Snake Pass was a game that I have almost no idea about, until the Switch event back in January, I had seen a little of it, but I never really understood what the game was trying to do. Now that I have played it, I understand what it is, but is that enough?
Snake Pass has you take control of a snake named Noodle, who while dozing away, his partner and friend the bird Doodle, notices that something has taken one of the gems that powers the portal that lets them travel between the worlds. After collecting the missing gem, which is around nearby, the duo head out to find out what is taking the gems from each world and that kicks off the adventure. The story is basic, giving you a reason to progress through each of the levels, but outside of that, it offers no reason to play, thankfully the gameplay is worth coming back too.
It is important to note that there are two different control schemes that the game offers, easy and default and while the easy method sounds the way to go, in actuality it is harder to use, at least for me it was, than the default. With the default you move your head with the left stick, raise or lower your heard with two of the face buttons and then use the right trigger to start to move forward. The combination might sound daunting and a little silly, but once you have started to progress, it becomes a lot easier to understand and does feel better. The easy method merges the two different methods for movement together, now you just push the stick in the direction you wish to travel and sure, while that does sound easier, it ends up becoming for frustrating as the level challenge increases. Because the slightest adjustment to your direction can also have you pushing forward, there were more than a few times, that I would find myself moving away from the ledge or pole I was using, only to fall and need to restart that part again.
The upside to the game however is that its pacing is set by you, there is no timer to worry about, no enemies chasing you about the place, you can truly enjoy the game at the pace you are comfortable with, which in these days is something of a rarity. Given the slower pace of the game as a whole, you can take your time to find the way up to that high ledge, or the best way to approach that tricky climb and trust me, you will do that, in fact I spent more time looking at some of the games more challenging climbs than I did actually doing the work. As you progress through the worlds, with each grouping of stages having a common theme, they get harder and harder and while there are no enemies to hurt you, can fall off the maps or into lava, which will set you back to the last checkpoint. Given that each stage requires you to collect three gems to progress, you might think that it is not a real issue, but when you combine that with everything else you can collect, losing progress is a pain.
What I enjoyed most about the gameplay was no matter how simple it seemed, the depth that it gave me, came purely from my own hang ups on the approach I needed to take. There are some puzzles or climbs that look fairly simple, however they can be quite devious and if you, like me, find yourself getting stuck, because your select approach is not working, it might feel like it’s impossible. Of course, than finally finding the solution, or path is only half the battle, you still need to make your way to the end of the challenge, which can be an issue, but once you do, the celebration is worth it. The issue that I had with the gameplay is that Doodle does very little for you, in fact he grabs the tail, if you tell him too, but outside of that he just flys around, waiting for your word. The problem with this, is by the time I would call him in, I was usually past the point of being saved and sure I could have him active the entire time and there were a few instances where I did, however it still mattered little in the end. The other issue that I had with the game, is the camera, there are times when it would swap from one point to another, but then sometimes get stuck under things or next to something, even moving it myself would see it snap back to where the game said it needed to be.
From a presentation point of view, ignoring the camera, the game looks fine, Noodle has good animations and is very expressive, not something I thought I would say about a snake, though the expressions you can apply to him are not something I found a lot of use for. The stages are all designed in a way that you can’t see everything from the get go, so exploring is key and while there are a limited number of themes, each stage in a world feels just a little different from the others. The games biggest selling point, from a presentation point of view was the music, with each of the worlds having themes that I could not help but tap my feet along with. Even the pause screen had a great piece of music that ran through it, that pausing the game and going to do something was still fun.
Snake Pass is not going to be a game for everyone, while some might say it’s a platformer, it is more puzzler and when you have to think and move in all directions, the difficulty can increase a lot. The lack of levels may annoy some, but sadly the games controls will frustrate more people than anything else, which is a shame, because if you can look past them, you will find a great game.