Subversion is at the heart of Snakebird.
Disarmingly cute cartoon graphics and familiar mechanics make you think the game will be a cinch... shortly before it bludgeons your brain to paté with a meat tenderiser fashioned from your own arrogance and complacency.
The basics are just like Snake, as wrenched through time from an ancient Nokia handset, only with the added snags of gravity and the complication of having to reach an exit once all the fruit’s been munched.
Even with added gravity, this might have been easy - had the puzzles not been designed by a sadist.
Tough old bird
As your strange worm-like bird awaits your commands, occasionally belching odd noises, you’ll likely scan the current puzzle and quickly start swiping, heading for levitating fruit. And then you’ll die, because a bit of rock was cunningly positioned to make you fail.
So you’ll make use of the undo button, backtrack a bit and try again. Whereupon you’ll die because, clearly, Snakebird is far too clever for you.
The loop during play roughly sounds like this to anyone listening nearby: What about… ? ARGH! Let’s try… ARGH! Hmm, how about… ? ARGH! Only there are usually other choice words replacing the exclamations.
Where it all comes good is when you solve a puzzle, at which point you feel like a genius. Those smart alecs on Mastermind? They’ve got nothing on someone’s who’s cracked level 42 of Snakebird.
So what looks like a game that might brush shoulders with Angry Birds is in fact more like chess hankering to punch your brain in with boxing gloves wrapped around a brick.
And it’s brilliant, from the birds’ grumpy faces and the stupid noises they make to the discoveries you unearth along the way. (It turns out that levitating fruit is surprisingly sturdy, for instance.)
We would, however, recommend playing the game away from polite company, unless you can suffocate regular frustrations and rarer whoops of joy.
Also, you might want to leave the bonus ’star’ levels until you’re very much alone, unless you’re happy with people seeing you as a crumbled heap on the floor, sobbing and pointing at burping snakebirds on your smartphone.