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Snood Blaster

For: Mobile

Our house is a very fine house

Product: Snood Blaster | Developer: Universomo | Publisher: THQ Wireless | Format: Mobile | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 288KB | Reviewed on: K800i other handsets | Version: Europe
Snood Blaster Mobile, thumbnail 1
After the opening night of Big Brother 7, it was difficult not to dislike Pete Bennett. In an already tiresome group of eccentric celebrity wannabes, he appeared to be the outstanding attention-seeker, gurning and swaggering up the barricaded red carpet like a cursed Frank Spencer in the midst of a lurching transformation from human to punk werewolf git.

Later, he explained himself to another housemate: "When you spend some time with me, you'll understand Tourette." And then, of course, once he started to relax and his bizarre masking behaviour subsided, leaving him confident enough to tic without fanfare, a sound character emerged.

Playing Snood Blaster for the first time is a bit like meeting Pete Bennett. The calculatedly off-beat sprites and primary colours convey the impression of a game with something to hide, and the fact that it's heavily derivative of Bust-a-Move's well-worn bubble-popping format seems to confirm this suspicion.

Spend some time with it, though, and you'll discover a much richer and more complex experience than you first expected.

The gameplay and point-system revolves around something called the House of Snoods, a property enterprise whereby the amount of money you can make by renting out rooms over the course of 15 days represents your score. Snoods, by the way, are disembodied heads that perform the same function as bubbles in Bust-a-Move: you fire them at each other, matching a minimum of three to remove them from the heap.

Along with the standard red, green, blue, orange, and purple faces, you can also fire bombs that destroys a single layer of surrounding snoods, a white ring that cuts into the pile three deep, a question-marked projectile that turns whatever it touches into something else, and a strobing snood that changes to match whatever it lands against.

You fire the snoods from a cannon that swivels at the bottom of the screen, either at your command with '4' and '6' or constantly back and forth, depending on the type of game you're playing.

The more you play, the more the game develops tactical depth. For instance, the next snood in line is always visible to the right of the cannon, so as you gain confidence you can start to plan ahead, cannily detonating whole clusters of snoods at a time.

The movement of Snood Blaster's cannon is initially awkward and spongy, accelerating and decelerating so that lining up a shot is never as simple as it feels it should be. Over time, though, you learn to adjust, and mastering the unwieldy weapon becomes a knack as you rack up the hours in the House of Snoods.

The house is a clever device. To begin with, you have nine rooms to fill and three different types of snood to fill them: ones that don't get on with others, ones that others don't get on with, and ones that automatically live in the high floor, thus paying more rent. In order to get the most from them, you have to keep them all happy.

After day one, in which you complete a standard snood-popping level, a panel appears cycling automatically through the 'modes of the day', amongst which are Armageddon (where new rows of snoods appear whenever the danger bar at the top of the screen fills up) and Chaos (where every shot that doesn't make a three causes some of the snoods to change).

After that, you have three choices: you can redecorate a room in your house in order to ensure that any snood who lives there remains pleased; you can introduce a new snood for extra rent; or you can take those present on a vacation to make them happy and earn the chance to get double-rent from them all. Each of these options really means playing a level, with the only difference being the outcome.

The trick is to maximise happiness over time. You might not want to take your snoods on many vacations during the early days, for instance, because doing so deprives you of the opportunity of enlisting another one on that day and getting several days' worth of rent. Once your house is full, however, you can vacation every day.

After you've completed your 15 days, another house unlocks with an extra floor, giving the game some extra life. The real longevity, though, consists in returning to the houses to search for the right path to maximum profit.

However, while the strategy-lite element of Snood Blaster distinguishes it from its bubble-popping peers, the actual bubble-popping doesn't, and this is where the game stumbles. The basic mechanic of dispatching coloured snoods in threes is tired, and although there's some variety within its narrow confines, a greater range of puzzle game archetypes would have done far more justice to the ingenious strategy premise than a single option stretched in a few different ways.

That said, this is still a very solid puzzler, and more than worth spending some time with to get to know the sound game that stirs beneath the eccentric surface.
Snood Blaster
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 27 November 2007
Despite first appearances, Snood Blaster has a strategic depth that belies its hackneyed exterior. It lacks variety in the crucial colour-matching stages, but that shouldn't put you off this novel puzzler
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