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Playing Snake on the Nokia 3310

Playing Snake on the Nokia 3310

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A funny thing is happening at this year’s Mobile World Congress: a show defined by its future-facing announcements and innovations essentially ground to a halt to gawk at Nokia rewinding the clock a decade and a half with its launch of the Nokia 3310. The 2017 edition of that true classic of a mobile phone stays faithful in almost all respects to the original. It’s devastatingly simple, adding only a handful of useful functions — like a calculator, flashlight, media player, and camera — to the basic capabilities of texting and making calls. Oh, and it plays Snake.

Snaaaaaaaake!

Okay, that’s the wrong Snake. But seriously, this Nokia nostalgia trip is one of the highlights of this year’s MWC, so being the responsible journalist that I am, I joined the throngs trying to get their hands on the new-old phone and try its new-old game.

First thing to be said is that this is only a distant cousin of the original Snake. This version, made by Gameloft, sees a fatter, more colorful snake that’s no longer familiar with 90-degree turns and takes big, long arcs instead. The graphics are deliberately blocky and look very good for it. But this is still a modern reinterpretation of a classic rather than the classic itself. While that runs counter to the concept of the 3310 — which is a reversal to simpler times and a rejection of modern life’s excess complexity — it still makes for an enjoyable game.

Photo by Phil Esposito / The Verge

There are a number of segmented, timed levels of increasing difficulty, which I didn’t enjoy much on my first time playing through. But the survival mode is the one closest to the old test of endurance and patience that we all know and love. I liked it. It was still different from the original, but also plenty of fun.

This phone will make you smile, whether or not you were a fan of the original

There are bombs, moving walls, and other obstacles to avoid, plus there’s a scissors "power-down," which cuts you (in a good way!) and slows down the pace. The gradually increasing speed and length of the snake are the biggest challenges to negotiate, though I’m not sure that "cut yourself to survive" is really the message we want to be sending to impressionable young minds.

All kidding aside, I was half-anticipating this whole thing, the Nokia 3310 and its particular flavor of Snake, to be a cynical exploitation ploy to cash in on people’s fond memories of youth. But I’m glad to say that is not the case. Both the phone and the game are quirkily charming — easily the most adorable new tech we’ve seen at MWC.

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