A New Type of Platformer
Snake Pass is a new 3d physics based platformer from game studio Sumo Digital. The first thing you might think of when looking at art for this game is the collectathon titles which were popularized by Rare in the 90s. However, Snake Pass is not merely a nostalgia induced remake of these kind of games but rather a complete reinvention. The brilliant control scheme for moving Noodle the snake around is unlike anything seen before in its execution and playability. Snake Pass could easily be a quick physics based joke game in the same vein of Goat Simulator but it rises above this and becomes what I think is the best collectathon game to be released in years.
Rather than a traditional platformer where to move forwards you move the control stick forwards – Snake Pass gives you a much different way of controlling noodle. You move forward using the right trigger but to gain any momentum you must move side to side like a Snake using the control stick. For climbing any of the many bamboo poles throughout the game you can also make use of a grip button which stops you from slipping off so easily. As an addition, you have a humming bird side kick called Doodle who can pick up your tail which helps in getting up ledges when the rest of your body is weighing you down.
Whilst I feel that the controls are easy to learn there is enough depth to them that they are hard to master. I didn’t initially realize this fact in some of the early stages but by the end of the game I was being put through my paces. Unlike many other games with unconventional controls, you always feel as if you have complete control of Noodle. Any mistake that you make could be prevented with a little more practice of the controls and this is the main reason why this game succeeds.
The levels in this game are well designed and have puzzles which force you to think and to be adept with the tricky controls. Most of the levels revolve around collecting three different coloured keystones to open a portal to the next level. While you are doing this, you must traverse puzzles, and collect other items along the way. These come in the form of wisps – quite common and easier to collect – and gate keeper coins -rarer and hard to get. These extra collectibles give an amount of re-playability to these already fun levels. The levels are split into four different themes – Earth, Water, Fire and Wind – with each increasing in difficulty and adding new elements to the game.
Once you complete each of these worlds there is a Time Trial mode for each level which tests how quickly you can slither your way to the end. I can already see that because of the challenge of playing this game quickly there is going to be a significant speed-running community surrounding it.
The Art style compliments the level design very well. The basic approach is quite naturalistic with the world being made up of greens, browns and greys mostly. The collectibles contrast perfectly with this, with the wisps being bright blue and the keystones being fluorescent colours – making it easier to see and meaning they stand out in the world. In addition Gate Keeper coins feel super special when you collect one because of their metallic texture which isn’t used anywhere else in the game.
The design of Noodle himself makes a Snake look as cute and cuddly as I think one could ever be. He has a bold red, black and yellow striped pattern with very expressionistic face (which you can control yourself if you’d like). His side kick the humming bird Doodle is less interesting to me and looks quite stern but still fits in with the overall theme of the game. These character designs could be a great draw for a younger audience looking to play this game which I think is great.
The music in this game chilled out, fitting the relaxed feel I assume the designers were going for. The high standard is down to industry veteran David Wise. The fact that he is composing perhaps gives the game its most 90s colllectathon vibes. Of course, Mr. Wise was the composer for many of Rare’s biggest games in the 90s and this style is very reminiscent of that and perhaps in particular his Donkey Kong country soundtrack. This is especially evident in the heavy use of flute and tuned percussion give this soundtrack a very earthy feel which compliments the art style very well.
A Few Issues
There is a story to this game but I felt like there could have been none and I wouldn’t have minded. This is a game which is about game-play first and foremost and the small amount of story elements got in the way. In addition to this the story itself is not great and revolves around a crow which wants to get home so got rid of the portal key stones (?). I didn’t like this but I assume that it is being used to segue into a potential sequel to this game so it is acceptable on some level.
My only other real gripe with the game is that the camera can sometimes be quite clunky, both in how you control it and how it auto positions itself. This occurred especially in underwater sections where I would have to be constantly re-positioning the camera after it went into an awkward position wherein I couldn’t see Noodle. Sometimes it was just a pain to have to move the camera around and it could have auto positioned better for the position I was in. For the most part it worked well however.
This has been one of my favourite games of 2017 so far and I am going to enjoy playing through again and collecting all the collectibles. If you want to play something a bit more unusual and you have a few hours to spare then give this game a shot, it’s definitely lived up to my expectations and more. I never thought it would be so fun to think like a snake!
Final Score: 8.5/10
Snake Pass was Reviewed on the PS4 Copy and is also available on Xbox One, Switch and PC.