[Review] Snake Pass - Nintendo Everything

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[Review] Snake Pass

Posted on April 1, 2017 by (@jakovujo) in Reviews, Switch eShop

System: Switch (eShop)
Release date: March 28, 2017
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher Sumo Digital

There are a lot of short tips that cycle through the brief loading screens of Snake Pass. The most helpful was perhaps the most obvious: “Remember, think like a snake.” I wouldn’t be entirely satisfied categorizing this as a physics-based puzzle game. Calling it a platformer is closer, but you can’t jump. Stick this game into any established category and you’ll find that its slithery nature slips right back out. Snake Pass is, mechanically speaking, a sort of deconstruction of the 3D platformer. It’s not quite like anything I’ve ever played.

Noodle the snake and his hummingbird companion have to traverse 15 open levels, snaking, coiling, constricting, and slithering around for collectibles to progress to the next level. His movement is heavily physics based and he moves with impressive snakey realism for googly-eyed pasta. The best way to describe Noodle’s movement is that you steer and direct his head dragging the rest of his body and using that dead weight to your advantage. For example, wrapping his tail around a pole and constricting allows you to hang and slither around it in a loop.

As opposed to any other platformer, really, basic movement can’t be taken for granted in Snake Pass. Even moving straight requires that wiggling the stick back and forth to create momentum and slither. Think like a snake. If I want to use a horizontal pole as a bridge I have to consider how a snake might go about such an activity. Weaving around like a string, learning when Noodle needs to constrict to hold his grip and when to relax it to slither forth. More than any other platformer, navigation doesn’t require a consideration of how I can move across a gap, but how I can slide along surfaces, circumventing gaps altogether. Playing as a snake offers a different level of player input abstraction than the typical anthropomorphic platformer protagonist. Even basic movement can’t be thoughtlessly taken for granted.

There’s a very facetious Rare “we put googly eyes on a thing” vibe to its characters and world. The wonderful David Wise soundtrack furthers the feeling of a Rare homage. Fortunately, Snake Pass takes the strongest aspects of Rare collectathons and avoids the obscene amount of meaningless collectibles they could devolve into.

To get through a level you have to get three keys to unlock a gate to the next one. Like the best implementation of scattered doodads in open levels, the mandatory keys all have associated puzzle and snake-platforming challenges tied to them. For the optional glowing blue blobs and coins there are extra challenges built into the fringes of the floating landmass levels. There’s nothing like music notes carelessly scattered in an empty field to be found here.

With the physics driven gameplay there’s an element of slapstick as Noodle flops and fumbles around. Unfortunately, this can happen a little too often. The limited checkpoint system (there’s only a few pedestals in every level) means that every time I try to slither Noodle onto some bamboo jungle gym construction hanging over a bottomless pit to get a tricky collectible, falling means being reset just far back enough to become really frustrating. There were more than a few times I gave up on trying to get the elusive hidden coins in a level.

The checkpoint system is really my only significant complaint. There is a weird loading screen bug where a single line of pixels on the edges of the screen are the wrong color. I would, of course, be happy to have more levels to explore with Noodle. As it is, Snake Pass is on the short side. Still, better that it understays than outstays its welcome.

The Verdict

thumbs up review

There’s something wonderful about how Snake Pass engages the player in a different way than any platformer I’ve played. The surface-level Rare tropes are here, but it’s far from derivative. While it also has resemblance to other similarly physics based gag games, Snake Pass is more considered. It fleshes out a whole game with its peculiar controls and expects that the player will learn them. The physics aren’t random and insurmountable so long as you remember to think like a snake.

Snake Pass review copy provided by Sumo Digital for the purposes of this review.

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  • ibo
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  • ibo

    also put a number on your review the whole thumbs up and down thing is so dumb

    • ben

      Numbers suck.

    • Tracy Bowersox

      Also put punctuation in your posts. This illiterate thing is so dumb.

      • ibo

        good good good

    • ronin4life

      I think the thumb up/down/sideways works for NE. They are a small site that focuses more on news than active discussion or review.
      Heck, I don’t usually read the reviews here anyway(or anywhere else for that matter), but the simplistic ‘ratings’ just seem like they match the site better than numbers would.

      • ForeVision

        On the subject of ratings, I can only applaud the way NE does it. Most of the time, people skip past the review and only look the grade, not bothering to read the review itself. It’s how the whole rage against Jim Sterling giving BotW a 7 came to be. If reviewers don’t give grades, it incentivizes people to actually read it, and thus understand how the reviewer came to their conclusion, instead of brandishing their torches and pitchforks over a number.

        • ben

          In fairness the rage against sterling had nothing to do with the 7/10 and more to do with sterling`s whole run up to the review and his attack on other reviewers who gave it a 10.. also he tried to continue the trolling for 2 weeks by making a video about how Nintendo fans metabombed Horizon, which was just stupid considering the 1500 zero votes for Zelda and only 300 for Horizon. It is clear Sterling has an issue with Nintendo in general and the review for Zelda was just him being petty.

          • ForeVision

            I remember TotalBiscuit saying that Jim’s site was DDOSed for quite some time after said review. Again, I’m not sure what is true in this, but the morale of the story remains them same: Not having scores will have people at least read the review, and will hopefully minimize arguments over a grade.

          • ben

            I agree. Sterling, however wrote a bad review and gave a lower than mean score intentionally to court controversy.
            The DDOS was stupid, but I have my doubts it was even real.

          • omnipotent secret ostrich eyes

            totalbiscuit should not be trusted as a critic. multiple times he’s let his personal bias give a game a bad review or even ban a game for the sake of his petty disputes.

  • ben

    It is a great game. Recommend for sure.

  • AJK

    I think this game is fun but has a few pretty major issues. The camera is one of the worst game cameras ever. Also that damn hummingbird keeps flying in front of the camera at the worse possible times.

    I’ve seen people complaining about the controls but they are responsive and pretty in depth once you get the hang of it.

  • JasonBall