By Dalton McClain / June 20th, 2017
|Release Date||March 28, 2017|
|Platform||PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
Snake Pass is a puzzle platforming game that takes heavy inspiration from the Rare games of old. In it, you follow Noodle the snake and Doodle the hummingbird in an attempt to fix the gate and move on to different worlds. On the surface, it seems really cool and charming, but I’m here to find out what lies beneath. So is this game fun, or is it just another attempt to play on our nostalgia?
Right off the bat, this game looks absolutely gorgeous. The bright colors and the calm and serene atmosphere perfectly reflect what the developers were trying to convey. All of the animations are smooth, the set pieces well designed, and the character models splendid. Everything here oozes charm, and it’s clear that a lot of thought went into making everything feel like it fits. The only drawback here is that they reuse the same theme throughout every level of a chapter, so the level design begins to feel stale after a while.
The sound only serves to add to the overall atmosphere, which isn’t surprising seeing as David Wise is the main composer. The music is catchy, upbeat, and matches the theme of the levels exceedingly well. This is honestly one of the best soundtracks that I’ve heard from an indie game in a long time. Even the instruments in the different themes match the world that you’re going into. There are the airy flutes for the wind world, heavy drums for the fire world, violins and the bubbly marimba in the water world, and light drums and fast, crisp flutes for the earth world. It’s really enjoyable, and I definitely recommend checking out the soundtrack whenever you get the chance—it’s magnificent.
The main issue with this game, as well as the selling point, is the control scheme. For me, the controls in Snake Pass are far more complex than they ever needed to be. You start out like you’re driving a car in most games, by holding R2 and moving forward. However, if you only move straight ahead you will begin to slow down. This is because you need to slither like a snake to move at a normal speed. This is a novel concept, but it gets old really quick when you constantly have to do it. Then you have to start platforming up, and to do that you hold X to raise Noodle’s head. Then you have to platform up while holding L2 to grip tighter onto objects. That brings the grand total of buttons needed to platform to 3, plus the analog stick to move. It becomes really uncomfortable when you try to move the camera as well, because not only does the camera require yet another input, but it also doesn’t work properly half the time. For the most part the camera usually works, but it has this really annoying feature where it will randomly zoom in and out. It feels like you have to fight with the camera to get it to do what you want it to do. There’s also a mechanic where your bird friend Doodle can hold your tail for you, however I never really found this helpful. A lot of the time I actually found it more frustrating, so I opted not to use it until necessary. Snake Pass has a lot of neat concepts, but the overall control scheme is way too complicated and only makes the game frustrating.
Like any game based on Rare’s work in the 90’s, there are a ton of collectibles to find in Snake Pass. There are 20 bubbles in each area, as well as 5 coins. These provide a nice challenge to the game if you’re trying to collect them all, but they’re only optional. The main gripe I have with the collectibles are that they’re pretty much useless. In any other game, you find collectibles in order to unlock certain things or obtain power ups, but they literally don’t do anything here. Their only purpose would be for people who like to 100% games. I would have liked for there to be some sort of reward for picking them up, because after discovering they didn’t do anything I decided to skip them and pretty much flew by the rest of the game. They were a huge risk to find and grab, with no reward whatsoever for actually getting them.
Speaking of collectibles, throughout the game you’re trying to collect three pieces of a gate in order to pass through to the next level. The basis is simple enough: you try to navigate around and find all of the collectibles in order to continue, and that’s really about it. The gameplay gets pretty stale after a while, but it always keeps you on your feet with the many difficulty spikes scattered throughout the game. This game never eases you into anything. You’ll be doing a bunch of easy tasks and breezing by, then all of a sudden there’s a piece floating over a pile of spikes that you have to carefully hang down and grab like you’re in a spy movie. It gets insanely difficult later on, and that isn’t helped by the fact that checkpoints are few and far between. You could stumble across one, then not see another until near the end of the level. This means that one screw up could lead to you having to do everything all over again, so you have to move slowly and think out every single move you do. It’s really infuriating at times, and I quit playing quite a few times out of sheer frustration. The mechanics of Snake Pass really ruin the whole experience for me, and that’s really disappointing because I had a lot of hope for this game.
Overall Snake Pass is a very pretty game that is plagued by overly complicated controls and abundant difficulty spikes. I can see where this game was trying to go, but it ultimately flopped in execution. You can get the game right now on Steam for about $20, which isn’t that bad for a 5 hour experience. I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone who isn’t an avid fan of puzzle platformers, but if you are a fan then this might be a good pickup for that price.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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