Sumo Digital, who have brought us the likes off Sonic & All-Star Racing Transformed, and the Doctor Who Adventure Game in the past have come to 3D platforming in the form of Snake Pass. Releasing on March 28 for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. An interesting story about Snake Pass is that it actually came about when the lead developer, Seb Liese was attempting to learn Unreal Engine. He made a rope but didn’t attach it to anything, and the way it fell reminded him of a snake. The idea came from that moment, and grew from there.
Snake Pass has a playful story that you can only expect to see in a colourful 3D puzzle platformer. A mysterious interloper has stolen keystones to the magical gates of Haven Tor, and the duo of Noodle the Snake and Doodle the Hummingbird are set out on a quest to retrieve them. Whilst the story is nice to have as a background plot, the actual enjoyment of the game doesn’t come from the narrative, so don’t be too worried about not following along with the story if it’s not your thing. It’s not like these two characters have a mysterious past that you need to unravel (get it? Cause he’s a snake?)
The graphical style on show in Snake Pass is beautiful. Colourful environments and lively characters make for a pleasant viewing experience. The only negative I found with the art style, is that there are only four different themes for the game’s levels. Snake Pass looks exactly as you would expect a modern day N64 platformer to look. The game is silky smooth 60fps with zero graphical glitches either.
The characters Noodle and Doodle are beautifully modeled and their animation is even better. Noodle’s slithering animation is perfect and I struggle to think of a more natural looking snake animation found in a game before.
David Wise, who worked on other soundtracks such as Donky Kong actually had input in Snake Pass’ soundtrack. It doesn’t come close to being David’s best work, but it creates a playful enjoyable atmosphere for the game. Couple this with the sound effects and ambient noise in Snake Pass, it makes the atmosphere even better.
The game doesn’t feature any voice acting, and this is another game where I think having it would make the game feel more serious than it actually is. The gibberish noise that the characters make between each other fits in with the game’s theme and does it no harm with being there.
At it’s heart, Snake Pass is a 3D physics puzzle platformer. It will give you strong nostalgia hits of other classic 3D platformers from the Nintendo 64 with the way it plays. The aim of each level is to locate three missing keystones which are scattered around the world. These keys will be in all sorts of locations which will require you to climb and slither up the side of walls, buildings, trees or mountains.
How you actually traverse the environments can be quite tricky, not only because of the challenge the gameplay mechanics presents, but also because of the control system used by the game too. Whilst the game does a pretty good job at explaining how to move Noodle around to start with, all of a sudden you can lose all ability to play the game halfway through climbing up a wall due to having to press a number of buttons all at once. I shudder to think how the game would control if you used a keyboard rather than a controller. The movement button one of the controller's trigger, rather than the directional analog stick. This felt like a strange choice as sometimes you want to move your character on the spot, but not always physically move your character forward. It created an unneeded obstacle to an otherwise challenging game.
Not only do you sometimes feel handicapped by the control system, the game’s camera is also no better either. First of all it doesn’t react as you would expect when you are traversing the world, you have to manually move it, and this isn’t always possible if you are in the middle of a fairly expansive maneuver up a wall. Secondly the camera also doesn’t zoom out anywhere near enough. You can see a tower in front of you, but you can’t actually see what's on top of the tower since you can only zoom about halfway up it. Do I need to climb that tower for something? What’s up there? I had this problem many times during my playthrough. I am not sure if it was a technical limitation that stopped the camera having a bigger zoom, or what, but it was one of the game’s biggest flaws for me.
The game can also be slow paced unless you actually put the effort into moving your snake’s motion side-to-side. This does lend itself to being fairly realistic but felt a little bit of a chore when really I just wanted to move at a normal speed. It just felt like an annoyance rather than an interesting game mechanic.
The mechanic of climbing up buildings and rocks is particularly impressive though. You maneuver up or around objects by coiling your body around them, creating a grip, and then moving up a little bit further. Rather than feel like your generic platformer, this added element of physic based movement adds a bit more depth to an otherwise plain genre mechanic.
Snake Pass has 15 levels for you to complete. Whilst this may not actually take that long to achieve, where you’ll get most of the game’s longevity is finding the collectibles. Each level will have the keystones to find, blue bubbles and golden coins. If you want to 100% Snake Pass, you are in for an even more difficult ride than if you were just playing through the main objectives. The early levels will be fairly easy to get 100% on, but once you hit level four or five, then the challenge really does ramp up if you want to grab that golden coin right atop a tower. You should really only be trying these collectibles out if you have a lot of patience. I could see myself getting hella annoyed with myself if I got to the top of a tower only for one of the many controller flaws caused me to fall right to the bottom again. Agh.
The game took me roughly five hours to complete; but this could easily be doubled if you are on the look out for all those collectibles. After you finish one run though, I don’t see there being a huge amount of replayability in it which may put a few people off.
Snake Pass is a beautiful 3D puzzle platformer, and whilst it does have it's flaws in the control and camera system, it's still a pleasant experience even for a platforming vet. Each level will sufficiently challenge anyone, and with an increasing difficulty curve level on level, even the most seasoned platformer will find the game challenging. Priced at $19.99 on Steam, it may be worth waiting for the sale season to start simply down to the lack of replayability and short initial playthrough length.