Snake Pass (Switch eShop) Review
Every now and then I see someone unfamiliar with games play something like Mario. They get frustrated, upset and the controls are just too much for them to handle. When you grow up with games so hardwired into your brain, it’s hard to relate to a situation like this, games come naturally. The controller is second nature to us. It’s to the point where we might not even realise we’re even pushing buttons – like breathing air, really. For the very first time since I was a child, Snake Pass has reminded me what it’s like to be unfamiliar with video games.
Have you ever played QWOP? QWOP is a PC browser game where you control a marathon runner as they make their way through their running track. You control the runner’s thighs and calves with four buttons on the keyboard. Q, W, O and P. That game made me angry. It made everyone angry. Snake Pass kind of reminds me of that game. Snake Pass made me mad too. Furious, even. The difference is – Snake Pass’ intention isn’t to upset you. It’s only infuriating because it’s so unique, but once you have the hang of it – you’ll find yourself hooked.
Rather than most games where you’ll find yourself controlling your character with the left joystick while moving the camera with the right one, in Snake Pass you control the protagonist, Noodle, with the ZR button while the left joystick simply turns their direction. Think something along the lines of a racing game. The catch is, the only way to get moving at a reasonable pace is to slither them left and right – you know, like a snake.
After getting used to the controls, it can unfortunately still be a bit of a mixed bag. When at its best, the game feels great. Navigating Noodle around bamboo shoots is a puzzle in itself and can feel tense but exciting. Easily reaching the top of a structure you might’ve been struggling with initially is incredibly satisfying. However, at its worst, the game can feel unresponsive and poorly thought out. On more than a few occasions did movement crawl to a halt for seemingly no reason, even while slithering side to side. Being able to adjust the camera sensitivity would’ve also been welcome as the default setting goes at a snail’s pace.
It’s annoying trying to pan the camera around to get a better angle on an obstacle you might be attempting to pass, only to have Noodle fall to their death because you couldn’t see what was happening. On that note, tight corridors and enclosed spaces are some of the environments’ biggest weaknesses. I found myself fighting against the camera nearly every single time just to see what in the world was going on! All of this really kills a lot of momentum and at times makes exploring through the levels feel like a little more of a chore than it should be.
There are 15 levels across 4 worlds to trek through. That might come off as a small amount, but you actually spend quite a substantial amount of time in each one. This is especially the case if you decide to go for all the collectables the game has to offer, which each stage is sprawling with. In each level, there are 3 gems, 20 bubbles and 5 coins with the difficulty of each in that respective order. In the early levels, collecting everything is fairly straight forward. It really only starts to open up from the second world onwards, but not necessarily in the best way.
With collectathon style games, trying to grab every goodie usually feels satisfying and rewarding; I can’t say the same with my experience here. For the majority of Snake Pass I attempted to find every little collectable along the way, but ultimately it was a lot more fun just not worrying about any of that. Since the pace of the game moves so slowly, getting to the end of a level after thinking you did a good job thoroughly combing the area – only to realise you’re missing a coin or two is frustrating. You’ll have to backtrack really slowly through an expansive area with little to no clue on where you might’ve not checked.
Purging the drive to take it that far surprisingly makes for a much more enjoyable overall experience. When not thinking about the optional knickknacks, exploration feels more natural and relaxed. This is when it gets a lot easier to appreciate and take in the fun playgrounds Sumo Digital has crafted. It’s honestly a shame that trying to collect everything on your first playthrough can potentially kill experiencing that sense of wonder.
Aesthetically, the game is a marvel. Each of the worlds is beautifully detailed and filled with small touches that really makes everything come to life. Things like insects flying off when you get close to them or dewdrops falling on nearby drums is really neat, and only made me more pumped to see what the next world would be like. When complemented with David Wise’s breath-taking and memorable soundtrack, Snake Pass’ world becomes something truly unforgettable. Also, Noodle is super adorable. You can change their facial expressions with the D-Pad. How cute is that?
Despite all my complaints, if you’re even remotely interested – I still implore you to give Snake Pass a go. The reason behind all my nit-picking is simply because I liked this game so much. From the sprawling environments to the unique control scheme – it all wraps up to be a rather interesting experience that shouldn’t be missed.