Remembering Snake II, one of the greatest mobile games ever

Boredom can be inescapable. I recently found myself on a flight with no reading material, no WiFi connection, and worst of all, no headphones, which had gone dead right before takeoff. Boredom had me wrapped up in a stranglehold. I’m obviously no fool, and usually prepare for flights. It’s just my idea for preparation this time around was staying up as late as possible the night before, with the intention of sleeping through the entirety of an early morning flight. That plan failed. So there I was, stranded on a flight with nothing but my thoughts, looking down aimlessly at my iPhone, wishing it was a Nokia 3310 instead.

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One hit across the head with that indestructible block of a phone would have knocked me out cold for a few hours, but that’s not why I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I just wanted to get my hands on Snake II, one of the greatest mobile games ever. Nokia had the right idea from the jump; the legendary game was already installed the second you powered up your brick.

How is Apple able to magically install a U2 album that no one asked for on millions of iTunes accounts, but won’t set up iPhone users with a single free installed game? Yeah, of course I could just download a game from the app store, but that would involve me either paying money or having to delete all the cool pictures I take and hardly ever look at again, just to free up enough storage space. Anyways.

Snake has gone through quite the evolution, from its origins as an arcade game back in 1976 to now being playable on a next gen console. A number of different versions have etched themselves into our memories. But of the whole series, Snake II reigns supreme. Its beauty lies in the pure simplicity, which even my then-dumb child brain could comprehend. You play as a pixelated snake making your way through a map gobbling up little dots that make your snake longer. The more you eat the more you level up. You controlled your snake on the directional pad of the phone. Going down, up, left and right. Simple.

The catch was, as your snake grew longer, its speed increased, and slithering across the screen got harder. The screen was cyclical, allowing you to go through the bottom of the screen and pop back out at the top, but as soon as your snake collided with its body the game was over. Also your snake only had one life, meaning each sharp turn could be its last. You were in complete control of feeding this lil pixelated fella and helping it navigate through life without accidentally bringing on its own demise.

It was addictive. The simplicity of it all had you ready to load up a new game immediately after you died. You’d think to yourself ‘oh, I just made a stupid mistake. I can easily just fix that in the next game.’ Then there you are, pouring countless hours into feeding a fake snake, wishing it grew longer and longer trying to best your previous score. When it comes to Snake, you are your only competition. It’s the perfect game in which to metaphorically put the team on your back, cause you are the team. When you fail, it’s on your hands. But when you one-up your previous high score, guess who’s there to celebrate the victory? You are!

On top of being able to spoil yourself with congratulations, the game never lagged or crashed. There were no ad interruptions, and the only thing that could really stop you was if the phone went dead. Which was damn near impossible, because the Nokia 3310 legitimately had days of battery life. All you needed for the game was decent hand eye coordination with quick reaction skills, and you were a snake charmer. And I have to stress again that the game was all preinstalled on your phone.

I have no beef with game developers charging a fee for mobile games, or even those same game developers who offer free downloadable games, but make you buy in-game purchases to enjoy the game further. That’s just the nature of how things are now. It’s just, a lot of developers have ignored the simple things that can make games fun. I urge mobile game creators to get back to those uncomplicated roots, or for Apple to either give me free shit or make their storage options slightly better, or to just have Snake II preinstalled on all their phones.

Any of these choices would make my next flight experience more enjoyable.

P.S.: I’m not one of those assholes flying across the country to go kick it in Cabo, by the way. After quarantining with my parents back home in Atlanta for three months, I figured after the holidays it would be a good time to try my hand at being an adult again. Really gonna miss mom’s cooking though.