Snapshot is exactly like all of that, except way cuter and not at all like that.
What Snapshot does have in common with Instagram is its photography foundation: It turns taking a picture into a pivotal mechanic in an otherwise classic platformer. Also like Instagram, Snapshot is incredibly addictive. Snapshot follows PIC – whom I've come to call "Pico" when playing – an adorable robot, as he side-scrolls through various woods and valleys collecting stars. The goal is familiar, as is the charming, tinkling music every time PIC reaches a star. At one point he comes to a suggestively curved ramp and I expected him to curl into a ball and roll forward at super-speed – he didn't, obviously, but I'd rather have stars than gold rings anyway.
Levels consist of three stages, and stages consist of various completion challenges. The camera captures certain objects that can then be displaced and used as platforms, bouncy areas and other means of navigation. With this mechanic, each stage has the straightforward "reach the glowing end-point" challenge, as well as a hidden object achievement and a time trial, among other secrets. Conquering one of these challenges can mean neglecting another, adding heaps of replayability to each stage. There are more than 100 levels and four distinct settings throughout the game.
Aside from some strategically blacked out areas, the camera can take photos of the entire setting, but only some objects are movable via this photosynthesis. Players take pictures of crates, platforms, elephants, bouncy plants and other assets, which disappear to a gallery and can be re-placed in more helpful areas. Many of the maps resemble mazes and the path is oftentimes riddled with seemingly impassable ridges, blockades and systems, making Snapshot a puzzle platformer first and a photography trainer second.
Snapshot is graphically reminiscent of Offspring Fling, another game belonging to Retro Affect's Kyle Pulver. His art style is cartoonish, but in a full, finished sense that adds depth to the background and gives his characters touches of cuteness in the right places. PIC, for instance, holds his antennae when he ducks under barriers and holds up a hand to rock out when he completes a level. This may not enhance the actual gameplay, but it makes the entire experience more memorable. After all, no one remembers Hello Kitty because she jumps really high.
Snapshot stays true to its title, making players think like a photographer as well as a gamer. The hidden-object challenge in each map causes a shift from spatial reasoning to unbounded curiosity. Instead of seeing the crate that will help PIC get to the finish line, players see an item that seems conspicuously out-of-place, such as a oil barrel tangled in the greenery (no wonder artists are so depressed).
Snapshot is dense, with addictive mechanics and an adorable protagonist. Retro Affect was founded to create Snapshot, and it's been a long process, but finally the team has a game to intrigue a broad swathe of the platforming population, in time trials, completion goals, secret objects and straight-up puzzles. And best of all – it's only $10 on Steam.
This article is based on a download of Snapshot, provided by Retro Affect. Snapshot is available on Steam now for $10.