In recent times it seems that the 3D platformer has seen something of a resurgence, with games such as Yooka-Laylee leading the charge. Sumo Digital has now put out its own unique attempt at this genre, with a refreshing spin that makes it stand out from all the rest. Orienting an entire game around controlling a snake was certainly a risky move, one that hasn't entirely paid off in some respects, but on the whole Snake Pass proves itself to be a worthy title for any Switch owner's collection.
In Snake Pass you control a lovable snake named Noodle, as he maneuvers across floating islands with the help of his hummingbird friend, Doodle. The main hook of this game is that it's technically a platformer, but you're playing the whole thing as a snake; so you don't literally hop across platforms. There's no jumping here and no enemies to fight, so the main challenge comes from mastering the nuances of snake movement and scouring every corner to find all the collectibles.
The main gameplay of Snake Pass is the part that will no doubt prove to be the most divisive, but we've found it to be extremely satisfying in the long run. You control Noodle's head with the left stick, while the A button functions as the "jump" and lifts his head. Holding down ZR causes Noodle to move forward, while ZL causes him to tense up and grip, effectively functioning as a brake on some of the trickier segments. A tap of the Y button will call his hummingbird buddy over to pick up his tail and potentially save him from a fall.
What's immediately striking about this setup is how effectively it actually seems to emulate the movements of a snake. The rest of Noodle's body has a palpable weight to it, and as you familiarize yourself with the controls you develop a greater sense for how you can manage this most effectively (i.e. how far you can stretch off of pipes before falling). Of course, this isn't something that becomes natural quickly, and that's no doubt where many will be put off.
At first, it can be quite confusing coming to grips with the controls. They aren't intuitive in the sense that you can pick up a controller and immediately understand how to play, but they make sense as you work with them and grow accustomed to the unconventional style. It plays like an absolute dream once you get the hang of it, yet it feels like more could've been done in this area to make the game a bit more approachable.
As you explore the game's fifteen levels, your goal is ultimately to find three geometric keystones that unlock the level's exit. Along with this there are twenty blue orbs hidden around the levels, and five Gatekeeper Coins that are much more challenging to obtain. Make no mistake, this isn't a game that you'll be playing for as long as full-blown retail adventures, but a relatively low count of fifteen levels isn't nearly as off-putting as it may seem on the face of it. Between mastering the controls and finding every collectible, Snake Pass will keep you busy for a decent amount of time.
The levels are quite well designed, too, often requiring you to think outside the box while also encouraging exploration. As you progress things get complicated in a good way, as new puzzle and platforming elements are introduced such as underwater travel, moving platforms and switches. Snake Pass is obviously intended as a semi-relaxing game in which you gradually take on obstacles one at a time at a very measured pace, and the levels do a good job of encouraging that. At the same time, it's not a game that gets boring very quickly; that moment-to-moment gameplay is continuously satisfying due to the challenge presented by mastering the controls.
If we were to leverage one major complaint against the game, it's the way checkpoints are handled. There are plenty to speak of and they're placed in easily accessible locations, but when you die (and you will die a lot), you get sent back to the last checkpoint and lose all progress. We encountered a few instances wherein up to ten minutes of progress was completely wiped away due to botched attempts at crossing obstacles. This can be combated somewhat by backtracking every now and then to make sure your progress is saved, but that's a partial fix for a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place. It becomes less of an issue as you get better at the game, and it certainly isn't enough to ruin the experience, but it does get frustrating every now and then.
Another issue, which is less prevalent but still worth mentioning, is that the camera can occasionally get quite confused. For the most part it does a good job of following Noodle, and you can make adjustments with the right stick if needed, but it has a tendency to get hung up on the occasionally unconventional geometry of the environments you traverse. This can lead to moments where you're clinging to a pole and either can't see where you're going next or can't see Noodle at all because some rock or wall is in the way. This is fortunately an issue that only pops up every once in a great while, but it was nonetheless still the cause of a few undeserved deaths in our run.
