App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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A few months ago, a game called Fallen of the Round caught my attention because of how it incorporated elements of auto-chess into a single-player roguelike experience to marvelous effect. SNKRX similarly asks players to mix and match sets of units in what is otherwise a roguelike dungeon-crawler that uses snake game mechanics. The result is a deep and rich replayable action game that you'll be sure to enjoy despite a few quirks.
Slither and shed
You know the classic game snake? The one where you control a line (representing a snake) and eat up little dots to grow longer, with the goal being not to hit anything? That's the foundation upon which SNKRX is built, but there are so many changes to it that make it feel extremely different despite looking and controlling similarly. SNKRX is a progression of 25 levels where your goal is to "build" the best snake possible for surviving in arenas packed with waves of pill-shaped enemies.
The only way to grow or revamp your snake is in a store you gain access to between levels, where you can spend gold on buying different nodes. Some might shoot projectiles, others might curse enemies with certain effects. There are some that even heal your snake if it takes damage or help you earn more gold as you play. You can also run into walls or enemies without dying immediately, though maintaining a smooth line and avoiding damage is ideal for keeping your run alive.
The amount of nodes you can mix and match in SNKRX is a little overwhelming at first. To help guide you, each one is categorized into certain archetypes, and creating sets of matching archetypes can trigger additional bonuses for your snake. For example, if you have multiple "rogue" nodes on your snake, your chance for critical strikes with increased damage goes up. You're also rewarded for buying multiple copies of the same node, as matching three identical nodes levels them up into a more powerful version of themselves.
Keeping these building mechanics in mind, your goal is to find some combination of archetypes that works best for surviving ever more difficult enemy sets while being careful to maintain an amount of gold that allows you to continue to get stronger as you go. This should all sound familiar to any auto-chess players, as these systems are straight out of the genre playbook. They work surprisingly well here, creating a depth of strategy and tactics that is practically irresistible.
Stopping and starting
In terms of difficulty, SNKRX is somewhat hard to pin down. Most runs feel full of super-easy levels until you get to the one where things go south really quickly. Some of this can be due to poor planning and bad unit synergies catching up to you, but sometimes you also just position yourself badly, lose some key nodes too quickly, and can't recover. It takes both some good snake steering and careful build planning to make it through to the end of a run. Speaking of which, successful runs of SNKRX unlock a new game plus mode that makes the game harder while allowing you to purchase more nodes, so there is a reason to keep playing after beating it once.
I find SNKRX immensely satisfying from both a strategic and arcade action experience. My only gripe with it though is that it consistently fails to unsuspend itself if I switch apps to return to it later. The game simply freezes up and the only way to fix it is to force close the app and restart it. Luckily, SNKRX is fantastic about auto-saves so I have never lost progress, though it's still an annoying thing to deal with regardless.
The bottom line
SNKRX grows on you the more you play it. As you become more comfortable with the unit types and how to manage your gold, you start pushing the skill ceiling higher and higher, eventually unlocking more nodes and learning how to juggle a longer snake against harder enemies. It's a classic feedback loop that works really well and compels you to keep playing, even if you have to occasionally deal with an annoying bug to do so.