Price: £15.99 Developer: Sumo Digital Publisher: Sumo Digital Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch Version Reviewed: PC
Snake Pass is one of those games which has a fantastic concept and doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It has perhaps the most unique traversal system I’ve seen in any game, replicating the lithe and supple slithering of a serpent through a physics-based animation system so convincing I’m almost certain some kind of witchcraft is involved. It then uses this as the basis for a light-hearted puzzle-platformer which, while enjoyable, doesn’t find enough ways to evolve the central conceit.
The game puts you in the shoes…wait. Damn it, Snake Pass, you’ve ruined my descriptive paragraph! Let’s try that again. The game has you assume the role of Noodle the Snake, who is a pretty cheery fellow for a cold-blooded reptile. Noodle is enjoying a snooze in the sun when Doodle the Hummingbird appears all in a flutter. Doodle informs you that a mysterious creature is closing all the transportation portals in the magical realm in which you reside. It’s up to you to reopen them by collecting the magical crystals that have been scattered around each area and returning them to the portal.
If that sounds like a slightly odd premise, yeah, we’ll get to that. For now, let’s talk about Snake Pass’s main feature, its wonderful and inventive movement system. Basically, Snake Pass has you move around like a snake. You press the left mouse button to move forward, use WASD to rotate, and space to “raise” your head (as I said, just like a real snake). However, you’ll quickly discover that moving in a straight line is intolerably slow. To build up speed, you need to slither left and right, using your coils to propel yourself forward.
As well as helping you move faster, coiling also lets you grip onto platforms, enabling you to climb up vertical surfaces by wrapping your body around a lower platform, and then raising your head over a higher platform. Navigating successfully is all about learning how to use your weight to your advantage, how to tighten your coils so that you’re secured to a platform while also reaching up for those higher vantage points.
The execution of this system is absolutely astonishing, the way Noodle moves around is seamless, and learning how to climb the vibrant world’s bamboo platforms and staircases is enormously satisfying. It’s strange; Noodle’s movement system is both counter-intuitive and less efficient than seen in traditional puzzle-platformers, but figuring out how to overcome that and turn it to your advantage is huge fun. There’s also something refreshing in playing a puzzle-platformer like this which manages to completely avoid jumping as a mechanic. All it took was to create a videogame protagonist with no legs whatsoever.