Ignoring “Sssnake” for the Atari 2600, a late-’70s game that did feature a snake but was more like Centipede than the classic Nokia cellphone title, the 1981 release “SNAFU” is the oldest game in the ‘snake’ genre that I am aware of. I played the hell out of that game and loved it. I did play Snake on various Nokia wireless phones (starting with my Nokia 6190 in 1999) as well, but SNAFU always held the magic for me. It was drastically better featured than most of the ones that have come since. “Octopede” is nicely featured, and one of the most impressive I’ve seen in the 33 years since SNAFU. And, when the heck did I get so old that something from my childhood was 33 years ago? Dang.
This comes to us from the Jeff Minter (think Tempest 2000) school of video game design, so expect lots of particle effect explosions, a bevy of on-screen colours, and techno music. And as a long-time fan of Jeff Minter’s work back to the early ’90s, this warms the cockles of my heart (whatever a “cockle” is).
As with any ‘snake’-ish game, your job is to build a tail. The longer the better. But the longer it gets, the more vulnerable you get. You have several weapons to use to survive the levels, and you’ll need them as there are red dots that are trying to knock your tail down to size and hinder your score.
There’s even an exploration element, with the game putting up barriers that you must either go around or knock through. Finally, in the grand tradition of SNAFU which let you (in some game modes) actually travel on the diagonals, you can do that here. Speaking of the controls in general, YMMV but I preferred the D-Pad for this game. It’s a dollar (give or take, in your local currency) well spent.
For reference, here is SNAFU for the Intellivision. It had dozens of game modes, more than any other game I can think to name, with different abilities, restrictions, and competitive elements. And I suppose we owe the light cycles from Tron for inspiring the genre.
Here’s what the developer (Orbital Games Limited) has to say about the game:
“Octopede is a fast-paced 2D survival shooter. The player takes control of a computer worm inside a hostile mainframe. Gather as much data as possible before the host’s defences get the better of you! Manic gameplay, shiny neon graphics and 8-bit style music and SFX make Octopede a truly intense experience.”