By: Derek Yu

On: July 10th, 2015

Serpentes, by Benjamin Soulé

Serpentes is a fantastic take on the classic Snake game where you eat fruit to extend your length and have to avoid running into walls or yourself. Created by Benjamin Soulé, the developer behind those great Pico-8 carts, Serpentes adds a clever twist to the formula: fruits are given a number of random properties each time you play that are unlocked by collecting them. As you can see in the above screenshot, half the screen is taken up by a grid that displays the properties of each fruit. Collecting a fruit once will unlock the fruit’s score, followed by the length the fruit adds to your snake, followed by a negative effect, followed by a positive one. Finally, if you collect enough of one fruit to make it to the final, fifth column, you can unlock some powerful, permanent effects like a tail that shoots lasers, as well as a few tricky mini-games that can boost your score astronomically.

It captures the spirit of the original Snake perfectly by making the player the architect of his or her own demise, and then dials it up to eleven. Once you’ve reached the fifth column, collecting fruits adds some serious chaos to the play area, and a good short-term memory and reflexes are required to keep it manageable without running down the timer. You’ll constantly want to glance over to the right to figure out which fruit to collect, but that distraction can mean life or death as the game progresses.

The only thing marring Serpentes as it currently stands is an occasional crash bug that involves the laser not being able to find its target (possibly because it was killed by something else). It kinda sucks because when you have the laser, it means you’re doing pretty well. Thankfully, the timer is short and you can try a free demo to see if it ruins your play experience. The demo is like the full game except that you can only select one snake power on the title screen instead of two. Hopefully, this bug will be fixed sometime in the near future.

UPDATE: The bug has been fixed in version 1.1, which you can download from the same link!

  • Raigan Burns

    I really wish there was a guide to all the rules and powerups. I’m a bit confused about what the shield does and doesn’t protect against (it doesn’t protect against the saw); also I have no idea what the pickaxe does. Still, amazing — great find! :)

  • mtarini

    @Raigan Burns the Pickaxe destroys one (or a few? not sure) static blocks.

    Great little game. I bought the full version because it gave me easily enough fun-time with the demo to repay its tiny price. Interesting schema of differentiating demo and full versions, BTW.


    This is a minor criticism, but…

    while the demo was great, I was a little disappointed by the extra “content” I was… (very indirectly) given access to in the full version. (explanation: the full version lets you collect enough points, if you try hard enough, to unlock a few new gifts — while the demo requires superhuman skills to do so).

    A few of the gifts are nice, but I think that with a little effort this could have been made to scale a lot more: with game-changing gifts, which would allow drastic score improvements, which would unlock new gifts, etc. The only time when this happens is early on, with the gift swapping the bad and good column. It could have happened (and I expected it to happen) a few other times.

    The worst was unlocking that gift which…


    …makes you start with all the 1st line of effect revealed, which looks like a sound disadvantage rather than an bonus.

    Still quite happy with this game! Quite well balanced too.


    Here is a suggestion for the author: it would be nice it the snake had a limited power to pause, which would be precious for the player to glance at the effect grid (especially toward the end-game). It could work like this: by keeping pressed the direction key opposite to the current movement (an action currently doing nothing), the snake and all things stop moving (except maybe candies), possibly with a graphical effect of bouncing back and forth at high-freq, as if the snake is struggling with this. After max 3 seconds, clearly counted down (“beep – beep – BEEP”), all movements resume. Activating this consumes a “stop-time” token (alarm clock icon): you start with none, but you gain one as a new (positive) fruit effect. E.g. the current plus-one-fruit, effect could be replaced with this one.

  • Raigan Burns

    @mtarini: thanks!

    I would really appreciate a regular “pause” button, as games can last quite long. (the matrix on the right would be hidden while paused to discourage cheating)