Ah, the age of the 3D platformer. Things were simpler back then: we had Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and – of course – Gex. Oh, how we laughed along with the latter little scamp through his adventures – one of them containing Red Dwarf actor Danny John-Jules and a former Playboy model in FMV. Truly a game that could've only been made in the late 90s.
Unfortunately, Snake Pass isn't Gex 4 – but it is a modern twist on an age-old formula. Indeed, what's most striking about Sumo Digital's latest is that it looks so familiar, yet plays much differently than any game made before.
Jumping into the story of Snake Pass, you could be forgiven for thinking that you're back on the PSone – in a good way, of course. Unreal Engine 4 keeps the game looking beautiful and running fluidly, but the release's vibrant world – with its skyblue water, leafy green flora, and cartoonish style – is an echo of platformers past, and absolutely charming to boot. The mellow, cheery soundtrack from former Rare composer David Wise only accentuates this charisma
This retro feel contrasts dramatically with the gameplay, however. Playing as Noodle the snake, you control your slithering self by using right trigger to accelerate while wiggling yourself side-to-side using the left stick in order to gain and maintain speed. Holding the X button lifts Noodle's head up, while holding the left trigger increases your grip. The fact that your bird companion flutters around the world with you and perches itself on different parts of the environment not only aids you by guiding you, but also adds to the charm.
This unique control scheme – and the unique gameplay in general – is incredibly refreshing in this age of stale sandboxes; Sumo Digital has found an experimental gimmick and turned it into an entire game, yet it never gets old. In fact, the gameplay almost feels rhythmic at times as you slither from side to side and shuffle up and down bamboo poles.
Throughout your adventure you'll have to climb many areas and evade obstacles such as lava pits, as well as activate switches, although this is about as complicated as things get – all you need to do to beat a level in Snake Pass is to find the three gate gems required to open a portal to the next level. Though the game doesn't have many puzzle segments per se, controlling Noodle is itself a puzzle in a fun, Surgeon Simulator-style way. Climbing is especially tricky, but once you get into the swing – or, rather, slither – of things, it feels very satisfying.
While the game's campaign is rather short, it finds some longevity in its collectibles. 20 bubbles and five golden coins are hidden in each stage – the latter in some very devilish places – and while it feels rewarding to find them, this is where much of the game's problems lie.
The camera, for starters, is rather hard to wrestle with when you're already putting a lot of effort into the game's control scheme, and the fact that many of the coins are hidden on precarious ledges at the edge of the level map means that you'll often have to contort it into awkward positions, only for it to move ever so slightly in the most annoying way. This inevitably leads to deaths, and while it is somewhat charming to see Noodle cartoonishly yelp into the bright blue abyss, it does get tiresome when it happens frequently.
That leads rather nicely to the next issue: checkpoints. There's a fine line between unforgiving and just plain unfair, and Snake Pass veers towards the latter. Respawns are few and far between, as well as being in remote places that require long amounts of slithering to get to and from. This problem combined, with the devilish difficulty of trying to get all five golden coins in a level, often leads to red faces and broken controllers.
These problems are a shame, of course, but it's almost impossible to hate Snake Pass because of its sheer charm. Everything – from its innovative movement system to its idyllic graphical style – is just too pleasant to get annoyed at.
For all of its flaws, Snake Pass represents an admirable attempt at blending the past and the present. Its anthropomorphic characters, jubilant worlds, and atmospheric soundtrack all scream of eras past, yet its movement system and excellent controls are things of the future. Those willing to slither past the checkpoint and camera issues will find an enjoyable and heartwarming nostalgic adventure. Snake Pass shall pass.
Great review. I'm only a few levels in but this pretty much sums up how I feel about the game as well.
I'm pleasantly surprised so far.
gonna give it a go on Switch. I have a distinct feeling play with a Joy-Con in each hand will reduce some of the noodly controls, when there isn't a huge part of a controller in between each hand limiting index movement.
