A lot has been written about the snark, but nobody actually knows what one looks like. We at Alawar Entertainment decided to devote an entire project to the elusive creature. The result is Snark Busters: Welcome to the Club.

Have YOU seen a Snark?

Here’s a little insight into the history of the term. The word “snark” is a combination of the English words “snake” and “shark.” Try to imagine such a beast! The good news is it doesn’t exist in our reality, only in Lewis Carroll’s world behind the looking glass. The author of Alice in Wonderland was the first person to mention the creature in his famous poem, The Hunting of the Snark.

According to Carroll, there are different kinds of snarks, including snarks with whiskers and snarks with feathers. Also, they love to sleep and scratch themselves, and when they see a human, they immediately vanish. They’re also notoriously difficult to catch. Once, a team of nine strange fellows and a beaver set off to capture a snark, but they failed, inspiring us to create a game packed with clever absurdity and fun twists.

Our game designers began a risky venture (especially for a casual game) and created a new world from the ground up. The environments in Snark Busters look very much like Victorian England; however, people use very little electricity, no one cares about oil, and all of the machines require fire and steam to operate.

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Sci-fi fans will probably say, “You’re talking about steampunk!” And they’ll be right. There exists within the realm of science fiction a subgenre called steampunk. Kevin Jeter, an American science fiction and horror writer, created it as a spoof of cyberpunk. Countless books and even movies take place in steampunk worlds, such as the wonderful Steamboy There are even entire festivals in which people dress in Victorian cosplay, or steampunk, clothes. Strangely, game developers have shown little interest in employing this unique setting in their titles. With the exception of the now ancient Arcanum, I can’t think of a single title set in a steampunk world. Correct me if I’m wrong.[Gamezebo: we can add The Clockwork Man to the list.]

The other side of the looking glass

Our primary goal was to create a living game world with all of the necessary trimmings, paying close attention to the minor details and polishing our steampunk reality to shiny perfection before populating it with characters.

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Please don’t think all of the action takes place in aristocratic mansions and on well-manicured British lawns. Snark Busters is filled with fantastical scenery, from mammoth cities with towering skyscrapers and giant zeppelins hovering over them, to floating islands, to several surreal locations. Also, the sun is a rare commodity in a steampunk world, so we show skyscrapers piercing thick clouds of smoke and steam, and heavy smog that hides a blue sky no one ever sees.

While that might sound dreary, that time period had a charm all its own. We spent a considerable amount of time creating luxurious interiors in the Victorian style and packing every screen with unique handmade items. In our game, even a simple wall clock has a strange appeal. We created these objects using the components of which steampunk worlds are made, including pipes, gears, levers, gauges, and other things.

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Everything had to adhere to the steampunk aesthetic, including the clothes the characters wore. Men of that age preferred formal and somewhat stiff clothes, while women wore jackets that accentuated their waists, long skirts, and blouses with elaborate lacework. Kira, the main character in Snark Busters, is the only exception. Being an emancipated young lady, she prefers comfortable pants to stiff crinoline, as they’re more practical. She also likes working with metal, and at the beginning of the game has already invented a number of intriguing devices. Maybe that’s why the unseen members of the Snark Busters Club invited Kira to join their ranks?

Kira in Wonderland

Snark Busters is a sci-fi quest featuring elements of the hidden object genre. The player interacts with objects on the screen by moving his or her mouse cursor and clicking his or her mouse button. On each game screen, the player must assemble five items by finding their fragments, which are split into anywhere from four to eight pieces. If you’ve played one of our Magic Encyclopedia games, you’re familiar with this method.

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The fragments hidden on the screen might be readily visible or hidden until the players performs a specific action, such as using a pair of scissors to cut a bag and finding a fragment of an object inside. Fragments can move along with the objects on or in which they are hidden. For example, if a fragment is attached to an anchor, the player still won’t be able to see the fragment when he or she lowers the anchor.

Once the player has assembled an object, he or she can use it on another object in the scene. As a result, another part of the object might be revealed; a mini-game might appear; the state of the scene, or another scene in the same chapter, might change; or a new object might be added to the player’s inventory.

The adventure plays out across several chapters comprised of interrelated scenes through which the player can freely move. Not only that, but the actions of the player in one scene can affect the state of another scene. That’s why Kira must frequently assess her situation and thoroughly explore her surroundings, combing through all available scenes. To make this process easier, we added visual tips that show how a scene has changed.

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The visual tips come in handy when Kira travels between the real world and the fantasy world behind a mirror. The latter world looks different; since it’s a reflection, it’s reversed, and the color scheme is blue, which is more ethereal. That’s where the snark lurks. The creature always leaves behind traces of itself in the mirror worlds, which are magically locked and can only be opened with a special key shaped like an exotic animal. In each chapter, Kira must find the key that unlocks the mirror leading to the next chapter.

Snark Busters: Welcome to the Club is finished and out there for the world to play, but we’re not resting on our laurels; rather, we’re talking about sequels and meeting with our colleagues who port our new games to the iPhone and iPad. Have we achieved all of our goals for the project? It’s too early to say; time and players feedback will tell.

However, we believe more than a few casual gamers will dare to embark on the craziest hunt in the history of literature. Remember how Carroll himself described it?

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;

They pursued it with forks and hope;

They threatened its life with a railway-share;

They charmed it with smiles and soap.