Above Snakes Review – Stardew Valley or Undead Nightmare?

Above Snakes is built on a few great ideas and creative concepts, but fails to really capture them in the execution.
Above Snakes Promotional Art
Image: Square Glade Games

Above Snakes is an open-world survival craft western where the undead haunt the plains, prairies, and desert hills of the player’s own design. Nobody can deny that Above Snakes is a unique game, just that short description alone sets it apart from pretty much anything you’ll find on Steam right now. Though creativity is in no short supply, the game lacks some real polish that keeps it from fully executing its intended vision and really feels like more of a proof of concept than a full-fledged game.

To understand what Above Snakes should be, we first have to talk about what it is. The game is set in the old west, with a twist of the supernatural as a green meteor crashes into the town of Corpse Creek and brings the dead to life. It’s up to the protagonist Aiyana to survive the outbreak and discover the fate of her missing mother.

Combining the Wild West with supernatural horror elements is a surefire recipe for success. The combination is palpably flavorful, the two just mesh together so well. My opinion might be warped by getting to play Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare expansion at a young age, but it’s a combination I absolutely adore. I actually run a haunted west-style D&D setting of my own design featuring vampires, zombies, demons, and the like — So Above Snakes should have been right up my alley.

Above Snakes Corpse Creek
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I was pretty excited after the initial cutscene set up the zombie aspect of the game. When it comes right down to it, however, Above Snakes’ supernatural elements aren’t that interesting? Combat with the zombies is basic to a fault, you don’t really do anything besides swing your weapon at them and try not to get hit. They don’t come in super huge waves, and the game doesn’t seem to have any base defense mechanics — An odd choice when you combine zombies and base building.

Also, the zombies in Above Snakes don’t seem to.. fit in? The models of the zombies appear, at least to me, to be assets purchased before the rest of the game came together. They wear t-shirts, jeans, and have different head shapes and color choices than the rest of the characters in the game. They feel jarring to look at every time they come on screen, which made them feel alien and distracting in a way that didn’t do the game any favors.

Above Snakes Zombie Encounter
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Above Snakes sits at this sort of weird place where the inclusion of zombies is its most thematically interesting element, and also its most boring mechanic. I really would have liked to see this pulled off better, as you can probably tell by the coming up on 500 words I’ve dedicated just to talking about this game’s zombie problem. Failing to execute on the “Weird West” setting the game has sort of falls into a bigger problem I’ll get into later in this review.

Aiyana survives in this lackluster apocalypse by skirting the edges of civilization. Survival crafting is the main gameplay loop, pushing you to gather supplies by taming the American wilderness around you and shaping your harvested resources into tools, structures, and meals. The game has an isometric style, where you view your character from the top down on a grid-based world.

You’ll learn to build through the game’s short tutorial segment, taking place just after the meteor strikes. This segment features you building a house for your then-neighbor, Jo-Ann. I only bring this part up because I built this lady a whole new house, and the next day she takes off in a stagecoach and abandons my freshly built cabin. How utterly ungrateful.

The most interesting mechanic in Above Snakes is the ability to create the map yourself. Each grid on the world is a biome piece that must be discovered and placed by you, allowing you to shape the map how you wish. This creative mechanic is unlike anything else I’ve seen in a survival craft game, and I had a lot of fun with it initially.

Above Snakes Isometric Expansion
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Unfortunately, as you get used to the game — and you will quickly — things sort of start to fall apart. The survival craft mechanics, though solid, are very bare bones. There isn’t anything really to do outside of the gameplay loops of “Collect resource A to unlock Biome B, then collect resource B to unlock Biome C.” Mechanics like fishing, quests, and as I said above, combat, just aren’t fleshed out or interesting enough to keep your attention as you discover new biomes.

The world also feels empty, even as you begin to populate it with new biomes full of trees and survivors. Interacting with the few npcs present in the game is.. odd. None of them talk like real people, and they certainly don’t speak like western cowpoke, and most of them are good for nothing more than a fetch quest or two.

Above Snakes Strange Npcs
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The bigger problem I alluded to earlier is that Above Snakes doesn’t seem to know how to use the tools in its toolbox. Survival crafting, map creation, and Weird-West zombie apocalypse are all amazing foundations for the game to be built on, but it kind of feels like the devs fumbled with the execution. At the very least, the game feels unfinished, like they had a great idea and just never really got off the ground with it.

The game also fails to capture the feeling of what it’s supposed to be. This zombie-ridden Western apocalypse isn’t even marketed the way you would think it would be, featuring promotional art that gives the vibe of a whimsical, relaxing nature game. It almost feels like the game has an identity crisis, unsure if it wants to be Stardew Valley or Undead Nightmare.

Above Snakes Mint Gathering
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I think Above Snakes needs more time in the oven. Unfortunately, the game is not an early access title, having its full release on the 25th. I’m not sure how much the devs can improve the game with quality-of-life patches, as certain fundamental systems need complete reworks or large-scale expansions, but I am interested to see if the game can, one day, execute on the promise of what it should be.

The Final Word

Above Snakes is a game that needs a bit more than what it has. While it is far from unplayable, this perfectly average experience might fail to capture your attention and live up to the strong ideas it’s built upon.


Above Snakes was reviewed on the PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Above Snakes is available on Steam and the Humble Store.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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