|PS4, XB1, Switch, PC
It’s pretty safe to say that all platformers have one major thing in common – they all have legs. Of course it makes sense when you really think about it, how can you traverse platforms without the one thing that would be key in doing so? Snake Pass may well be the first platformer I’ve played where our lead hero has zero legs. In fact he’s as the title suggests, a snake. How on earth could this possssssibly work? (Apologies that will be the only snake related joke I make here).
A bold, unique idea would always be an area of concern especially with a genre I hold so near and dear but when you have the talented crew at Sumo Digital behind the wheel it certainly helps put your mind at ease. Responsible for a list of fantastic games like the Sonic & All-Stars Racing series, Outrun 2 and even helping on titles like Virtua Tennis 3, Disney Infinity 3.0 and Forza Horizon 2, Snake Pass marks the studios first real attempt at an IP of their own. The story of how this project came to be is both a heart-warming and fascination one and I urge you all to go read or watch interviews on the web. How is the game though?
Snake Pass sees you controlling a snake across fifteen levels each with their own group of collectables tucked away in increasingly tougher places. It’ll take some time to get your head around how the snake Noodle controls with the analogue moving his body left to right, the right trigger moving him, the left tensing and gripping him and the A button raising his head. If it sounds fiddly it certainly does feel that way at times. It’s the video game equivalent of rubbing your stomach and patting your head. Just as you see snakes in real life though, the key to gaining strong momentum is by moving his body left to right. Likewise climbing poles isn’t just a case of slithering your way up but instead coiling around to provide yourself with enough support and making use of your gripping ability. Snake Pass gains extra marks for having you completely rethink how you tackle simple obstacles that in other platformers you’d just jump over. Here you’ll need to take your time and actually think like a snake.
The game has four worlds each with an element as their theme. The water world has you focus on swimming, the fire avoiding burning coals and the final world floating using strong gales. Bamboo poles are a constant throughout your adventure and start off as simple as a single pole no higher than Noodle’s raised head to giant spinning windmills. The variety of ideas on display may not be on the level of say a Mario title but are enough to carry you through to the closing credits for sure.
Fifteen levels may not seem like an awful lot but the slower pace of the game will easily see you clocking in five or so hours your first time through. Every stage has three keystones that must be found to unlock a portal to the next level. Optional items also include five well-hidden coins and plenty of Wisps. Chances are you won’t find everything on your first playthrough and offers incentive to come back and clean up.
Snake Pass almost feels and looks like a forgotten Gamecube title thanks to its adorable charm and quirky gameplay. It’s exactly the sort of game I’m hoping we see more of on the Switch. The visuals are bright and very cartoon-like with music channelling a strong tribal theme. I must admit I was a little disappointed in this area especially given the legendary David Wise is the one responsible for it.
Sadly Snake Pass isn’t without its bigger faults. The camera is a little sketchy moving to an awkward position at the worst possible moment. There were plenty of times I slipped off a pole or moved Noodle to the wrong angle because the camera simply wasn’t playing ball. Checkpoints too start off fairly forgiving in the game but later become far less frequent and far more frustrating. Throw in the fact that any collected items are lost if you plummet to your death and you have the perfect recipe for frustration. It actively put me off risking it all for a coin hanging on the edge of a bamboo pole.
The frame rate (at least on the Switch version) can also take a hit especially during some of the later more complicated levels. It’s not game breaking, but for a game that isn’t exactly a visual powerhouse you’d certainly expect better especially on new hardware.
A little more variety in environments would have also been appreciated. While there are small visual tweaks here and there between worlds bottom line is they are all jungle themed. It would have been cool to visit a factory or beach or anything other else.
Of course these are all things that could easily be rectified with a future sequel and I 100% hope this game performs well enough to justify one. Snake Pass has a lot of good ideas and is like nothing else out there right now.
Sumo Digital’s first attempt at an original IP is a strong one full of potential for future sequels. While their work with other publishers has always been strong Snake Pass proves the company is more than capable of bringing their own ideas to the table and here’s hoping we see more original stuff form them in the near future.