Off The Grid: Snapshot

Off The Grid: Snapshot

Not one for the Album. By Zachary Brictson.

A bashful robot holds a camera that stores up to three images, each magically containing the physical contents of his pictures. Capturing objects through this fantastical flash photography, he uses them to platform across a plethora of 2D environmental puzzles. It’s a novel concept, a sort of cut-and-paste leapfrog, and holds mischievous potential.

But Snapshot can’t afford to be overly ambitious. Understandably, the camera’s capabilities are limited, so game-breaking strategies like moving the finish line to your feet are out of the question. To keep the number of possible solutions under control, the game is very clear about what objects can and can’t be manipulated. In effect, Snapshot’s puzzles are practically solved for you.

Its prototypical challenge is asking you to create your own platform, a basic task staged in various iterations throughout the game. Sometimes it will be a crate, sometimes you’ll pan the level to find an elephant, and use it to the same effect. Or capture portions of a cloud and paste them over a lethal pit of spikes. The gimmicks change but lead to the same mental gymnastics.

Complexities arise with the introduction of momentum and physics, such as snapping photos of fiery ammunition leaving cannons, or capturing jet streams of wind. Pasting these forces elsewhere can push a crate you need out of a no-photo zone, for example. Once the crate is pushed out, it’s a hop, skip and a jump, and puzzle solved.

That is, if you want it to be. Tiny collectible stars and artifacts lay strewn about each environment, and gathering these items at high speeds will yield higher scores. But it’s a process that hardly demands wit, only mastery over unwieldy controls during situations of high accuracy platforming.

Any mistake sends you back to the beginning of the level, and such irritation lays bare the real absurdity of Snapshot. Where crossing the finish would be a mere victory over juvenile logic, acing the level is triumph over clumsy design. The former isn’t worth the time, the latter not the effort.

But it’s a photogenic game, and the crunching snap of a point and shoot camera is such a gratifying sound of machinery. It’s fun. Not so much when you discover you had the lens cap on the entire time, and that’s ultimately how Snapshot feels. Pointless.

Zachary Brictson is a Computer Science graduate from Northern Illinois University who chooses to write about games rather than code them, contributing to physical publications like The Printed Blog, sites such as Playstation Universe, and his own blog, Up Magic.