If a game could be judged by how many times you’ve shouted obscenities at its protagonist, then Snake Pass would be up there with the best of them.
“You dickhead!”, I’d shout at Noodle the snake for the umpteenth time as he fell unceremoniously to his death. “Doodle, you’re a twat!”, I’d proclaim at the cute hummingbird, as he failed to lift my tail at a crucial moment. After any such instances however, there would shortly follow a moment of elation as I overcome my frustration and emerge victorious, finally getting Noodle to wherever it was he needed to go.
That pretty much sums up Snake Pass, Sumo Digital’s first foray into creating their own IP. Taking the tired old platforming “collectathon” template and adding a genuinely refreshing twist, Snake Pass‘ main challenge comes in the form of actually manoeuvring your slithery protagonist. When you get the hang of it and things are going your way, it feels genuinely exciting and unlike any other game you’ve played before. When you’ve tried and failed to climb your way up a complex bamboo structure time and time again however, you do risk becoming unduly aggravated.
As the tooltip rightfully informs you, to succeed in Snake Pass, you need to ‘think like a snake’. Before you can rush in, full steam ahead, you’ll have to learn how to best utilise the surface area of your body to grip and gain traction around the environment. Initially, levels don’t expect too much from you, but it doesn’t take long for them to present you with more complex structures to negotiate that will have you cursing unless you approach them in a considered and logical way.
Without the benefit of hands, pulling switches or activating turnstiles becomes a task rather than an unthinking act. Bereft of legs also, figuring out how to get from point A to B is a puzzle in its own right. The reason you’ll go through all the effort is to recover the three keystones within each level that allow you to fix a portal-like gate and proceed to the next, although those who are really up for a challenge will also seek to collect the large number of orbs and coins strewn throughout.
There are 15 levels overall, spread across four different environments themed around particular elements. While they’re all quite visually similar, each level looks beautiful nonetheless. Like Noodle and Doodle, there’s a great amount of character to everything you can see on-screen; little details such as light reflecting off Noodle’s skin and each individually-modelled blade of grass really brings Snake Pass to life – and it’s made all the better by a wonderful original soundtrack composed by David Wise, of Donkey Kong Country fame.
Progressing through Snake Pass unlocks the ability to replay levels in time trial mode complete with online leaderboards, adding considerable replayability. The challenging nature of the controls means there’s great scope for shaving valuable seconds off of your best times as you improve your skill. Completing all of Snake Pass‘ levels also unlocks the ability to use ‘Snake Vision’ – a handy tool that allows you to view the locations of remaining collectibles in each level.
For some players, Snake Pass may prove to be a little too challenging; just in case I haven’t quite made it clear yet, controlling Noodle the snake is unlike controlling any other video game protagonist you’re likely to have been put in charge of. It doesn’t help that the camera doesn’t automatically always give you the best view of the action, forcing you to try and adjust it manually while pulling off complicated manoeuvres. The game’s checkpoint system also isn’t particularly lenient – you may be expected to navigate through multiple tricky sections between checkpoints, so if you happen to slip up at some point (which, let’s face it, is quite likely) you’re going to have to repeat yourself, which may include recollecting keystones you’d previously picked up. It should be noted that there is an “easy” control mode available in the options though, which does make controlling Noodle a little more manageable if you find yourself really struggling.
Fortunately, the few occasions where Snake Pass perhaps overly frustrates do little to sour the overall experience. This is a refreshingly unique take on the platforming genre that introduces a duo of instantly likeable characters and a colourful game world where the simple act of moving through it is a reward in itself. A few slip ups along the way shouldn’t stop Snake Pass from sliding its way into your game collection, pronto.