Terrific soundtrack; great graphics; rewarding puzzles
Patience is required; camera can get a little wonky
In the late ’90s and early 2000s, character-driven 3D platformers flooded the market. Inspired by the success of titles like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, it seemed every publisher wanted to create the next popular platform icon. While the genre cooled off for a time, a newfound nostalgia has provided gamers with a handful of options of late, including Snake Pass from developer Sumo Digital.
Snake Pass tasks players with clearing fifteen stages by finding the three keystones needed to progress. Combining platforming and puzzle-solving, the title grants players the natural abilities of a snake to slither through each level. To find each keystone, players have to contort around branches, cranks, and levers in order to make it to different platforms. There are no opponents standing in the way of Noodle the snake and his hummingbird pal Doodle, but there are an awful lot of other perils. Precarious pitfalls, ill-timed gusts of wind, and pits of spikes will send even the most seasoned gamer back to their last save point a number of times; thankfully, those are in no short supply.
Slithering might sound easy, but it can be a bit hard to master. Snake Pass eases players into its control mechanics, but after the first world, things become a bit less forgiving. The controls are strong, but levels end up requiring precision, patience, and a bit of daring. There’s a lot of guesswork involved in finding the right way to each key, and sometimes, deaths can be an invaluable experience toward figuring out the right outcome. While levels can be frustrating, deaths never come across cheap, and there’s a great sense of satisfaction gained from clearing a particularly difficult hurdle.
Unfortunately, the camera can become a bit of a nuisance, at times. Since Noodle very much controls like his real-life inspiration, the camera can be a bit low to the ground, which makes scouting ahead a bit cumbersome. Pressing A will keep Noodle’s head up, which does slightly improve field of vision. Like other 3D platformers, the camera can get a bit wonky in other areas, however. In particular, stages that require going in tight spaces underwater can get tough, as the camera struggles to follow Noodle. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between.
Snake Pass might feel like the kind of adventure game that would have been right at home on Nintendo 64, but the game never looks like it. The title’s graphics are crisp and sharp, particularly when played in handheld mode. Each world is lush and vibrant, with some really impressive lighting effects. It would have been nice to see a little more variety (a slippery ice world seems like a missed opportunity), but the game’s environments look great, and feature some very clever designs.
It would be impossible to discuss Snake Pass without mention of the game’s score. Composed by David Wise, of Donkey Kong Country fame, the music in Snake Pass feels appropriately reminiscent of the SNES classic, given the jungle setting. This is one of the industry’s greatest composers completely in his element, and the resulting tracks are catchy and memorable. While the music is easily one of the game’s biggest highlights, each world only features a single track that gets played across each level. The tracks are paced well, which means they never overstay their welcome, but more would have been nice.
Skilled players should be able to complete Snake Pass in about five hours or so, but getting 100-percent completion in each level should tack on a significant amount of extra time. Each level is packed with nooks and crannies that hide 20 orbs and five golden coins. The game doesn’t offer an incentive to locate each one, but players looking for an extra challenge will certainly find it. The locations of these items can be quite a bit more fiendish than anything else in the game! According to Sumo Digital, a time trial mode will apparently arrive as a free update sometime in the near future.
Speaking of updates, Snake Pass arrived on Switch with a couple of irksome issues that were quickly resolved. First off, the game’s rumble feature was distractingly loud. Second, and the more egregious problem, when outside of Wi-Fi, an annoying pop-up repeatedly appeared, making it nearly impossible to play. Fortunately, the developer quickly fixed both of these issues. Neither affected the game’s overall score, but it does feel worth noting for those that may have encountered these issues.
Snake Pass won’t be for everyone. Getting a strong handle on the controls takes some time, and frustration can mount as Noodle plunges over-and-over again to his demise. Players who stick with it, however, will find a rewarding game with beautiful visuals and a soundtrack composed by one of the industry’s greatest. Early into the system’s life, Snake Pass is one of the finest games currently available on the Switch’s eShop.