The game's fifteen levels are broken up into worlds of four, which each have their own themes and design elements. What's immediately striking about the world design is the attention to detail. Individual blades of grass stick out between the cracked stones of ruins, light glimmers off the surface of the water in a convincing manner, a resting dragonfly will flit away as you approach it, and there's a diverse palette of rich colours at use. We found ourselves stopping every now and then at high points to take a minute to appreciate the view and make use of that capture button. Suffice to say, this is an extraordinarily pretty game to look at (docked or undocked), and it positively oozes charm in nearly every aspect of its visuals.
Of course, we'd be remiss to not mention the excellent soundtrack from David Wise. The music here is quite catchy and you'd be forgiven for assuming it represents the remnants of unused tracks from the days of Donkey Kong Country. Tribal drums and various animal calls are the norm, and it all does a fantastic job of adding a weighty element of mystery and atmosphere to the Aztec themed levels. If we were to have one minor complaint on this front, it's that the soundtrack is a bit short; you tend to hear repeated tracks a bit too much. Still, what's there is some of the best video game music we've heard in quite a while, so don't be afraid to use headphones when playing in portable mode.
Snake Pass is a real gem in the early Switch library, and is certainly worth a look for anyone looking for that post-Zelda palette cleanser. This writer's never played a game like this before — which certainly can be a double-edged sword — but it's a fresh experience that will keep you engaged until the very end. Solid visuals, unconventional gameplay, a memorable soundtrack and a decent amount of replay value make this well worth your time, and we absolutely give it a recommendation. If you're looking to take a chance and play something unique, then Snake Pass is well worth a look.
I simply love this game, especially the hardships and how much fun my sister and I have playing it, especially when we don't see eye to eye on games, so I gave it a 10 in my review.
Sounds like a Sssssuper title! I might have to pick it up
Sounds good. Might pick it up next week
I like the look of this, but it may have to wait as Lego, PuyoPuyoTetris & MK8 are all in the next few weeks.
I'm holding off spending my funds for Lego City and Mario Kart 8 Snake Pass just didn't make the cut for me.
Bought it. You should too...
No more snake jokes/comment please! It's getting as bad as the stability ones.
Game looks like fun but with everything else I want down the road this unfortunately can wait for a sale. Sadly a lot of game will have to wait for sales with me on the shop.
Most reviews for the PS4 are 7/10 even push square. Hmm it probably gets a extra point on switch for on the go gaming maybe. Got to say this looks refreshing, something different. This could be a sleeper hit
This game is cerebral and charming in all the right ways. The only problem is the soundtrack gets caught in my head, but since it's by David Wise, I can't really complain.
Kind of hesitant to buy this game, but I probably will if I get some extra money later in the year.
I think this was well worth the price of admission, only three levels in so far and I've been captivated with it.
Buying it. It's very refreshing to see a new twist on the puzzle/ collect-athon genre. Also for £16 this is great value.
I'll get this on sale at some point. I'm looking forward to playing it.
I'm not a native English speaker, but I'm quite sure you meant a "palate cleanser".
I'm growing intrigued by this game...
Ssseems a sssolid game. The Ssswitch needs good games.
Again, it's the snake's movement and precise interaction/collision with everything in the world that impresses me most when I watch footage of this game. That's actually pretty hard to achieve, as far as I'm aware. Which is why, for example, you often see the tip of Link's hat pass through the shield on his back when he moves, and that kind of stuff; the physics for this kind of collision with objects that move around and change shape/position a lot are usually not even calculated in most games. The animators just try not to create too many extreme poses and actions where you'd notice it.
I will get this game, I like the uniqueness of controlling a snake.
But it does seem a bit limited i.e. not a lot of variation to the gameplay for £16. I'm still playing Yoshi's Woolly World, which has the same issue (but probably to a lesser extent), so I'll hold off on this for now.
I'll have to agree with Alex, Noodle is probably the best name for the snake
A slither of hope for the Switch's anaemic game library.
You can activate discovered checkpoints multiple times, that saves all collectables.
Very tempted to buy it...
