything is neon coloured, with each area changing scheme. If the inside of the cube is at one moment a scale of blue and white, then, upon leaving, the outside could be red and black. Visually this acts as an aid for depth perception. The colour scale will lean one way the closer you are to a wall. The only time of frustration is when leaving a gateway at an angle and smashing straight into a wall if your reflexes aren’t that of a cheetah.
Indie Games Uprising III has gotten off to a great start with qrth-phyl. A real surprise, it’s as valid a retro update as Geometry Wars was.