Snake Pass Review
Snaky Slithering Makes For A Scintillating Experience
Snake Pass makes movement the star of its platforming experience. By having players act like a snake, they’ll slither and twist up various surfaces and bamboo ladders, clambering around stages using the snake’s unique movement style. It’s a fun experience, making players look at stages in very different ways as they consider how this special movement style factors into every single one of the playgrounds the developers at Sumo Digital have created.
Players need to think like a snake in order to be able to get around Snake Pass‘ various levels, by slithering back and forth to keep up their momentum when just crawling around, or how they coil their body around poles and objects in order to build up the height and climbing power to scale them. It takes something as simple as getting around in a game and makes it feel involved, with players really having to think how they’ll get around even the simplest rise in the ground.
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sumo Digital
Release: March 28, 2017
Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-4690K CPU (4 CPUs) @ 3.50 GHz
8192 MB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
The snake movements of Snake Pass are what make it really special. On top of the necessary slithering, players can raise their head with the press of a button, using that to reach higher platforms. They can only raise it a bit, though, which means players will need to coil around nearby objects to gain height. While doing this, they can tighten their grip by holding another button, which will help anchor them around a particular spot, and also help them grab onto the next spot they want to reach.
This becomes a careful dance as the stages push the snake to climb higher and higher over more dangerous expanses. It’s something players will navigate by feel, wrapping themselves over and around rocks and bamboo so that they don’t slip off while trying to reach the next spot. That having to feel your way through it makes climbing endlessly fun, as it feels involved and personal. It’s not the same as putting in the correct input or jumping at the right time, but this almost-tactile sensation of pressing against an object, feeling your way along its surface, and then finding the best way to climb. It’s a unique sensation, and easily Snake Pass‘ most impressive achievement.
The developers have put a lot of thought into how the snake can get around, and have designed each stage like a playground for these abilities. Bamboo ladders, slides, and high cliffs abound, giving players lots of complicated things to climb around on. The game also features several collectible items like wisps and gold coins, all placed in hard-to-reach spots, giving players a reason to test themselves on these platforms as well.
These playgrounds also require a lot of player creativity in deciding how they scale them. Yes, each path tends to be set out in a clear way the developer wants them to be scaled, but the freedom of the snake’s climbing powers lets players use rungs and rises in the bamboo and stones in their own way. They’re free to skip whole sections, coil around in varied places, or throw themselves off onto other sections with risky falls. There is one right path, but the intricacies of climbing let the player try different things on each run at the climb that makes it feel unique.
Players will need to get good with their abilities in a hurry, as it doesn’t take long before Snake Pass starts demanding complex climbs up areas with cliffs beneath them. A single screw-up can mean death, or at the very least, a long fall to the bottom of the complex setup you just crept up. It can get very, very frustrating at times, requiring players go for longer times without ever messing up. It’s not exactly a downside, but just come into the game knowing you will need to really learn to feel out the snake’s abilities quickly.
It is funny to watch the snake fall to his death, though. The entire game’s world is created with a charming, animated art style that brings to mind the bright colors of N64 collect-a-thons like Banjo Kazooie and Super Mario 64. There’s just color and cheer everywhere the player looks, from the vibrant characters to the sunswept landscapes. Even when the snake’s falling off a cliff, he kind of makes a goofy screaming face, like something out of an old cartoon, and it cracked me up a few times when I was close to breaking my controller.
“Snake Pass‘ movements, and the playgrounds the developers created to use them in, will keep bringing you back for another climb.”
The music doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience. Snake Pass offers some happy tunes, but doesn’t feel like it reaches a point where it creates its own musical personality for the game, offering a generic island beat to the game’s platforming instead. It’s cutesy, relaxing, and serves as a pleasant background to the play, but seems to hang a little too far back and stays a little too safe. It’s a fine backdrop to an adventure about a cute snake, but nothing about it really makes it feel special.
Creeping through the bamboo ladders and rocky paths of Snake Pass is endlessly engrossing, creating this tactile sense of actually scaling each of its challenges. It’s satisfying and fun, making movement a pleasure despite the high challenge. While it may get extremely irritating while you’re getting the hang of it, Snake Pass‘ movements, and the playgrounds the developers created to use them in, will keep bringing you back for another climb.