Bought it and it's amazing. Have the controlers on the easy setting in order to better manipulate the movements of the snake. There is a learning curve to it, that's for sure.
Really charming and unique little game but holy smoke, some of those coins are infuriatingly tricky to reach!!! I've nearly thrown my switch across the room with frustration a few times after repeatedly dying trying to reach a few of them. I guess I haven't quite nailed the controls yet...
I usually enjoy 3D platformers, but I'll give this a miss. The lack of jumping and enemies and the mellow nature of the game just doesn't appeal to me.
I feel much more inclined to purchase this from your review that I did with Push Squares
Glad to see this score well. This will probably be my next Switch title.
@Pahvi It's coming in a later patch, I believe.
Up to level 8 now. Still as captivated as I was when I started. Absolutely brilliant game.
I have collected everything before going to the next level. Some coins can be really tough but I love the challenge.
A true little gem! Must be played to get how awesome it feels to control a snake. And it´s not easy at all to collect everything on every level!
Got a 20 bucks eshop card balance on my account. Super tempted but I still got a ways to go on zelda. Was looking to pick up fast rmx or put 20 towards setsuna but this looks sssssssuper fun (sorry I had to).
I won't Pass on this Snake. Today I am picking up my 200gb SD card and this will be the first download.
Like I said on Push Square: it looks interesting, but I'm not comfortable spending $20 on a curiosity when there are so many games I still want. Will wait for a sale.
I'm really interested in this game, but with Lego City, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Mario Kart 8 all just around the corner, it's going to have to wait.
I'm really liking the overall game so far, and moreso with the gentler rumble in the patch for orb collection. It's a shame it's short and not physical, though right now I'm working on just collecting what I can and not straining over losing all my progress getting the coins/orbs hiding precariously over a pit.
I'm still not great at the controls, and in the last level of the first world found getting the yellow gem impossible for a long time. I tried probably 20 times or more getting more frustrated each time, climbing around the "monkey bars" around the stone tower the gem is on and fell off the long stretches of smooth (ssssssmooth?) wood over and over and over trying to get to the tall spot. Finally I just went from the medium height front side and tried to extend to the stone pillar from there and SOMEHOW managed to get up that way. Not sure if I just found a physics exploit or if it's intended that you can do it that way but it was EXTREMELY frustrating up to that point.
However, moments like that aside it's so unique and fun. I found the "Easy" controls are very ineffective because they remove an axis of movement so you really need to master the somewhat tricky controls (Starfox Zero haters hide!), but the moment of clarity when you realize it's an inverted physics puzzle game. The LEVEL design is NOT the puzzle. The PLAYER character is the actual physics puzzle. The environment just lets him operate as a puzzle. He's weighted like a real snake, heaviest at the head, balanced at the middle, very light at the tail. And he slips and slowly unwinds from surfaces he's wrapped onto as a real snake of those proportions would. Learning how to use the varying weight of his body and balance it on objects properly is the central puzzle, and you can't really play the apparatus in the game until you start thinking that way.
It's a pretty fresh approach for a game. Limited in many ways by its budget, but we were never going to get something like this from 2K or Activision.
@SwitchVogel Are those your own screenshots in this review or are these stock PR shots? If stock, it looks like they might be PC or PS4 based. Might want to make a note of that in the review or include some Switch captures, since for this game Switch does render a little differently (lower res textures, but better looking DoF. These screens seem to have have that terrible DoF out of focus from the other platforms but the slicker textures/lighting those platforms have too.)
I have a feeling I'll see this on my Switch come my birthday tomorrow! If they add more levels, one where you escape terrariums and make your way out of a pet shop would be pretty awesome!
I'm loving this game. However, regarding the review: Nothing about the terrible resolution in handheld mode?
I am by no means a graphics snob, but I'm not kidding when I say this beautiful game looks like it has pre-wii/ps2 graphics when you are undocked. Crossing my fingers for an update....
I'm enjoying this game. So far I've only played it in handheld mode (perfect game to just "pick up and play")...I think the graphics look great - crisp, colourful and with just the right amount of detail a game like this needs. The gameplay is pretty well balanced, although I agree with some reviewers that say the controls take a bit to master/feel natural. This, along with FAST RMX, is a great game to play when you want to take "time out" from marathon BOTW sessions.
@Jaredfrogman Happy Birthday for tomorrow!
Interesting, I think the resolution is ok in handheld mode. Admittedly, I've only played the game this way so, thus far, can't compare to it being docked.
Great looking Game controls are an issue but once sorted worth every penny.
I find it curious how few people note that NOODLE CAN KILL YOU.
I'm hesitant to buy it since so many digital games I have bought recently have ended up getting physical releases. I really wouldn't be surprised if that ends up happening for this one as well.
I love this game! It is so charming with the snake's personality (all games should have an facial expression button) and the physics of playing as a snake are AMAZING! Once I learned to climb by wrapping.... tightening... letting to to wrap some more... tighten... it made so much more sense! I looked at my staircase at home in a whole new way!
Thanks for the tip on re-activating checkpoints to save progress!
Games with a unique premise like this one usually capture my interest and I will no doubt end up getting this one in the future. I could get it for Xbox but I can't help but feel like having the ability to play it portably on the Switch would be amazing. Problem is, I don't have a Switch yet!
I love this game! It suits the pick up and play anywhere-ness of the Switch
@Pahvi it's not in yet, but Sumo has said they are adding it.
@uhhhhhhhh how strange: I find it unbearable to look at docked--the upscaling from whatever res it's running at is brutal on a 4k display. It's very fuzzy and low-res-looking, a problem that isn't an issue with other 720p-ish Switch games. I find it vastly better un-docked, but perhaps that's just because it look so bloody fuzzy on my set.
Snake Pass is a charmer. I definitely recommended it in my review as well.
@Pahvi It will. Devs said they're working on it.
I hope they will also fix the camera, cause it's very annoying sometimes.
Thanks for pointing that out. Being portable doesn't warrant an extra point in my book. I knew Metro gave it a seven which is still a good score.
This game is a 10 in pure charm.
This looks al right. I might pick this up. Does that snake eat rats? I hate rats. I hope it does. Then it is a must buy. My Focus is still on Zelda. Sorry I'm a super deluxe fanboy when it comes to that series.
I'm really enjoying it so far. If you are a fan of platformers from N64 era you will like this.
@PanurgeJr Noodle wouldn't possibly do such a thing; Noodle's a vegetarian!
I couldn't quite place my finger on it, but that's it. Lack of jumping and enemies make this a little meh to me. I still might pick it up, depending. Gonna wait til next Thursday though. Lego City Undercover may cure my itchy credit card fingers.
I was disappointed to hear this game only runs at 30fps, but I'm not going to let that stop me from picking it up when I get my Switch! I could get it on my XBOX for the 60fps, but the portability is too much of a convenience to pass up.
Well written review. Thanks for that.
I'm a total sucker for cute character design but I'm impatient when it comes to fiddly controls, it's why I don't like fighting games.
If I get a windfall and have some spare cash I'd get this but for now, it will have to wait.
This game isan 8.5 for me, for pure colourful fun and originality in making movement the biggest challenge, yet feeling (mostly) fair when you fail.
It just turned into a 9, because the loading screen randomly informed me Noodle is a vegetarian.
For those of you not sure if Snake Pass is worth it for not, here are some other opinions I have that the reviewer didn't touch upon:
Overall, Snake Pass is a good game that gives a fresh take to the 3D platformer era.
Didn't like it at first. the first 3 hours were a nightmare.
Once I got a hang of the climbing controls, which still aren't the most ideal for what you need to do, it started to become kinda fun.
I can't hate the game for its charm, but has a lot of room for improvement
I'll hold off for now. I'm still not sure if I want Shovel Knight again or Blaster Master or Greatful Explotion Machine. Probably going to wait until GEM review to decide.
I got this game as I've been starved of games on my Switch. It takes a while to get used to the controls, but not in a bad way. Going slowly is fine in this game, but instinctually you want to go fast.
