If you've ever wanted to control a snake while maneuvering around tricky stages then here's a game for you. Snake Pass may feature novel gameplay but does it amount to fun or are you better off playing with your own pet snake?
Snake Pass stars Noodle who might just be the most adorable snake in all of gaming. He goes on an adventure with his hummingbird pal named Doodle because friends have to rhyme, right? Their land of Haven Tor is threatened so they must work together to return all of the Keystones to their respective magical gates. Whether that makes sense to you or not, let's move on. You control Noodle's head with the left stick which makes the rest of him slither behind. By holding various buttons, you can raise his head, constrict his body to grab onto things, and accelerate. You can speed up by moving in a zigzag pattern which is pretty neat. Also, Doodle can help by lifting up Noodle's tail a bit thus allowing him to move along more efficiently. This unique gameplay makes traversing the stages quite challenging but once you gather many hard-to-reach collectibles and pass a bunch of tricky stages, it's very rewarding.
Visually, Snake Pass is one great-looking game. The environments are colourful and rather gorgeous which makes exploring them even more fun. Watching Noodle slither around as his facial expressions change from exerting himself to panting happily like a dog to falling asleep is simply a treat. On top of the well-animated and beautiful graphics, the sound is top-notch with delightful jungle rhythms by industry veteran David Wise (who also composed music for Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Yooka-Laylee, and most fittingly of all, Snake Rattle 'n' Roll). Additionally, the ambient noises from your surrounding environment make stages extremely immersive. When it comes to audio, Snake Pass is one of the best games that I've heard in a long time. Oh, and it looks great, too.
The campaign consists of four areas that are composed of four stages each. Although this doesn't seem like much, the stages get so incredibly challenging that just being able to finish the campaign is a reason to be proud of your abilities as a gamer. Besides working through one stage after the other, you can also revisit stages in order to find more collectibles (such as Gatekeeper Coins and Wisps) and challenge time trials complete with leaderboards. Considering the collectibles are extremely tough to find (especially the coins) and time trial limits can be very hard to achieve, Snake Pass has plenty of replay value for those willing to test their snake-slithering skills.
Unfortunately, Snake Pass often feels unfair. The controls are inherently delicate because controlling a snake isn't easy. This is okay but when you factor in tricky situations that have you carefully climbing lengthy stretches of sparsely-placed wooden poles, the frustration factor can go through the roof. Falling all the way down only to try and climb an unforgiving structure again and again quickly turns the otherwise enjoyable gameplay into a controller-throwing test of patience. Additionally, the camera isn't intuitive at all. When you're climbing around corners, the camera should automatically track you but instead you have to control it manually. Considering you'll likely be holding a few buttons down and using the left stick, how the heck do they expect you to control the camera, too?
Finally, the campaign simply doesn't feature enough variety. The only two portions that felt distinct in my playthrough were swimming underwater (which is thankfully handled quite well) and pushing spheres along to fill recesses in the floor. There are no enemies or bosses so the entire campaign merely consists of just slithering around in order to collect Keystones and place them at their respective goals. I wish more was done with the core gameplay to keep it fresh but it all ends up being mostly one-note throughout.
Snake Pass is a deceptively difficult game that's perfect for gamers who crave challenging new experiences. It may have an ultimately frustrating and unvaried campaign but what's here is still promising and definitely worth checking out.
- + Novel gameplay that's challenging and enjoyable to master
- + Gorgeous visuals and sound
- + Plenty of replay value
- - Delicate controls often mix with tricky situations to cause needless frustration
- - Camera can be a huge pain
- - Not enough variety in the campaign