Hold the controller how you feel, not how it has to be held. That seems like a good benefit.
No mention of its sub-par resolution and FPS that your buddies at DF love so much though.
Good review. I think I'll wait on this. It sounds interesting, but I'd prefer not to pay $20 for a curiosity. I'll pick it up in the inevitable sale, and just hope Yooka Laylee is good enough to satisfy my hunger for a good 3D platformer before Super Mario Odyssey.
It's fun. The controls add a unique challenge to the game that I can appreciate.
EDIT: Of course, now that I think about it, I really liked Star Fox Zero's gyro controls while everyone hated them, so I guess I'm not the best person to ask about how games control, lol.
I can usually adapt and get comfy with whichever control scheme is thrown my way on any controller.
Nice review! I'm curious about this game, gonna buy it later today it if it is not overpriced on PSN. Love 3D platformers! =)
Does it have any multiplayer mode? How is the replayability, are there different difficulties or something? Also, you mentioned it is short - which I sort of expected, most modern platformers are quite fast to finish - but how short are we talking about, hehe? Thanks, Sam!
Had my eye on this for a while and even preordered it which is unusual for me for a digital download.But you are more or less spot on with your review.
The camera for me at the moment is the worst part of it and trying to find and reach the secrets although haven't had me breaking my controller have tested my patience until I quit and played something else.The controls are challenging and unique and the game overall I think is alot of fun and I'm very glad I bought it
I finished this today, I really enjoyed it. It's a charming little game (pun intended). Some of the final levels can be a pain to get through. I'm not sure if I'm going to return for all the collectibles, may at some point.
@renankj it's £16 right now on the store but as others have said it's pretty likely to be reduced at some point. Off topic but I always feel a bit strange paying full price for Indie titles when you know there's a sale just a few weeks away. It's nice to support the developers, but it's also nice to save a few quid every now and then as well!
There's no multiplayer but there are time trials for each level and they have have online leaderboards which is quite neat.
There's no difficulty levels although there is an option to tweak the controls to make it a little easier moving the snake.
It is quite short a game but, for the completionist in you, there's a platinum trophy up for grabs which seems like it could be quite challenging if you're into that kind of thing.
Snake Pass kinda slipped off my radar, so I'll look at it at some point. I may be a platform addict, but I'm curious and wary of the controls.
Probably get on the switch but I liked the game play video yesterday.
@DerMeister Personally I really like the controls. Agree with @Anchorsam_9 about the camera, though.
Got this on Switch and I totally agree with this review, the control takes some time to get used to and the camera almost makes me feel motion sick as if I'm playing my PSVR! I guess I'll probably go back to platinum Horizon first and play this in small quick burst when I'm away from the TV.
Thanks Sam, with so many other venomous games slithering our way I will give this game a (snake) pass. Haven't read one of your reviews for ages!
I guess I don't have any nostalgia for the art style. As I've said before he looks like a bad parker brothers mascot, or a cereal peddler. I normally like this type of game but something about this one just looks boring to me. Oh well, maybe I'll pick it up when it's cheap. It's going to be in a flash sale eventually.
@Anchorsam_9 Any idea how long the game is? I've heard it only has a few levels. A bit on the short side for €20 if you ask me, I may wait for a price drop if that's the case.
I didn't find out until yesterday that you can change the control scheme to "Easy" in the options menu. Left stick controls movement whilst the right or left buttons control grip. For me it's much more natural.
I love the way this one looks, and it's a cool idea, so I think if it's on for a fair price I'll give it a go.
Looks cool and certainly new and different take on the 3D platformer.
Got it on Switch a couple of days ago, very fair review. Indeed a hard learning curve and somewhat uncooperative camera, along with the few checkpoints that you have to go to every time you get a Gatekeeper coin.
But the game is cute and original, with the music being a standout. Don´t regret spending $20 since creative indies should be supported.
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