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If you were bracing yourself for a slew of April Fools’ Day pranks on the internet on Monday, well, here’s one that at least deserves your attention: Google Maps incorporated a version of the classic Snake game into its app.
It’s not a joke, but it’s a twist on the original arcade game from the ’70s that became a popular Nokia mobile phone feature in the ’90s: Instead of a snake, you’re maneuvering public transport like trains across different cities around the world. The goal is to pick up as many passengers as you can and pass through famous landmarks without running off the map or into your own vehicle, as this will end the game.
Google Maps’ Snake: How to play
You’ll know your Google Maps app has the Snake Easter egg when, upon opening the app, the menu icon on the upper left-hand corner moves the way a snake would. It doesn’t immediately announce that the game is there. Tap the icon and that’s when you’ll find “Play Snake” on the menu. (You may need to update to the latest version of the app if you don’t find it there.)
Once you start the game, you’ll be prompted to “Choose a destination.” There are six city options: San Francisco, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Cairo, and São Paulo. There’s also a World option. The public transportation featured in the game looks like the passenger trains found in the respective cities, except for San Francisco’s cable car and London’s red double-decker bus.
After selecting a city, a quick note on how the game is played appears (as if we needed to be told—although it’s good to note that this time you have to swipe your smartphone screen). As you begin picking up passengers, your vehicle gets longer. The train moves a bit faster than in the original Snake game, and it’s much bigger in relation to the space you have to navigate it within the 8-bit map, so it might take some getting used to the interface.
Rather than tickle our funny bones, this game seems intended to trigger a sense of wanderlust. I tried all the different Snake maps just to find out which tourist spots are included in each; I spotted the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Cairo Citadel, and Sydney Tower Eye. The World map included different destinations around the globe, like Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai, Pyramid of Khufu (also known as the Great Pyramid of Giza) in Egypt, Big Ben in London, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Oh, and passing through each of these gives the player extra points.
Google Maps is giving us our “daily dose of ’90s nostalgia” on the app all week, according to Google’s blog post on Sunday: “Snake on Google Maps starts rolling out worldwide on Android and iOS today, and will be live in the app for about a week.”
And since Google anticipates that users will likely get addicted to the fun game (again) or that some might not have the app on their smartphone, the company created a standalone site where users can keep playing on their phone or desktop web browser, “long after April Foolsss is over,” Google Maps Product Manager Omar Abdelaziz quipped on the post. In the desktop version, players can control their train using the arrow keys on their keyboard.
We really hope the website version stays for a longer time because it’s definitely addictive, much like the original game.
This isn’t the first time Google Maps has incorporated a beloved game into the app and offered browser version for a limited time starting on April Fools’ Day. Just last year, users could search for Waldo and his friends on the maps, while in 2014, players could hunt for Pokémon. In 2015, the maps were turned into a game of Pac-Man.
April Fools’ Day obviously being the internet’s favorite holiday, Google also released other “features” today apart from Maps’ Snake, like a “screen cleaner” in the Files app, Google Tulip which lets you speak to the flowers via Google Home in the Netherlands, and Google Japan’s “spoon bending” for Gboard.
Trixie Reyna-Benedicto is a lifestyle editor and writer based in the Philippines. Previously, she helmed Cosmopolitan Philippines’ website, Cosmo.ph, as its founding editor. She later served as editor-in-chief of lifestyle and entertainment portals for Manila-based media company TV5. Her work has appeared in several print and online publications in her country, and she contributes to Speed Magazine, DG Traveler, and Connected Women, among others. Visit her website, trixiereyna.com.