I first saw Snake Pass at EGX Rezzed last year. Roaming through the indie area of the show, the two elements that caught my eye were the gorgeous, colourful visuals in the game itself and the Sumo Digital logo on the backdrop behind the screen. Their work on Disney Infinity and LittleBigPlanet 3 have marked them out to be a talented studio and I was eager to know more about the game. Of course I came away already loving Noodle the snake and Doodle the hummingbird, but the tough physics-based platforming had also intrigued me.
• Developer: Sumo Digital
• Publisher: Sumo Digital
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
• Also Available On: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
• Release Date: Available Now
Once I got my hands on the final release, I was eager to explore the world. Simply moving through the bright, colorful environments in the game is a joy. The game uses the Unreal engine really well here, with its visual and audio design working in tandem to make a vibrant, textured world.
As you start the game, you are eased in. The first few levels focus just on nailing down the movement of Noodle. The control scheme is simple and intuitive but at the same time completely new. While Sumo Digital made the right choice to initially keep the learning curve as shallow as possible, it does mean that the first few levels can seem overly basic.
Simply moving forward requires you to rethink. Pressing R2 will get you moving, but slowly. You quickly learning to move from side to side too to gain speed. Being a platformer with no jump button also means that every other pre-conception you have is also called out. As you are required to climb an object, you then learn to raise and lower your head with the X and square buttons. Next you have to coil yourself around posts to get the traction required to climb.
As you begin to make progress through the 15-stage campaign, you will quickly realise Sumo Digital have more up their sleeve. You eventually encounter tricky situations that involve pulling distant switches or hanging onto moving objects. As your confidence grows in controlling Noodle, so too does your enjoyment. It does get to the point where you no longer have to think about the control scheme.
As much as some things change though, some things remain the same. While you are learning new controls, you are also collecting objects strewn across the levels like many other platformers. While this may seem unimaginative, it actually helps to put the focus on traversal and exploration. You will spot a gold coin on a distant platform and know that you have to be able to get there. The need to get all of the items in a level too is like catnip to gamers, so it certainly helps the game’s replayability.
Like many platformers that enter the 3D realm though, the camera regularly becomes an issue. That often involves changing to a bad viewing angle that can end up getting you killed. This would be a minor issue except for the fact that the game’s checkpoint system can be frustrating. I often found myself circling back to a previous checkpoint just to ensure I didn’t lose the collectibles I had gathered since passing it.
Snake Pass feels both familiar and new. Sumo Digital have crafted an approachable platformer that revolves around a control scheme you have not seen before. It rewards your perseverance in learning how to play with a sense of mastery you get from few games of this genre. If you are on the fence, coil your way down off it!