Checkpoints are awful!
The game is about exploring, but they punish you for doing so. Losing everything back to the last checking is awful!
As a player you avoid the punishment by not exploring, at which point it isn't fun!
If they fix that, I would recommend it, but as is, the game is broken and not worth your time or money.
After playing this game for an hour my hands are aching! As if gripping the controller tighter might just keep me on the bamboo before inevitably falling to oblivion.
An 8 is exactly the score I was hoping for...
Is 2017 the year of the 3D platformer? They seem to be making a comeback at last!
Think I'll get it on Steam, probably during the next sale.
Getting a SSssswitch later this year and won't Pass this up!
I have almost finished this game, i advice it at all that are searching a good game over Zelda.
@cyrus_zuo The checkpoint system is kinda meh, but nothing about the game is broken in any capacity.
I played the first 4 stages and Im loving this game!! It's the first game to pull me away from Zelda.
Wow, the controls and basic idea of this game make it sound like one of the most frustrating and boring platformers ever made (at least without counting platformers where the controls are flat out broken)! No, thank you!
Nice review and nice score. The game sounds a bit like dk king of swing (and its sequel), though better!
@BulbasaurusRex The controls are not intuitive but that is the point. You have to think like a snake. If you learn how to do that, it is a lot of fun.
@roboshort My point is that video game controls are supposed to be intuitive, otherwise the game (if this can even be called a "game" in the first place) is just no fun to play! Then, once you do figure it out, there's nothing to do but slither around and collect some meaningless trinkets. I want to fight enemies, not the control scheme itself! I also want a real objective, not just some stupid digital sandbox to roam around!
@BulbasaurusRex Intuitive just means you are used to the control scheme. As you play through Snake Pass, the controls become more and more intuitive. That makes it interesting because you have to change the way you think and view the world you are in. If you don't, then it will just feel like you are fighting with the controls.
@roboshort No, intuitive means it's easy to learn (then perhaps hard to master), which all video game controls should strive to be. I shouldn't have to get used to such a clunky control scheme.
Something I can finally recommend along RMX and Zelda. Feels very unique. Controlling the snake is a challange in a good way. Lots of fun
Went for it. Thought long and hard about getting it, but with how much Zelda I'm playing I don't think I need another open world game in Lego City, and I'm on the fence about MK8 since I played the heck out of it and the DLC on Wii U. Wish I had Yooka-Laylee since I'd like a 3D platformer right about now, but I think this being a unique take might be even better. Oddly enough, for a Nintendo launch, there's a shocking lack of platformers.... save for Shovel Knight, anyway.
With this and Yooka-Laylee, I'm really excited for the new revival of the non-Mario 3D platformer.
Sounds interesting, but the way controls are described makes this sound like a Star Fox Zero learning curve where half the game is just learning the controls.
This was not even on my radar initially but after reading reviews and watching some clips it will be the next game I pick up. Wish it had a physical release though.
The camera in this game reminds me of the worst of early 3d platformers. As novel as the gameplay mechanics are I can't get past the god awful camera in Snake Pass. Honestly it's Bubsy 3D levels of bad.
I'm going to buy this as soon as I can to see if I'm into the "3D collectathon platformer" niche. I never played the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, so I'd like to see if I enjoy the genre.
Completed it now with 100% collectibles (they unlock a couple of nice little extras ) but still waiting for the Time Trial mode to be patched in.....it'll be a real shame if they don't bother because otherwise I've got no reason to load it up again now.
The snake sort of looks like Crash Bandicoot without his nose or eyebrows...
Have had this downloaded for a good while and finally started it up a few days ago. What a fun and original game . I really Think they did an excellent job with the controls .. It truly does feel like playing as a snake . Definite solid purchase for the Switch Eshop. I think the 8 is a spot on score .
I've been playing through the first few worlds and though the game is fairly well made, I don't like not feeling in control at times. I feel like sometimes I just barely it make it through levels on luck alone rather than understanding how to maneuver around the obstacles. I'm not having a strong desire to see this game to the end.
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