As soon as I see a screenshot of a game that features a bright and colourful world, I’m instantly drawn in. There’s just something about them that reminds me of playing video games when I was younger and visiting the plethora of vivid worlds that feature in the many platformers of yesteryear – my favourite genre to play through back in the good ol’ days.
Naturally then Snake Pass appealed to me from the get go. Have you seen it? It’s a bright, imaginative platformer that is absolutely oozing with charming colour. Except Snake Pass isn’t your conventional platformer: there are no enemies to defeat, there are no damsels in distress to save, and, most shockingly of all, there is no jump button to mash on. What it is though is one of the most innovative and enticing (and at times frustrating) adventures I’ve played through in some time.
Snake Pass puts you in the role of Noodle, a slippery snake who always seems to have a dopey looking smile on his face, as he ventures through his homeland of Haven Tor. His goal? To retrieve some mystical keystones and return them to the many portals throughout the land for reasons that are slightly unclear, but don’t really matter when it’s so much fun to do so. Noodle won’t be alone on his journey though, with his hummingbird best friend Doodle joining him and dishing out plenty of advice and tips along the way. It’s not the most innovative of premises for a platformer, but it does its job in offering an adventure for our heroes to set out on.
Of course, given that you’re a snake with no legs or arms, Snake Pass controls a lot differently to your standard platformer. You’ll have to hold down a shoulder button to start slithering forward, with Noodle picking up momentum by sliding back and fore in zig-zags as he makes his way across the ground. I’ve already mentioned there’s no jump button in the game, but this is countered by having Noodle able to lift his head to nudge over objects in the environment and lift himself atop of them. It’s also used for climbing too, with Noodle able to slither his way up objects as long as he has something to wrap himself around along the way. It’s certainly a unique way to venture across the many levels of the game, but it feels incredibly intuitive and works really well.
Noodle’s long stature and lack of limbs means he has to find different means to climb objects, though thankfully the game’s physics allow him to utilise his flexible frame in a manner of different ways. Most climbable objects in the game are made of bamboo poles, allowing the player to latch Noodle around them in order to climb up. It’s a fairly easy process to begin with, but it’s not long before Snake Pass introduces incredibly tough obstacles to work through that push both your skills and your patience to their limits.
See, whilst the initial bamboo structures are simple and just require a few flicks of the analogue stick to climb over, they eventually end up hanging over dangerous hazards, featuring switches and levers, moving freely whilst Noodle is still attached, and eventually being so complicated in design that that it’s tough to simply keep track of where exactly you have to go. Snake Pass certainly keeps testing the player as they progress through the game, offering a difficulty level that ensures that things never start to get boring. It means there’s a real sense of satisfaction to be found from clearing a section of climbing that seemed impossible to begin with though, and it’s a feeling that’ll occur over and over again right until the very end of the game.
There are a few moments where you won’t be able to help but to get agitated though. Take the camera controls for example, which don’t follow Noodle as he makes these daring climbs but instead constantly needs to be manually controlled by the player. Whilst this isn’t new in 3D platformers, the fact that there’s a great emphasis on carefully positioning Noodle in the game means that it’s often awkward to concentrate on using both analogue sticks at the same time. Noodle’s slippery frame means that there’s not much room for error either, with one wrong move seeing all of your hard work climbing gone to waste; something that’s incredibly frustrating when it can see you losing not only your progress but any of the insanely difficult to reach collectibles you earned along the way too. The tricky physics come part and parcel with the game though – if they weren’t there it’d be far too easy to make your way across Snake Pass’ fifteen levels, so the challenge is generally a satisfying one. Still, it doesn’t mean you won’t be left feeling frustrated at times though…
Throughout Snake Pass you’ll come across plenty of collectibles, with the aforementioned keystones, a selection of wisps, and five tough to reach Gatekeeper coins hidden throughout each level. It’s compulsory to collect all of the keystones in a level, though the wisps and Gatekeeper coins are optional – they’re satisfying to find though, with the Gatekeeper coins in particular really putting your slithering skills to the test. There are also the unlockable time trials that challenge you to complete each of the game’s levels in as quick a time as possible, adding a sense of replayability to the game for those who like to try and set records. There’s certainly plenty to do in Snake Pass, so you won’t be finished with it too quickly.
It’s a good job that Snake Pass is such a collect-a-thon though, especially since gameplay doesn’t vary up too much throughout each of the levels. There are only fifteen levels in total that are spread across four environments, so there’s not a whole lot of diversity in what you’re doing. Sure, you eventually earn the ability to swim deep underwater and will be solving simple physics puzzles, but the game as a whole never seems to vary itself up too much – it’s just all climb, climb, climb. It’s not necessarily a bad thing per se given that the platforming physics are top notch and the game never stops being fun, but it might leave some players with an unsatisfied platforming itch.
One thing I really loved about Snake Pass was the stunningly vibrant visual style it featured. It’s absolutely full to the brim with charming personality – all of the characters constantly have a smile on their face and seem as though they’re happy to be in this colourful world… well… unless it’s Noodle falling to his death in one of the game’s many hazards, though even then he let’s out an incredibly adorable yelp. Everything about Snake Pass’ aesthetic simply screams nostalgia; whilst it has certainly got a gorgeous modern lick of paint, I can’t help but to reminisce about wonderful worlds seen in titles like ‘Banjo Kazooie’, ‘Crash Bandicoot’, and ‘Spyro the Dragon’. It’s just an absolute pleasure to see all of the game’s visually-pleasing sights whilst slithering through the world.
Snake Pass offers a charming and intuitive adventure that feels unlike any platformer I’ve ever played before. When slithering through the world as Noodle it really feels like you’re controlling this cute little snake – it has such an unorthodox approach in comparison to your typical platformer, but it ensures that gameplay feels uniquely enjoyable. It’s also incredibly beautiful too, with a luscious vibrant world that’s a pleasure to explore.
There are a few frustrating moments along the way though, such as with the awkward camera controls and the fact that the gameplay never diversifies itself too much; I hope you like climbing because you’ll be doing a lot of it in Snake Pass!
These flaws don’t stop Snake Pass being a really fun game though and one I can see myself coming back to time and time again in the future. Gotta’ get all those collectibles, right?!
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sumo Digital
Release Date: 28/03/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC