Sunday, January 20, 2008


The last time I played Nibbles, it was under the name Nibbler in QBasic*. I was impressed by a BASIC program that had lots of colors (relatively) and sort of had graphics.

This time around, the graphics are better, the gameplay is deeper, and the colors are... higher in number? I started strong but finished not-so-great, there, I think. Oh well.

You're a worm-like thing that eats gold rings to become a larger worm-like thing. If you run into a wall, yourself, or another worm, you lose a life. This is the closes Linux has come to something I would consider a real video-game, so far, though it still has a non-existent storyline, no real characters to speak of, and a very arbitrary and linear progression.

It was easier in the QBasic version. While it scales like the rest of these games (with, for the record, no noticeable slowdowns or distortions) in general your worm is smaller in comparison to the playing field in Nibbles than it was in the good ole' days. Which makes it a bit harder, and when the window's not maximized, causes a bit of eye-strain. I pity the fool that plays this at a resolutions higher than 1024x768.

Level-design-wise, however, this one comes off as superior. I don't think I ever got very far in the QBasic version, but I don't remember as much creativity as far as the levels go. For one thing, they do that PacMan thing a lot of the time, where going out of the window on one side pops you back up on the other. That's always fun. And there are some fun levels that have a lot of stuff going on, and basically, after the first one or two, the obstacles make you make a choice as to where you're going to camp out. The gold rings appear randomly, and if you're in the wrong place, you have no chance of picking them up.

It's not really a question of strategy - the randomness makes it impossible to have an informed opinion on where you should be relative to where the rings will appear - but where you are makes a real difference, and on some levels, there are places that are easier to reach any given point from, and places where you're very limited in your options from. It's just an additional level of complexity.

Speaking of complexity, the items other than rings add even more depth. I don't think there was anything other than worm-food in the QBasic version, or the Intellivision version I vaguely remember playing even earlier. This one's got hearts n' cherries n' diamonds n' whatnot. Theoretically, they all do different things to either your or the other players, such as an extra life, or shortening your worm, or making all the other players reverse direction. That last one will mess you up, and timing when you use it is probably really fun in a multiplayer game against human opponents.

This is another game that offers support for network play, and in all, the game supports up to six players simultaneously, be they local, networked, or AI. I didn't actually play a game with anyone else, but there were a few people online when I checked to make sure connecting to the server worked, so it's a step up on Iagno.

This game may be buggy. At one point, I became invincible - rather than walls taking me out, my character took them out - and there were some scoring discrepancies I couldn't explain (how did I end up with over 5k in points by level three? Typically, I got a couple hundred each level) but I'm assuming these things were due to items I or other worms picked up during playing, that I didn't notice. The help-file refuses to list the effects of the various items, or even give a definitive list of what items there are, presumably due to the unholy influence of NetHack (hey, I wonder if I'll get to play that before I'm done with this project?).

Full-featured version of yet another classic that I don't think anyone in their right mind would want to play, but it was fun enough, and as close as we've come to an "action" game that wasn't totally broken. It was a welcome change, after Klotski making my brain hurt.

*UPDATE: Actually, apparently, the QBasic version was called Nibbles as well. Apparently I remember wrong. If you can't trust Wikipedia, who can you trust?

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