A dichotomy of inspiration and originality courses through the veins of Snake Pass [Steam Store Page]. At first glance, Snake Pass might spark memories of Rare-like platformers of the Nintendo 64 era, a nostalgic art style full of colorful locations, brimming with peppy music and charming animals. But challenging, yet interesting controls combined with refined physics-based puzzle platforming makes Snake Pass its own unique adventure, despite some irritating, and ultimately detrimental flaws.
Each level in Snake Pass has the same basic goal: collect the three gate keys to unlock the next area, with each getting progressively more difficult and complicated as you work to complete the fifteen levels. This simple concept and relative lack of story works well, enabling a focus on the engaging and original gameplay that Snake Pass has to offer.
Controlling Noodle (the snake), is both Snake Pass’s greatest hurdle and most interesting hook. By a push of a button, Noodle will move forward. You can raise its head with another, and when you’re on a pole, you can grip onto it. This three-button system is the entirety of the control system. At first, the control system seemed unintuitive. However, Noodle moves like a snake, and to really succeed in navigiating the levels, I needed to “think like a snake”. Falling off poles happened most often when I would try to reach for a far away ledge and stretch myself thin, instead of coiling around. Having to slither left and right in order to gain speed makes sense, and honestly was a joy to do.
So much of the game is built around this central control scheme that its uniquness doesn’t feel like a gimmick. For example, to push down levers, you need to coil enough of yourself around the lever so that Noodle’s weight pushes it down. Simple touches like that working in congruence with the core design really help Snake Pass shine.
(As a point of note, I really recommend using a gamepad. The controls are a bit of a barrier at first, and this hurdle would be further aggravated by a mouse and keyboard.)
Simply collecting the three gate keys isn’t a particularly difficult challenge, and didn’t take me too long either. I spent around three hours going simply for the gate keys. Like the platformers of old, Snake Pass is bursting with collectibles in every level. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between the game and the collectibles. When I was simply collecting the gate keys, everything worked marvelously, providing a really satisfying experience. However, while finding collectibles, I found the camera to be much more irritating than before. More often than not, I felt as though I was fighting the camera, resulting in many unnecessary deaths simply because I couldn’t see.
Unnecessary deaths as a result of an unruly camera is especially frustrating considering the odd checkpoint system in place. Placed around each given area are few checkpoint stands where you’ll respawn if Noodle just so happens to fall off the ledge or onto some spikes. What is really irritating is that your collectibles save with the checkpoints. Meaning, if you collect something then die without reaching a checkpoint, you’ll lose that collectible. In later levels, especially while gathering gold coins (the hardest collectible) I felt a need to return to a checkpoint after I found only one, making my experience much more tedious than it needed to be.
It’s rather interesting to have such an equally satisfying and frustrating experience with the same game. When Snake Pass works, it works unbelievably well, providing a completely original experience. It is a monumental shame that collecting, what should be a staple, seemed over-looked and unpolished.