One of the most intriguing aspects of a new console launch is that each new game shown off in the launch window (first six months) gets a little more attention than it sometimes would later in the system’s lifecycle. The same is true of the Nintendo Switch, where four weeks in most early adopters have probably seen the credits roll on Zelda and are eager to see what’s next in the pipeline. Had Snake Pass come out at the tail end of the system it probably wouldn’t have gotten quite the amount of attention it is right now, so it’s a good thing that Sumo Digital has been able to position it for release in-between the Nintendo big-hitters. It’s bound to catch the interest of Switch owners simply because there’s not much else to purchase at the moment.
At its heart, Snake Pass is a level based collect-athon starring Noodle the snake and Doodle the hummingbird. You take direct control of the snake, which is an interesting take on the traditional action-platforming game we’re used to. Each stage will have a bunch of blue orbs that you can collect and eat, as well as hidden gold medallions to locate. The portal at the end of each course is sealed until you find the required number of keys to unlock it and move on to the next round. In total there are 15 levels to play through, each slightly more treacherous than the last. The game takes on more of a slow plodding pace as you slither, curl, and climb different obstacles to find the items needed to progress. Half the fun comes from seeing an object in the distance and then figuring out how to get there without dying.
Any platformer worthy of your time needs to have solid controls. Although this game doesn’t require the precision of a game like Mario, from the get-go you’ll have to figure out how to climb various structures to reach new areas. At first, this can be challenging to come to grips with the control scheme. Unlike most games of this nature, where pressing up on the Control Stick would propel your character forward, Snake Pass controls a little bit like a racing game. To move Noodle, you hold the ZR trigger and direct him with the left Control Stick. To make him move faster, you roll the stick back and forth between left and right, very much like a real snake would move. Holding the A button will lift Noodle’s head up and allow you to grab low-hanging objects and wrap your body around them. Oftentimes you’ll need to move up, and then around and then up again to gain ground and sometimes your turning radius isn’t sharp enough. To fix this, you can hold the ZL trigger as well, which will strengthen his grip on the object, allowing for tighter turns.
If the controls sound confusing, they absolutely are at first. It took me a few levels to come to terms with them, and even then I found myself becoming frustrated trying to acquire some of the items. Don’t get me wrong, maneuvering Noodle around the stages is quite easy, but as soon as you attempt to climb structures it can become cumbersome and difficult. As time passed I became much better at these mechanics, but it could prove to be too high of a learning curve for some. There is an alternative control scheme where you can move the snake with the analog stick if you have too much difficulty with the original configuration.
Before the game released it was announced that David Wise was composing the soundtrack. He’s the guy behind classic games like Donkey Kong Country, so I was excited to listen to the game’s music. For the most part, it all gels well with the stage designs and is more of an easy listening low-key soundtrack. I enjoyed it and even started humming along with a few of the tracks. I don’t think it reaches the height of some of his previous work, but the music definitely adds to the overall package.
The Switch version of Snake Pass may not feature the latest in HDR 4K graphics, but it looks really good on the TV and crisp in handheld mode. The slow nature of the game allows you to take in the visuals and really notice some nice special touches, like reflections of light on Noodle’s snakeskin and some high quality textures throughout the game. I found the camera to sometimes get too close to the ground and not always default to the best viewpoints, but thankfully I was able to adjust it to my liking via the right Control Stick. I would have liked the camera to move a little faster though. The levels are sort of floating in space, and remind me just a little bit of Super Monkey Ball. I’m not sure why they’re designed in this manner, other than to facilitate deaths when trying to reach precariously place objects. There are several different environments to explore, each with their own aesthetic. The game has a very bright and cartoony look to it; reminiscent of the Rare games of old.
Snake Pass is a fun game and a great fit for the Nintendo Switch. It’s on the short side with only 15 levels. Most of the challenge seems to stem from the unique control scheme and finding all of the collectibles. The lack of cinema scenes or a coherent storyline makes the game feel more basic than it really is. Also, there doesn’t seem to really be any penalty for not finding all of the orbs or medallions, so some players are bound to just look for the keys and move on to the next stage. I had fun with Snake Pass, but the sometimes-frustrating controls and the somewhat short experience left me wanting more.
Snake Pass Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 6/106/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Snake Pass is a fun and very unique platform adventure game that has you collecting a bunch of stuff. The controls are a bit strange at first, but once you get the hang of them you’ll be slithering around everywhere. The game’s a bit on the short side, but it’s a fun time while it lasts.