I wanna be a snake.
Let’s face it, the Nintendo Switch is a great console and there is no denying that the new Zelda title is one of the best. But the launch line up was lacking in volume, and new games are coming to the system at a slow rate. While most Switch owners will still be finding yet more adventure in Breath of the Wild, it would be nice to have something completely different to offer a bit of variety. This is where Sumo Digital’s Snake Pass comes in, a puzzle platformer with a slithery twist.
The twist is that in Snake Pass players get to take on the role of a snake, who happens to be named Noodle. As a snake, traditional platforming just doesn’t exist in the game, mostly because snakes don’t have legs. It sounds obvious, but Sumo Digital have gone full on snake simulator with the mechanics, and the excellent physics in the game will mean that most players will have to completely relearn how to move their on screen counterpart in these familiar environments.
Using the left stick, you control the direction of Noodle’s head, while holding ZR makes him move forward. To pick up speed you need to move from side to side, like a snake would. Even the most basic of movement takes a little getting used to, but add in the ability to lift Noodle’s head off the ground, and grip objects with his body, and you have a whole new set of movements to learn. It is complicated stuff, and learning how to use all of these movements to traverse the levels will be the most difficult aspect of the game.
Still, it is all done very well, and when it all comes together it is a great feeling. Noodle’s body has a lovely weight to it and feels solid as you drag it around with the head. It may be an uphill battle to begin with, but once the controls are more or less mastered, the rest of the game just falls into place.
There are 15 levels to work through, spread out between a number of different themed worlds. These levels often introduce new hazards, or new ways to use your mastery of the snake. Noodle is not alone through the levels, as his Hummingbird companion called Doodle is always around to offer some one-sided conversation or even to lift Noodle’s tail if needs be.
The levels themselves are great, gorgeously colourful and well thought out. There are no enemies to contend with in the game, so the biggest threat comes from falling off the level and into the abyss while trying to reach something. Death will happen a lot, especially as the player is learning the snake movement mechanics, but checkpoints are set up to get the player back into the game. The checkpoints are easily accessed, and are spread out reasonably, but death means losing all progress since the checkpoint. As players can spend a lot of time in a small area, losing that progress can be frustrating.
As with most puzzle platformers, Snake Pass is not short of things to collect. Three stones are placed in each level that the player has to collect to unlock the gateway to the next level. There are also an abundance of blue orbs to find, and some gold coins. These coins provide the most challenge in the game, being incredibly well hidden and even more difficult to get to once you find them. While you may be able to rush through the game in only a few hours, once you master the controls, it will be these gold coins that have you replaying levels over and over for many more hours.
Snake Pass is a lovely game to look at. Noodle the snake, although silent, oozes charm, and the levels look stunning on both the big screen and the Switch. Adding to this is the great soundtrack from David Wise, offering catchy tunes that will stay with the player after they finish playing.
Aside from the checkpoint system, which is a little frustrating, the only other real problem can come from the camera. As a snake, it is easy to get into small and unusual places through the level, and the camera sometimes has trouble with this, losing sight of Noodle altogether. It can be annoying to fall to your doom because the camera refused to let the player see where they were going, but it didn’t seem to happen too often.
Snake Pass is a brilliantly unique game, challenging players to learn new mechanics in a familiar environment. Noodle the snake is lovable, the levels are complex and well thought out, and the collectibles will keep players coming back far beyond the end of the game. It doesn’t hurt that the Switch eShop is lacking competition at the moment, but even on a packed platform, Snake Pass would still be a worthy purchase.