GAME REVIEW | Charming "Snake Pass" Slithers On With Minor Rug Burn
Snakes usually get a bad rep in the entertainment realm. They're usually seen as the must-own pet for villains, or -- at times -- a certain mid-boss in horror games. Sumo Digital seemed to have realized this, which is why it's high time that the serpent gets to wear the superhero cape. Enter Noodle, the hero of the video game Snake Pass, and while it does have its flaws, the multi-colored python has on its scales a wondrous adventure to behold.
The premise of this game is rather simple: Doodle the Hummingbird wakes up the sleepy Noodle from a lengthy nap, flailing about regarding a strange issue. Portals that lead to the top of Haven Tor have been vandalized, leaving Noodle to crawl on his belly and fix them about. With his snake-like skills, Noodle will have to climb high platforms, swim down deep lakes, and seek out hidden paths that'll lead him to fix the portals and reach the top of this jungle paradise.
As Snake Pass is a platformer title, the laws of physics are somewhat going against Noodle. The likes of Mario, Sonic, and Shantae would use their jumping skills to reach higher destinations, something a snake doesn't have the luxury of doing. Instead you'll be forced to seek out other means of reaching those tall heights. Fortunately while Noodle can't jump to save his life, he sure can climb pretty well.
Slithering about on the ground, Noodle will discover poles, revolving mechanisms, and even a catapult or two that'll help to bring him to the heights needed to gather orbs and crystals needed to advance to the next level. Of course a game like this requires perfect timing, as one slip of the fingers can lead you to either start from the bottom again or -- worse -- plummet to your death. While its rising difficulty can be frustrating to some, it never reaches the levels of rage-quit that most puzzler platformers seems to be known for.
However there are a couple aspects of Snake Pass that keep it from being an excellent title. For starters, it has itself a camera system that seemingly goes against the player more often than help them. Many times I've had to adjust the angle to see where Noodle is at, only for him to slip & fall and force me to start from scratch again. Often I found myself cursing under my breath as I had to refocus the camera while I see poor Noodle struggle to grasp a pole.
A part of this issue is contributed to its control scheme. Using the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons to play, I would commonly bear witness to my fingers playing a horrid game of Twister as I attempted to crawl, stretch, and lift Noodle's head to reach a higher destination. It often got to the point where I had to give my digits a break after one or two levels, as it caused my hands to cramp up just enough to make playing Snake Pass a bit of a hassle. Needless to say, this game is probably better suited to play either on the go or via a Pro Controller if you wish to take on Noodle's adventure comfortably.
Lastly, there is the problem I have with Doodle the Hummingbird. Never in my life have I come across a more useless sidekick in my video game adventures. He claims he can assist you when needed, but all he does is lift the back of your tail. This literally does nothing to help you in the most dire of situations. He doesn't keep you from falling, nor does he keep you alive if you wind up fang-first in a pile of spikes. In fact, the only good thing Doodle did for Noodle seems to have been waking him up to start his adventure!
Despite these speed bumps, one cannot deny the amount of fun Snake Pass is. Yes, it's very challenging, to the point where it doesn't ever hold your hand/tail. Thankfully this level of toughness leads you to discover new and cool ways to tackle high places and some clever puzzles. Even if it gets frustrating (and it will, trust me!), what Sumo Digital's game has just around the corner in each level will keep you snaking through to reach its destination.
There's a warm old-school Rareware vibe that shoots out throughout this game. The characters and worlds feel straight out of a classic Banjo-Kazooie adventure, with its vibrant colors giving way to some gorgeously cartoony visuals. It also helps to have former Rare composer David Wise providing the score, which sound like lost gems from the Donkey Kong Country series. While a new game, Snake Pass gives way to some fine nostalgia.
Snake Pass will take you roughly 10-12 hours to complete its fifteen levels. Although there isn't much in the replay value department, there is the chance to revisit past levels to find all the gold coins and orbs that are scattered throughout the levels. With that being said, there isn't that big of a draw to go another round with this game, unless you wanna attempt to speedrun the levels as best as you can.
- Unique platform gaming
- Great, colorful graphics
- Wonderful score
- Camera system is a pain
- Controls are a minor hassle
- Damn useless hummingbird friend
Noodle is off to a nice start if Sumo Digital plans to continue the Snake Pass story in the near-future. While it has its share of problems, the overall game is rather enjoyable from start-to-finish. Snake Pass is a good game, but if Sumo Digital were to fix its issues for future slithery adventures, it'll have a great series on its hands.
Promotional consideration provided by Christopher Clarke of Plan of Attack. Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.