Snakes Of Avalon
The AGS community has given us some incredible gems over the years. There is possibly well over a thousand games developed with the engine and it doesn’t look like the rate of new releases will slow down anytime soon. Certainly, maybe half these games are remarkable in some way and even less are really memorable. However, some have proven to be all-time classics and engaging experiences which remain discussed and enjoyed to this day: Alkis Polyrakis’ Other Worlds and Diamonds In The Rough, Ben Jordan series, the remakes by AGD Interactive, Pleurghburg: Dark Ages and Dave Gilbert’s works just to name very few. What’s better, there’s a certain leaning to experiment in many AGS games which is only equaled in a sense by the Interactive Fiction scene. These developers feel unrestrained and eager to try short games boasting wild ideas and features which makes of the AGS community a proving grounds of sorts. Large commercial projects may owe to them more than we can imagine. Which brings me to discuss this zany little game of the week: Snakes Of Avalon.
Created by Igor Hardy of HardyDev.com fame and Alex van der Wijst (which is a real name) for the MAGS competition, Snakes Of Avalon might represent the craziest 60 minutes or so I’ve spent on a game recently. I approached it without preconceptions of any kind and not knowing what to expect — the overall experience was damn effective to say the least because these two have designed a series of outrageous situations and twists that, in most cases, felt like a kick in the groin. Basically, you are a beer-addicted bum called Jack who spends most of his lifetime in the dubious downtown bar Avalon, frittering and wasting the hours in an offhand way. Your biggest concern is how to convince Bob, the barman, to pour you another beer… that is, until you overhear two shady characters, a stuck-up lady and suspicious-looking fellow, planning a murder. Jack decides to stop them at all costs with the help of a talking moose head and fish. In fact, most things speak to you in Avalon, even a movie poster. To say the game is trippy would be an understatement, and it only gets worse as you progress while attempting to break the evil couple. Rumor has it that Igor Hardy was somewhat inspired by the concept behind Street Trash and it shows. Unfortunately, the game is very short indeed so there’s not much else I can comment story-wise without giving away the surprising portions. All the action takes place inside Avalon, a single room, and the designers certainly made the most out of the format since you’re never bored and there’s always something to do. Overall, the conclusion can be mind-blowing if you’re really into the game, with an unexpected twist that delivers.
You might think that Snakes Of Avalon sounds illogical and this is only partially true — the game does has its share of random occurrences and forces you to perform odd interactions, but everything feels right in place within the game’s internal logic. It’s definitely an acquired taste though when you have a rotting fish as an inventory item that speaks to you. Speaking of inventory, I have to give props away for its very creative use: for instance, whenever Jack has to attend Nature’s call, his bladder appears in your inventory so you may decide what to sprinkle. I only wish there were more easter eggs or funny reactions derived from attempting combinations of the bladder with the various objects/characters in the game. However, the greatest achievement here in my opinion is the striking ordeals that you as Jack must overcome. There’s a certain feature in games that I don’t believe has been fully explored to date which is main characters that go out of control, and it is fully enforced in Snakes Of Avalon. Jack is feeble and unpredictable. He’s also very drunk, which means that you must ask for help to perform even the most mundane tasks, such as dialing a phone number… but how can you be so sure they’re dialing the right number? It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like that in a game. As I said before, if the AGS works are proving grounds of sorts, one can only wonder what the future might bring.
All in all, Snakes Of Avalon is more than worth your time. It has an original setting and main character, and a very creative design. It’s also darned funny since I must confess that I really laughed out loud a couple of times. And it’s free. What else can you ask for?
You can download an in-progress version of Snakes Of Avalon from the MAGS website. While it complete, it’s lacking some final polish: MAGS Voting. Note that the MAGS competition has finalized as well.