An elephant stands on a ledge high above you. As a diminutive robot with only the smallest hint of athleticism, clambering to such a lofty perch is an impossible task. Ah, but when you're armed with a magical camera, the insurmountable suddenly becomes second nature. Click the shutter to capture the elephant on your film, and you can then place it anywhere you desire. If you drop it beside you, you can leap upon its trampoline back to reach the ledge that seemed so far away just moments before. Snapshot builds upon this interesting photographic manipulation mechanic throughout this mind-teasing adventure, and the wealth of clever ideas continually presents new ways to use your toys. The pacing often slows down because the action is not as refined as the puzzles, but the joy of discovering fantastical uses for your camera keeps you pushing merrily along.
Happiness exudes from the colorful lands you roam in Snapshot. From the green forests to the wintry peaks, each place you visit has a cartoonish charm that urges you to explore. But there are moments for quiet contemplation as well. You meet the mechanical protagonist in an abandoned laboratory shrouded in cobwebs. Left alone, he ventures forth to explore a land in which intelligent life seems to have long since disappeared. A butterfly guides you up treacherous cliffs and across desolate wastelands, providing the only companionship on your long journey. The story is told in still photographs, and they do a great job of conveying the emotions your lost robot is feeling without using any dialogue.
Snapshot is a 2D platformer at its heart, but puzzle solving rather than locomotion is the key to progressing through levels. The basics are introduced in an easy-to-digest tutorial. Objects such as plants, animals, and crates can be captured by taking a picture of them, and then you can place them elsewhere in the environment to help you progress. It's a simple idea, and the early stages make it seem as if Snapshot is an easy adventure. You don't need much deductive reasoning to know that you need to place a crate next to a ledge to reach a new platform, so you breeze through the peaceful world taking in the sights without any stress.
However, Snapshot reveals its true colors quickly enough. Before long you realize that simply placing an item on the ground isn't always enough to progress. Sometimes you have to be more inventive. For instance, a plant provides a springboard to reach a towering ledge. But when you find yourself at the bottom of a deep hole, you realize that you can't possibly get out of it just by jumping off its leafy head. So you get creative. Take a picture of the plant while you're jumping off of it so it's in your inventory, and then place it directly below your feet as you fall down. By doing this, you can jump higher than you thought imaginable, and it only takes a bit of finessing to place that springy plant in the correct place.
Such novelty keeps you experimenting, forcing you to solve puzzles in oddball ways. Placing a still snowball on a level landing means it isn't going to move an inch. But if you take a picture of the snowball after you give it a hearty shove, you can keep that momentum when you place it on a ledge. Or maybe you need to tweak the position of a key in midair so it slides directly into a lock when you drop it. Because puzzles require you to manipulate your items in a variety of ways, you're forced to take stock of the situation before rushing in. And because every set of levels introduces a new mechanic, there are lots of different objects to mess around with.
The stream of new ideas ensures you never grow bored in Snapshot, but it's not all roses and sunshine. Death means restarting each level from the beginning, and because your robotic hero isn't the most gifted athlete, it's easy to miss a jump and plummet into a bed of spikes. Restarting from scratch isn't inherently bad, but it does go against Snapshot's strength. Solving problems is where this platformer shines, and once you know what you have to do, there's little joy in performing that task again. Finicky physics mean that death often comes at frustrating moments. You may need to turn an item to a specific angle to make use of it, but the physics often work against such precision. Dying because you were a hair off in your placement of a springboard is exhausting, sapping much of the fun of progressing.
These issues hinder the simple pleasure of existing in this world, and they become even more problematic when you attempt to complete bonus objectives.. Each level has a par time, and you earn a commendation if you can reach the finish line below that mark. But sprinting full speed through these stages makes it clear how limited the controls are. Trying to capture and place objects while sprinting is a frustrating endeavor. Thankfully, the other bonus tasks are more enjoyable. A special item is hidden in each level, and scouring the environment to find it gives you new appreciation for how clever object manipulation can let you reach new places. And there are star bits to collect as well, enticing you to search every nook and cranny for wayward pieces.
At its best moments, Snapshot is a delightful adventure. The variety of ways in which you use items makes you continually think up new ideas, and some are so silly that it's hard not to smile. From bouncy elephants to telekinetic monkeys, Snapshot continually presents crazy situations. But there are some rocky moments that interrupt this gleeful fun. The gift of patience is as important as a knack for problem solving in Snapshot, so if you can accept the finicky physics and sometimes iffy controls, there's an engaging adventure to discover.