Review: Snake Pass
Snake Pass offers a unique approach to the collectathon platformers that it’s so clearly inspired by. Instead of jumping around huge worlds as any kind of character with feet, the game instead places you in control of a snake named Noodle. To traverse the world Noodle must slither around the environment and curl around bamboo poles. The result is a really interesting and unique method of control that, with practice, is a lot of fun and rewarding. Unfortunately, it’s also that same unique control system that can often lead to a good deal of frustration.
The setup in Snake Pass is simple enough, a mysterious intruder is threatening the peaceful balance that Harmony Hills currently enjoys and it’s up to Noodle and Doodle (Noodle’s hummingbird friend) to restore balance. Snake Pass is made up of 15 stages across 4 different worlds that aim to provide a large variety of challenges to slither and curl around. In each stage Noodle must collect the three gems that power each gate and, optionally, find the 20 blue orbs and 5 gold coins hidden throughout the environment. Stages are non-linear playgrounds with all sorts of obstacles to solve that will ultimately lead to any number of different collectibles. All of which, as you’d imagine, are specifically designed around Noodle’s slithering abilities. I’d also be remiss not to mention the soundtrack composed by David Wise (Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads, Diddy Kong Racing). Each song is genuinely great, just take a listen to a sample of it from this trailer.
Your control over Noodle involves forward movement, head control, and the ability to grip bamboo poles. Example: Noodle needs to get to a higher platform to collect one of the stage’s gems and to do so you’ll need to climb a bamboo ladder. Doing this requires aiming Noodle’s head upward, moving forward, and rotating the head in such a way that Noodle will start to wrap around the bamboo poles constructing the ladder. At the same time, you’ll also need to feather the grip button in such a way that Noodle maintains a grip on the bamboo and doesn’t fall back down. It’s a bit hard to explain, but Snake Pass essentially provides challenges that require you to think and move like a snake would. It offers the appropriate amount of control to do so, though it will absolutely take a bit of practice to get used to. For one, speed is often required to properly navigate some bamboo structures and speed can only be obtained by slithering left and right. (Just like a snake!) It’s an added layer to an already unique control scheme that takes even more time to get used to. Eventually, you’ll also learn to alternate between the grip and forward movement buttons in such a way that Noodle can maintain a grip while also making good forward progress. This is important because, when gripping, Noodle moves quite slowly. There’s a lot of finesse involved in controlling Noodle and, while it can absolutely lead to frustration, a perfected snakelike sequence feels great to pull off. All of that said, there is an ‘Easy’ control option that puts forward movement and head control on the left analog stick. It doesn’t completely alleviate the difficulty in control, but it is a good option to start with if the default control system is proving to be too much.
Throughout the game, as Noodle and Doodle progress through worlds, new obstacles and mechanics are introduced to help change things up. Noodle will eventually have to swim underwater, push boulders into special slots, and pull levers to activate bridges and platforms. In addition, new hazards like spike pits, lava, and strong winds are introduced that provide their own set of obstacles. Much of the game’s frustration comes when the game removes any kind of safety net and challenges Noodle to traverse bamboo poles that hang over a dangerous spike pit, lava, or just an endless abyss. Dying reloads the last checkpoint and erases any progress obtained since then, which in many cases can potentially set you a ways back. Thankfully, if you’re careful, checkpoints are well placed and can typically be activated before any particularly dangerous obstacles. Late game puts Noodle in situations where strong winds are a major factor and it’s in those spots where I found myself wrestling not just with the controls, but also against strong winds. It’s thankfully only in a handful of places in the last few stages, but it’s still enough to make the last bit of Snake Pass a bit more frustrating than it needs to be.
Control difficulties aside, Snake Pass is one of the most unique games I’ve played in a long time and can be incredibly rewarding. Successfully slithering and curling around bamboo and other obstacles feels really great and makes traversing the world a lot of fun. There are absolutely moments of frustration, but not enough to overshadow what is otherwise a really unique and fun adventure.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Music composed by David Wise
- Colorful and detailed environments.
- Truly unique.
What I Dislike:
- Controls can be frustrating at times.