qrth-phyl Review

qrth-phyl by hermitgamesThe Indie Games Uprising III event has officially kicked off with the release of qrth-phyl from developer hermitgames. While the title does nothing to reveal what the game’s all about, it’s simple enough to understand if you’ve been around gaming any time in the last 30+ years. Essentially qrth-phyl is a modern take on the classic game Snake. Much like the Xbox Live Indie Games service itself, this game is a healthy mix of promise and disappointment.

For those unfamiliar with Snake, it had the player steering a snake around a 2D stage running over pellets to earn points, but caused the snake to grow longer. The snake never stopped moving and the player had to avoid running it into walls or itself. This game evolves from the long-standing classic by adding in a 3rd dimension. The game alternates between two different kind of stages. Half of the stages are cubes with 2 dimensional faces which players slide along the outside of. By collecting enough little cubes on the stage, a section of it opens up and allows players to pass inside to a 3D stage that allows complete freedom of movement. It is these areas where the game really shines. Players can weave in and out of tight turns and through their own growing snake tail in a tense race against time within an ever-shrinking environment.

One of the most interesting design choices of qrth-phyl also builds upon an older game. hermitgames’ previous title Leave Home had the difficulty automatically ramp up or down based on how the player performed. That design has been carried over meaning no two playthroughs of the game will be exactly alike. Players breezing through the stages will suddenly have tighter confines to work within as walls form and move, and placement of the collectible cubes gets sparser and closer to walls. I think this is a really solid decision by the developer. Although boosting the difficulty often shortens the length of the game, it also means players won’t have to play through dozens of levels to try to surpass their previous records.

Getting a handle on spacial recognition in terms of how far the snake is from a wall or obstacle is difficult. Eventually players can ‘get a feel’ for when to turn away, but ultimately it’s a guessing game. For a game with finite lives that rewards players for extending their current run, it can be a frustrating turn of events for a poor camera angle to cause the loss of a long snake chain or a last life. The same can be said during the stage transitions as the snake enters an outside area. Often I found myself aimed straight at a wall with too little time to react and save myself. The fact that the stages are randomized means that memorization isn’t even a possibility to save you in those situations.

qrth-phyl by hermitgames

The 3D areas of the game are a lot of fun, but the controls take some practice

This game really wants for a leaderboard. Although qrth-phyl  is a modernization of the classic Snake game, arcade classics were popular in large part because of high score rankings and the bragging rights that come with it. Though there’s something to be said for bettering oneself, it’s arguably more satisfying to topple a friend’s records. I did continually come back to the game to see if I could improve (which I did), but I really wanted to see how I was stacking up against other press reviewing the game and other early purchasers. Although many XBLIG developers complain about the difficulty of including leaderboards in their indie titles, some have done it including fellow Uprising developer Smudged Cat Games in their past title Growing Pains.

I really wanted to love qrth-phyl as not only a nod to gaming history, but as the first title out of the gate for an event aimed at reigniting interest in a gaming service woefully unappreciated. I know the game is fun because I kept coming back to try to better my performance. It’s also frustrating in that the camera can’t show the player everything they need to see in order to succeed. While it falls short of greatness because of a few design flaws, there’s enough solid gaming enjoyment here to recommend players pick it up for the 80MSP ($1) price tag.

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆ 




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Additional Coverage:

The Indie Ocean qrth-phyl review

Clearance Bin Review qrth-phyl review

Indie Theory qrth-phyl review

VVGTV’s Indie Spotlight of qrth-phyl

IndieGamerChick qrth-phyl review

the XBLIG qrth-phyl review

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Author:Brandon Schmidt

Brandon is the founder and managing director of The Indie Mine in his free time. His preferred medium is video games and he's not shy about his support for the indie development community. You can follow him on Twitter @TheIndieMine.

8 Responses to “qrth-phyl Review”

  1. September 18, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Although I have no intention of undermining my own review, it’s been pointed out to me since this review was published that a) there’s a small distortion effect when you’re getting close to running into a wall that helps players anticipate a crash, and b) the PC version of qrth-phyl will include a leaderboard. I have not been able to confirm the 2nd point, but the first point does help to a degree.

  2. Waggly Bean
    September 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    I trialled this and it was quite impressive, considering that it is simply a 3D snake game.

    In terms of the competition question, an arcade classic I would like to see a remake (not port) of would be Mr Do. Bomb Jack could also be pretty awesome, and not sure it’s old enough to count as a classic, but I would also love to see a remake of Sunset Riders. I’ll be honest I’d even settle for a port with that one though… :)

  3. September 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    a remake of the nes-game snake rattle’n roll would be awesome, i love coop action!

  4. Nick Moore
    September 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    personally hard to choose for myself as to which classic arcade games I’d like to see remade, as Pac-Man and Space Invaders have both had a remake fairly recently, I’d say a rehash of Dig Dug or Galaga would be top of my list.

  5. Kyle A.
    September 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Donkey Kong Jr.! I would love to have that game remade.


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