Review: Snake Pass


Mamba No. 6

Locomotion is something that far too many video games take for granted. Standard fare for movement is often reduced to holding an analog stick in a direction and you'll get where you need to be. This approach is so ingrained in game design that when something as experimental as Snake Pass comes along, it sticks out as a stark reminder of what developers could be doing (not that they all need to be doing it).

There's a certain progression of emotion to playing Snake Pass. First, it's novel. Then, it's brilliant. Then, it's frustrating. Eventually, it's an amalgamation of all that other stuff but maybe more tedious than anything.

Snake Pass (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One [reviewed])
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sumo Digital
Release: March 28, 2017
MSRP: $19.99 

The mechanics of being a serpentine and your tactile connection to them are the core of Snake Pass. It's also the absolute best the game has to offer. Forward movement of Noodle (the snake's name is Noodle) requires holding a trigger and (excuse the pun) snaking the analog stick left to right to simulate a sidewinding motion. The other trigger can be used to grip, a way to cling tightly to whatever obstacle you're coiled around. A face button is dedicated to lifting Noodle's head, a maneuver that often makes just the slightest bit of difference when trying to ascend a ledge.

It's all so goddamn smart. Neatly slithering across the ground is good and all, but weaving through bamboo poles to further stabilize yourself is downright skillful and savvy. There's a learning curve to Snake Pass and it won't be long until you feel like you've mastered it. You've really got the hang of this Being A Snake thing!

Humility will come swiftly as Snake Pass is a fickle mistress. The difficulty ramps quickly as you suddenly realize that you definitely do not got the hang of this Being A Snake thing. I'm not convinced the obstacles get significantly tougher, though; it seems that they just get bigger, extending the amount of time you have to be proficient at snake stuff. The unforgiving (yet perfectly realistic) physics will probably cause Noodle to eventually lose his grip. Snake Pass' hardest challenges are the ones where Noodle is unsafe the longest, not ones that require tricky and clever movements.

The reason for all this snaking is in the name of collectible hunting. Each of Snake Pass' 15 levels has 3 keystones that are necessary to proceed, along with 20 orbs and 5 golden coins. The latter are completely optional. The coins usually are found alongside the hardest platforming in the game, and the orbs are just sort of barely off the beaten path. Neither of these are particularly important as they don't tie into a reward of any kind. They're just a pair of statistics to max out on the level select screen.

This leads to Snake Pass' greatest disconnect from a design perspective. Combing the environment for a missing collectible or two is prohibitively taxing given how long it takes to retread areas you've already explored. But, Snake Pass treats these with relative indifference so maybe you should too. Beating the game endows Noodle with an ability to see all the collectibles in any given level, but that's probably of little consequence for those who are content just getting through the game once.

Noodle isn't completely alone in this venture. He has a hummingbird sidekick. Doodle (the hummingbird's name is Doodle) serves to add some flavor text throughout the adventure, but his more important use is that he can lift Noodle's tail. This can help get him up to a hard-to-reach area, but it might also shift the snake's body in a way that causes him to go tumbling. Tread carefully.

If Doodle is Noodle's greatest ally, then the camera is his greatest adversary. On too many occasions, the view will be just off enough that it's impossible to know which micro-movement is necessary. In particularly perilous situations, you might have both index fingers on a trigger, the left thumb on the left stick, the right thumb on a face button to hold Noodle's head up, and find yourself needing to also move the camera with the right stick. It's irritating, especially when you know you were in position to succeed.

The edge to all those frustrations is eventually dulled, though. You come to accept Snake Pass for what it is, you learn to expect whatever niggling annoyance is going to happen next. It's all easy enough to come to terms with, like Snake Pass is some sort of anesthesia. More than anything, I just found myself wishing it were over sooner; fifteen levels is a lot of ground to cover, especially when the game does little to meaningfully vary gameplay.

Snake Pass' legacy won't be any of that negative stuff I mentioned. It'll be remembered as a quirky thing that's an exemplary example of how games can offer non-traditional experiences. And, to be quite honest, I love it for that. I thoroughly enjoyed my first hour or so as I leaned into its serpentine sensibilities. But, Snake Pass' choice of animal is unfortunately fitting as this game just doesn't have legs.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Snake Pass reviewed by Brett Makedonski



Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


Brett Makedonski
Brett MakedonskiManaging Editor   gamer profile

While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby... ... more + disclosures



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