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Snake Pass reels you in with its cute and colourful presentation, only to guilt you with the constant suffering of a once cheerful snake. It’s a surprisingly challenging experience, even if it is a little on the thin side.
Have we time travelled? Where am I? Why are my armpits so hairless?! What year is this?! Oh god, I’m a child again! Sorry about that, I’ve just taken a drink of Nostalgia, it’s dusty stuff.
It seems there are quite a few games cropping up recently that are chasing the 3D platformer again. This isn’t a bad thing, but I’m curious as to how these studios plan on making something that doesn’t have awkward controls and repetitive gameplay.
This is where Snake Pass comes in, sort of. You play as Noodle, a happy-go-lucky snake. With his pal Doodle, a hummingbird, you will set off on an adventure to save the jungle and restore balance. Saving the world in a 3D platformer likely means collecting stuff, so it’s safe to say that Snake Pass asks this of you. However, while some collectables are just laying around, there are plenty that will require a new type of skill and patience.
As Yooka-Laylee has shown, a straight recreation of the 3D platformers of old isn’t really good enough. They often lack any real challenge and the camera is to blame for many of your failings, so why repeat history? Snake Pass chooses innovation over re-creation and puts a unique spin on the classic genre. You will need to move and think like a snake, wriggling your way around floating chunks of earth, overcoming obstacles and returning ancient crystals back to their pillars. Ok, that last part isn’t innovative, but the controls are.
It’s immensely satisfying once you figure out how to move around and climb things. It was definitely frustrating at first, I’d often lose all coordination as I held down certain buttons while having to let go of others. But, the first series of levels do a good job at easing you in and allowing you to grasp one concept after another.
The gist of the controls (using the Xbox controller) is to use the right trigger to move forward while rhythmically moving his head with the left analog stick to gain speed and momentum. While climbing, you’ll be using the A button to lift Noodle’s head and the left trigger to grip. The Y button will whistle Doodle over to pick up his tail. He’s not strong enough to lift him up entirely, instead, he helps with shifting your balance so you’re able to “leap” further and scramble up onto ledges. It’s all very intuitive and allows you an impressive amount of control.
The second set of levels is a very different story, however. There is a noticeable difficulty spike and the game expects you to climb obstacles that are in somewhat of a contrast compared to what you’ve encountered before. It’s not ridiculous, just apparent.
Now, a fairly big contributor to this spike is the dreaded camera, the thing to plague the majority of 3D platformers. In order to succeed at grabbing collectables, you’ll need to wrestle with your viewpoint. Often the game will try and do this for you, but the level of accurate climbing requires manual camera control. This means releasing some buttons to do so and this would often result in me falling into a bed of spikes or having to start the entire climb all over again.
It’s not really a deal breaker as it comes with the territory of this genre, and I learnt at a very early age to live with it. Trust me, I’ve experienced far worse. It’s just that it can be a little frustrating considering that Noodle is incredibly satisfying to control.
Your time with Snake Pass will run you around six to eight hours, and during that time, the gameplay doesn’t change a whole lot. The environment in each set of stages certainly offer a variety of interesting puzzles, some being straightforward and others that require some exploring, but that’s kind of it. While some players could play Snake Pass for many hours at a time, I tended to only play a level or two and move on. The lack of variety and a paper-thin story doesn’t really leave much to get excited about. It is clear that the game exists because of its core idea and nothing else. Snake Pass is a result of a game jam after all, so this makes sense. The visuals are indeed fantastic and the characters cute, but there isn’t anything more to it. It’s just the icing on the cake.
I quite enjoyed my time with the squiggly fellow. It’s a nice deviation from deeper experiences you might be having without skimping on a challenge. Sadly, Snake Pass is incapable of being any more than what it is: a concept. I can’t see any way it could be expanded upon what with the main character being a snake, but this is totally fine. The game offers up fifteen levels and an additional time trial mode for speed running fans, though I don’t see many playing this mode. Regardless, I recommend you give Snake Pass a go.