Before the rise of endless customization options, hundreds of hours of questlines, and a barrage of weapons to obliterate your enemies with all different skins and physics and ammo and badassitude regeneration gauges, there were simpler times in gaming. As Mario has taught us, in many games the goal is simply to get from point A to point B without losing a life along the way (and to get as many shiny items as possible). Snake Pass eagerly takes the player back to this simple concept of old – with a ssslippery twist!
The player takes control of Noodle, a happy little snake travelling with his hummingbird buddy, Doodle, as the two try to repair all the magical gates in their world that have been mysteriously destroyed. This simple premise sets Noodle on an adventure across 15 non-linear levels divided into four realms, one for each element of nature.
While the story and setting are nothing new, it’s the controls that make Snake Pass so, well, snakepassy. In order to navigate across each level, the player is forced to “think like a snake” – zigzagging to pick up speed or coiling around branches and stones to climb to high places. These unique mechanics are both the strongest and weakest suit of the game. While the controls are innovative, fluid, and generally fun to mess around with, there is a learning curve to understanding how to maneuver Noodle and the process can be frustrating for many players. Even if you’ve mastered the controls, there will still be times when Noodle will just not hang onto that one thing that was keeping him from falling to his death while the player screams into the nearest pillow. And while Noodle’s slow pace is a good thing in precarious situations, when you’re not in danger you quickly realize just how long it takes to get a move on. The main selling point of the game is, unfortunately, also the reason some players find themselves angrier than they are entertained, since nothing is more important than tight controls in a platformer.
But if you are of the patient sort and feel that pang of nostalgia in your chest, Snake Pass has much to offer. The levels have a theme, gathering optional collectibles is fun and challenging, the soundtrack consists of exactly the kind of catchy light-hearted melodies you would expect, and the game doesn’t hesitate to whip out terrible puns of Crash Bandicoot-level infamy. (The four elemental deities in the game are named Bol-Dor, Sog-Gee, Cyn-Derr, and Bloh-Wee. See if you can figure out which is which.)
Although potentially unforgiving to the faint of heart, Snake Pass is proof that original ideas can still make their way into a well-executed, balanced gaming experience. So grab your Noodle and start practicing your sssibilants!
Title: Snake Pass
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sumo Digital
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Released: March 28th, 2017
Genres: 3D platformer, indie
Age Rating: PEGI 3