By: Matthew Striplen
Ever wanted to break with convention and rescue a dude in distress? Well, then step into the shoes of the female protagonist in Snark Busters: High Society as she endeavors to clear her true love’s name after a dastardly villain tarnishes it.
Although the controls are very simple, Snark Busters’ are an improvement over Alawar’s previous title. The only major functions in the game are pointing and clicking, which might sound simple enough. However, the player can carry up to two items at any time. To better facilitate usage of these items, Snark Busters provides shortcuts, whereas its predecessor did not. This further streamlines the gameplay by eliminating the need to scroll all the way back to the inventory circles each time the player wants to select an inventory item. Overall, the controls are smooth, intuitive, and easy to use.
Snark Busters‘ graphics remind me of looking at picture books when I was little. Everything is bright, colorful and detailed. Although almost every environment is a still image, the vibrancy of the illustrations is enough to hold my interest. I particularly liked the style used in cut scenes, where each moving figure looks like a paper cutout. This animation style can sometimes look stilted, but the designers execute it well.
The sound is very basic, consisting mostly of ambient, soothing tones, which I found aided my search focus. While scarce, the voice acting tends to be a little campy, which lends itself well to the outlandish world and young target audience. Some lines can be overly cringe-worthy though, and the character’s lip flaps seldom match the actual voices.
Like the I Spy book series? Yes? Then you’ll probably like Snark Busters, as they share the same premise: find stuff hidden in the picture. This game takes it a step further by having the player collect items to either create or repair something else. A handful of puzzles also present themselves at various points in the game, though none of them are particularly challenging.
If you’re feeling stuck, the player can always use a hint. Depending on which mode is being played, Regular or Expert, the hint meter takes a different amount of time to refill. Obviously, Expert mode takes a bit longer.
That being said, there are no consequences for using the hint meter, other than waiting. As someone will little self-control, resisting the urge to use it at the slightest sign of difficulty was a far greater challenge than the puzzles themselves. When solving puzzles in either mode, the hint transforms into a skip button, which auto-solves the problem.
There’s only one other difference between the two modes: Expert does not highlight interactive hotspots, making each item search a bit trickier.
Unfortunately, the story is not the most compelling component of the game. It’s essentially a gender swapped damsel in distress scenario. In this case, the protagonist’s boyfriend has been falsely accused of stealing a powerful baroness’ locket, and it’s up to you to prove his innocence.
This includes breaking and entering into the baroness’s home and safe, yet somehow she avoids all legal repercussions from that… anyway, I digress. Additionally, there’s very little reference to the actual Snark and the club dedicated to busting it, and the little information that does exist served only to confuse me.
As stated, the main premise of this game is to collect hidden objects to complete or create larger items and puzzles. When these are selected, they display their needed parts. When picking up a component, one of two things will happen. If it is usable in the current room, which is generally the case, the corresponding device or puzzle will display its incomplete component list.
Removing this function would have given an additional layer of gameplay by forcing the player to further investigate the environment. These components can sometimes be in close proximity to an incomplete device, which led to me inadvertently opening the menus more than I would’ve liked.
My favorite aspect of the game is the concept of the mirror worlds. Each mirror serves as a portal to a parallel universe, where “everything is the same, but different.” Silly description aside, these alternate worlds allow for the designers to really go outside the box with puzzle creation. For instance, the regular world might have a beautiful flowering plant hiding objects, while the mirror version might transform the flowers into dangerous man-eating carnivorous plants!
Snark Busters: High Society is a relatively short title for older players; probably around 3-4 hours, but it will probably provide more entertainment for younger children. As an older player, the game was never particularly challenging for me, even on Expert mode. Due to the inherent nature of the genre to which Snark Busters belongs, it provides little to no replay value.
Snark Busters: High Society is a definite step up from the previous game I reviewed from Alawar Entertainment, Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death, most notably the controls and graphic design. As stated, I particularly enjoyed the interpretations of the mirror universe as being similar but supernatural. If you know a young gamer, or are a young gamer, Snark Busters: High Society would be a nice purchase.