Based in GameSpew’s home town of Sheffield, we’ve always had a fondness for Sumo Digital. Unfortunately, not many other people seem to have heard of them, despite their involvement in many big-name releases. Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing, the Xbox 360 version Forza Horizon 2, LittleBigPlanet – and the upcoming Dead Island 2, just to name a few. Unfortunately, with no IPs of their own, they’ve rarely been anything but a random name on the credits. Thankfully, that’s about to all change with Snake Pass.
Don’t be fooled by the name; Snake Pass isn’t some modern reimagining of the 1990’s mobile game Snake, and nor is it anything to do with the treacherous road of the same name that connects Manchester and Sheffield (although considering Sumo’s location, we have to wonder if that was a little in-joke). No, Snake Pass is a gorgeous 3D platformer that harks back to classics such as Banjo-Kazooie and Croc.
The demo shown off at EGX was a brand new taste of what’s to come, and if it’s anything to go by then Snake Pass is shaping up to be something rather special. Taking control of a rather charismatic cartoon snake who wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney movie, it’s your job to make your way around beautifully-realised locations to collect three gems in order to open the gateway to the next level. Unlike other platformers though, it’s not a simple case of holding down a direction to travel; you’re controlling a long, slithery snake and with it comes some more tricky controls. Holding down a shoulder button moves your snake in the direction you’re facing, and weaving him side-to-side builds up momentum. The environments to traverse have a lot of verticality, requiring you to use your head to reach higher platforms. Snakes can’t jump, so you’ll need to make use of your unique skillset to coil and weave around poles and tree trunks to climb up to new levels.
It may sound a little daunting, but the unique movements of the snake add an entirely new dimension to the game, making Snake Pass much more than just a generic 3D platformer. Initially, there’s a sense of bewilderment as you navigate the lush environments, flailing around as you attempt to climb structures made of bamboo. You quickly overcome the controls that are like nothing we’ve played before however, and the sense of achievement felt when successfully reaching new heights is exhilarating. The challenge of the game then, comes in the form of trying to figure out the best way to reach new areas of the level; looking for parts of the environment that you can use to climb – or slither – up, rather than a simple case of running and jumping everywhere you need to get.
Perhaps the most charming thing about Snake Pass, though, is its gorgeous visuals. Talking to the development team, they happily cited the upcoming Yooka Laylee as an inspiration, and indeed both games have a similar graphical style – although after playing both, we’d have to say that Snake Pass holds the torch. Brilliantly vibrant colours make an imaginative world come to life. Your snake himself is carefully designed and pumped full of personality, just as each area of the environment is. It’s certainly a hark back to the classic 3D platformer – but with a quality and sharpness never before seen.
Sumo Digital are hoping to have Snake Pass released in Q1 2017, with a tentative date of February. All going to plan, it will be available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. For any fan of 3D platforming, this is definitely one to keep your (snake) eyes peeled for.