Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 12 August 2015
Category: Reviews Comments View Comments


Help Mr. Cinnamon Snapz race through the confectionary lands to restore the pieces of the broken chocolate-chip emblems... or don't. You may not have the patience to navigate the frustrating puzzles, problematic user interface, and bad graphics quality of this casual game for iOS and Android.

Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie CaperI've been sitting on this review for a while because this casual indie game was supposed to be released in mid July and then, with no explanation, it didn't, so I was wondering if it had died and therefore there was no point in reviewing it. Yesterday I suddenly received notification that it had been released, for iOS and Android, and that the delay was due to an issue with the implementation of Google Analytics in the Android release, as well as a bug fix, so here, finally, are my thoughts on the game.

The premise of Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper is that the protagonist, Mr. Cinnamon Snapz (a gingerbread man), is seeking out destroyed chocolate-chip emblems to make them whole again. His quest begins in the confectionary land of Bubblegum Hills, a game section with 20 levels, and continues in Two Scope [sic] Valley, another section with 20 levels. Presumably the intention is to add more themed sections in time.

Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper

On each level he has to navigate obstacles, solve movement puzzles, and deal with enemies to find all the pieces of the level's chocolate-chip cookie. Central to the movement puzzles are platforms that perform special functions such as lift him up to a higher part of the level, move him across chasms, and teleport him to another area of the level. The teleportation platforms are particularly frustrating because they don't always correspond, especially in the later levels: platform A may send you to platform B but platform B might send you to platform C, not back to platform A. In a level with too many teleportation platforms this quickly becomes confusing and frustrating and you can find yourself going round in circles.

Each level has three star-rated play-through times that award jellybeans, the game's currency, which can be used in the store to buy outfits, stat upgrades, and items. Unfortunately these times are not a guide for a reward and are instead mandatory. Even if you finish a level, if you don't do so in the minimum one-star-rated time, you fail and cannot progress to the next level, which remains locked. (You can, however, play the levels in both game sections - both Bubblegum Hills and Two Scope Valley are unlocked when you start.)

Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper

The times are tight and this has the unfortunate consequence of forcing you to play through once in the early easy levels, or multiple times in the later levels, just to figure out the mechanics so you can essentially do a speed run to meet the time requirements and progress through a section's levels. There's no sense of exploration or any moments to enjoy the levels because you're always watching the clock aware that one mistake will immediately send you into a two-star time and that you're likely perilously close to failing altogether.

The game's other problem is that it's not very well developed and commits numerous sins that I don't expect from veteran game developers. The audio is much softer than everything else on my tablet so I either have to turn it up, causing an audio blast elsewhere if I switch apps, or I can't really hear anything. The menu music doesn't loop, it just fades out and then repeats, which is very jarring, and the sound effects, on the whole, are very low quality and sound as though they're something out of a super-compressed Flash game from 2008.

Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper
Above: You can see examples of the bad image quality in this cropped area from an unresized screenshot.
The low quality extends to the graphics, which in general are low resolution and pixelated (not by design but possibly due to compression), as you can see in the screenshots in this review. Many of the game sprites have anti-aliased edges, instead of a sharp edge, so they have fuzzy pixel halos around them or their edges are very jagged and messy. I suspect that the game may have been developed at low resolution for small screens, where much of this wouldn't be noticeable, and then the art was expanded for larger screens instead of drawn for large screens and resized for small screens.

The controls, while simple (press on the left of the screen to move left, on the right to move right, and swipe up to use a platform) are also problematic. I found that swiping up didn't always register and that mistake can mean the different between a three-star and two-star time. Usability is also problematic. The replay button in the corner, which you will use a lot, is out of reach on a 10-inch tablet (you have to move your hand to access it), as is the level play button, which is centred on the screen - unless you have big hands you also have to move your hand to touch it. Considering how frequently you will hit replay and play, it's very annoying to have to move your hands around on the tablet all the time. (Presumably on a phone this is less of a problem.)

The game play area also isn't designed to take into account the Android home control buttons, which have a life of their own and sometimes pop up at the bottom of the screen over the game graphics. This frequently obscures platforms at the bottom of a level, which you then don't know are there. A few times I managed to find them by guessing and swiping until something moved, which, unsurprisingly, negatively affected my time.

Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper
Above: This cropped area from another unresized screenshot shows Mr. Snapz standing in mid air.
Finally, collision detection around the object boundary boxes isn't very good either. You frequently end up floating in mid air after crossing slightly to a platform that then might move or disappear (a puzzle feature, not a programming mistake). The game doesn't realise that there's no platform under you anymore and you should fall down through the hole.

All these issues aside, although they were already trying my patience heavily, the point at which the game lost me permanently was on level 9 of Bubblegum Hills. It has a confusing number of teleporting platforms that probably require you to sketch a map to remember how everything works. I played it a number of times in which I eventually gave up because I kept missing a couple of the cookie pieces and I knew I was well over the time limit and had no idea of how to get to the pieces. (Start again... I must have missed a platform somewhere....)

Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper
Above: At this point I'd officially had enough.
When I finally did manage to finish the level (through sheer force of will), my time was 6:54, well over the one-star limit of 2:00 and laughably nowhere near the three-star goal of 1:15. At that point I just stopped because it's not fun and I really didn't want to have to experience that level ever again, nevermind what comes next. (I feel similarly about the first few levels of Two Scope Valley, which I also gave up on.) I like to complete a game - or come to near completion - before I review it but this one defeated me.

This is a first release by Tiny Ogre Games, a new development house comprising two partners with previous experience in game development at another studio, in collaboration with Aviary Entertainment (level design), Nakai Studio (art), BeefJack (direction, art consultation, lead art and animation, and production), and Dark Notes Productions (music). That's a long list of collaborators for such a small, problematic game.

[ YouTube link ]

I really wanted to like Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper but it fast becomes frustrating and is never fun. Add the quality issues to that and the result is a game with an interesting premise that needs more work than the developers are likely to invest in it. It's aimed at all ages but I can't see a 10-year-old kid having the patience to play through this. I certainly didn't - and I survived the difficult, unforgiving arcade games of the 80s.

Game Review: Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper

Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper is a free download (with in-game purchases) for both iOS and Android. The pre-release review copy was made available courtesy of the developer's PR representatives.

Tags: #games Opinion
Rating: 3/10
Review Version: 1.0
Review Platform: 10-inch tablet running Android 4.4.2 with a screen resolution of 1280x800

On The Internet
Mr. Snapz: The Cookie Caper: Official Site, Press Page
Tiny Ogre Games: Official Site, Facebook, Twitter

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