n the day and age we live in where gamma lighting adjustments are a standard requirement for the games played today, it please my heart to no end that the waves of titles that we have been treated to in 2017 have been these vividly bright, vibrantly colorful adventures like Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, and Yooka-Laylee.
In keeping that trend of whimsical eye candy going, Sumo Digital has produced a unique experience that stretches the very definition of the platformer genre that it claims to identify under (which in all honestly works to its credit.)
Snake Pass is a mascot venture that empathizes the fundamentals of its invertebrate hero in ways that will challenge the conventional aspects of three-dimensional movement, commanding an entirely different perception of skill needed to progress the various obstacles that it throws at you.
Each stage will contain a list of collectables for you to explore and find, with some of the items being a requirement to complete the level, with a difficulty curve that’s almost more slippier than the scaly protagonist himself. The winding pathways grow more in complexity with each, and every stage, as you’ll crawl through nooks and crannies that’re constructed through a perilous myriad of jungle gyms and death traps. The premise manages to stay refreshing through a combination of clever level design, and a control interface that’s constantly teetering on between feeling innate, and cumbersome throughout the entire campaign.
Similar to the unorthodox control schemes of games like Octodad and I Am Bread, players will assume the role of Noodle the Snake, accompanied by his faithful friend Doodle the hummingbird, as you’ll maneuver exactly the way that you’d conceive a lowly snake to move.
Just holding down a trigger to accelerate Noodle by simply pushing the left stick on the controller forward won’t thrust you at the speeds that you’d imagine; instead, you’ll actually have to move in a serpentine rhythm from left to right in order to gain any significant momentum. Players will have to navigate each level by slithering, gripping, and wrapping through the many nuanced obstacles that’re constructed around the eccentric concepts of the titular reptile’s physics. There’s no jumping of any kind, as the only way the you can ascend is to wriggle through with your head raised high, clinging to any surface that you can with enough top-heavy force to climb whatever structure that needs climbing.
While the sensation of piloting a basilisk has an enduring charm from start to finish, the one big drawback is the unreliable camera, as there will be several moments where you’ll be coiling over particularly harrowing quagmire, only to be done in by a terrible perspective.
The gameplay is an exercise that’s equally perplexing, and intuitive in its design—the mechanics will gradually flesh themselves out, but never to a point where you’ll be completely comfortable with the controls, and that awkwardness is half of what makes this stupid game so fun as a result.
Unfortunately though, it can only carry the enjoyment so far before the quest begins to suffer from tunnel vision (pun intended) and relies too much on exploration without fleshing out any real meaning to it.
Aside from the joy that comes with collecting doo-dads, there’s no real incentive to get them beyond the materialistic sense of simply collecting them. Only a portion of them are essential to finishing the stage, with the remaining collectables existing to be nothing more than bragging rights,; and let me tell you that some of the physical trials that you’ll put yourself through deserve every brag you can get out of it because they’re just obnoxious is all hell in the end-game.
Each level has twenty snake pellets to gobble up and five gatekeeper coins to snag, and while the allure of these trinkets are enough to tease you into repeatedly chasing them, the hazards that guard them will often lead to your efforts spent chasing them in vain. The first level alone has one of the most challenging coins to obtain within the entire game, and if you do manage to reach the prize, you’ll have to live to tell the tale (puns are always intended) in order to keep the spoils of your victory, or at least long enough to touch a checkpoint at the very least. Yes you read that right, checkpoints; the levels themselves are never too difficult to be stuck at a section long enough to warrant their placement, but for those who seek to compete Snake Pass to the fullest they’ll be teleporting there more often than they would like to admit in their attempts to finish the game to its fullest.
The spectacle may have its ups and downs, but the pageantry never fails to please as the presentation in Snake Pass is some of the finest of its kind. The colorful backdrops of the game’s floating isles are painted with radiant hues of ardor and whimsy that speak volumes to the purity of the game’s platforming roots. Further cementing that motif is the game’s music; composed by the famous David Wise, Snake Pass contains a memorable soundtrack that delivers a collection of beats that wonderfully resonate with the sparkling visuals of the title.
The price of admission is a bit high at twenty dollars for fifteen levels, but the it’s the quality over quantity argument that makes Sumo Digital’s quirky action-adventure one of the year’s must-play releases, even with its modest share of problems.