Not too long ago I started playing the indie developed adventure game Snakes of Avalon but initially didn’t get very far. The game was over for me when, after a few minutes in, the main character had a dialogue with a poster on the wall of a bar. The game seemed to be going in a weird, nonsensical direction and at that moment I didn’t have the patience to try to translate or understand what the developer was trying to accomplish.
Later, feeling guilty about my aborted session with Snakes of Avalon, I gave the game another shot and powered through the first bit of it, resigned to the fact that things were going to get weird and that perhaps I’d find meaning from it all later. You play as Jack, a drunk who is as much of a feature of the bar, Avalon, as its furniture. Jack changes states from dead drunk, to deliriously drunk, to slightly functional drunk, and to every level of inebriation in between. He argues with Avalon’s bartender, Bob, generally makes a nuisance of himself, contributes to Avalon’s filthy state, and fancies himself with strange delusions. In one of these delusions Jack decides that it’s his duty to intervene in the murderous plot he overhears being discussed by some shadowy patrons of the bar. In doing so he begins an alcohol fueled journey filled with dark self realization.
There’s a lot of symbolism in Snakes of Avalon, much of which I’ll avoid assigning meaning here to keep from spoiling the plot, but I love the dark turn the game takes, which serves to give the player a much better understanding of Jack and the roots of his self destructive ways.
Snakes of Avalon has a well constructed setting that makes the game seem bigger than it really is. You never really leave the bar – booze and Jack’s psyche does the traveling for you. Avalon’s single room is divided in its own way by use of shadow or hazy sections, making it appear to be a multi-faceted environment without extending far physically.
Moving to the southern end of the room brings you into a quiet, removed section of the establishment and introduces you to a manifestation of Jack’s ego – his good conscience in the form of a stuffed moose head.
A game with good, well-suited music will always win me over and Snakes of Avalon has a great soundtrack. The music emphasizes important moments by changing with different characters and scenes and overall gives the game a richness its minimal art style doesn’t always convey. Stylistically Snakes of Avalon is simply drawn but does just about everything it needs to show Avalon as a dirty, smelly, and possibly sticky-to-the-touch bar.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Snakes of Avalon which certainly wasn’t my expectation when I started the game. Its dark humor and interesting character development got me to play along with its eccentricities and move past my unfair initial judgment. Give the game a try, it’s a free download.