Snake Rattle 'n Roll

An isometric action platformer developed by Rare for the NES and later ported to the European Mega Drive. Help snakes Rattle and Roll navigate perilous isometric levels in pursuit of their favorite food: Nibbley Pibbleys.


Snake Rattle 'n' Roll is a video game for the NES that was released in 1990, and which was developed by Rare Ltd. It was one of the more graphically striking games for the NES, with the action viewed from an isometric perspective, which gave the game a convincing 3D appearance - quite a feat for a console game of its time. The game is also notable for its unintuitive controls and its punishing difficulty, which ramps up quickly from the early stages of the game.

It was later ported to the European Mega Drive in late 1993, but remained a region-exclusive there. The NES version would also be included in the Rare Replay compilation for Xbox One and beyond.


Those manholes can be opened for bonuses
Those manholes can be opened for bonuses

Snake Rattle 'n Roll is a platform game in which two snakes, the eponymous Rattle and Roll, set forth on a quest to reach the moon. They plan on doing so by scaling a mountain, which constitutes the various levels within the game. If climbing a mountain to reach the moon seems implausible, the game reaches new heights of surrealist insanity with its central gameplay mechanic: Nibbley-Pibbleys.

In order to progress through the game the snakes must gain enough weight to ring a bell at the end of each level, which opens a door to the next level. In order to gain sufficient weight to ring the bell, the snakes must eat a required amount of multi-colored Nibbley-Pibbleys found throughout each stage, which adds segments to their tails and makes them heavier. The more Nibbley-Pibbleys the snakes eat, the longer their tails become, which eventually leads to their being heavy enough to ring the bell. A tail segment is gained by eating four "units" of Pibbleys. A Pibbley that is the opposite color of the player's snake is worth 1 unit, the same color is worth 2 units, and the elusive gold Pibbley is worth 3 units. Of course the gold Nibbley-Pibbleys move much faster than the regular variety, and recklessly chasing them can put the snake in danger.

The nature of the Nibbley-Pibbleys are not explicitly revealed to the player, although they appear to be nothing more than variously-colored balls, which maneuver around each level in a manner specific to the level in which they are found. For example, in the first level, the Nibbley-Pibbleys simply roll around on the ground, making it easy for the snakes to gobble them up. However, as the levels progress the Nibbley-Pibbleys become more and more elaborate, with their various incarnations allowing them to bounce and even to fly with the help of helicopter blades, making them far more elusive and thus more difficult for the snakes to reach their desires bell-ringing weight. The snakes can lose segments of their tail, which double as a sort of health bar, if they are hit by an enemy.


It's a long way to the top!
It's a long way to the top!

The enemies in the game are as varied and random as they come, ranging from giant feet that attempt to stomp the snakes (and which can be destroyed for extra lives), to maniacal toilet seats that frenziedly snap at the snakes, and which can be rather difficult to evade. Rattle and Roll can counter the enemies' attacks by either repeatedly striking them with their forked tongues (much in the same way as Nibbley-Pibbleys are eaten), or by jumping on top of them, although some enemies, such as the foot, cannot be jumped on. Other stages feature spikes or anvils that fall on top of the player, requiring strategic movement in order to avoid collision.


The accumulated Nibbley-Pibbleys are counted at the end of each level
The accumulated Nibbley-Pibbleys are counted at the end of each level

Whilst the game's enemies can pose the player problems, the game's notorious difficulty emerges from the isometric playing field, and the difficulties of navigating around it. The controls are somewhat unintuitive, and can be difficult for players to get to grips with, even after long spells spent with the game. Pushing 'up' on the control pad will not make the snakes move vertically upwards, but will instead have them move in a North-Easterly direction, in line with the straight lines which make up the ground. This is not a problem in other games that use a similar control system, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, where players can take their time and are not in danger of being assailed by enemies. In Snake Rattle 'n Roll, however, the game's action-oriented nature means that the player cannot afford to slowly and carefully move through the levels, and instead has to make split-second decisions that often go punished, as a result of the player not being able to make the association between 'up' on the control pad actually resulting in 'diagonally up and to the right'. Added to this is the multitude of tricky and almost impossible-looking jumps that the player is forced to make, made even more difficult by a timer that slowly but steadily counts down to zero, resulting in instant death.

There are only a limited number of lives and continues available to the player. However there are extra life and extra continue icons that can be picked up during the game.

Although difficult to find, the game has a few warps that allows the snakes to skip levels. For example, in the very first stage it is possible to rush to the end quick enough to jump on a rocket ship that takes the snakes to one of the last levels in the game.


The game included a two player co-op mode, where each character controls either Snake simultaneously, with the game playing much in the same way as the single-player iteration. The best way to be successful is to make sure that each snake eats their own color Nibbley-Pibbley so that tail segments can be added faster. This mode suffers from some technical difficulties though due to a fickle camera that cannot zoom out very far. This forces the snakes to cooperate by sticking closely together and not go adventuring off on their own.