This tough physics-based platformer has an intuitive control scheme, but its camera and checkpoints aren’t good.
The simple act of moving through the vibrant, colorful world of Snake Pass is as mesmerizing to play as it is to watch. This physics-based puzzle platformer uses a simple, intuitive control scheme to maneuver a snake up onto objects in a way that made me think about how to approach each one. Even when the camera couldn’t keep up or the stingy checkpoint system tested my patience, Snake Pass still kept me coming back to master its controls and reach its many well-hidden collectibles.
Snake Pass still kept me coming back to master its controls
The concept of having fine control over the muscle movements of a serpent sounds bizarre, but is easy to understand thanks to the three-button system that allows you to slither around on the ground, climb up bamboo structures, and travel across hanging poles. The snake, adorably named Noodle, uses one button to move forward while another lets you lift your head. By carefully tilting the analog stick in between the other two movements, you learn to find the right angle and figure out a way to naturally coil around objects in the world. The logic behind these controls shines when you’re climbing, since the more points of contact you have with an object, the easier it is to make your way up. It’s fascinating to watch.
What makes it feel distinctive to play is that you have to think like a snake to succeed. Since Noodle is essentially one slippery, elongated muscle, you’ll move slowly if you stretch yourself out too far and you’ll slip off of objects if you aren’t careful. You have to slither back and forth like a snake would to move forward quickly, and it made total sense. But conquering the 15-stage campaign is a tough, five-hour platforming challenge because you have to grasp moving around in such a nontraditional way.
One you get your bearings, tricky sequences that involve hanging onto moving objects for dear life will be the most brutal test of your snakey skills. It’s seriously daunting platforming at first, but it only seems impossible. Once you learn to make small adjustments using the analog triggers on the controller, for instance, it gets much easier to cross structures. Overcoming these challenges gave me confidence to try riskier maneuvers like distributing my weight quickly across a hanging beam to then wrap myself around it.
The aggravating checkpoint system often left me raging
But while you can move with the grace and speed of a snake, the camera moves like a slug. It constantly shifts to bad viewing angles that can very easily get you killed. When that or any other cause of death strikes you’re respawned almost instantly, but the aggravating checkpoint system often left me raging. It’s not that getting sent back a ways was the worst thing in the world, but losing all of the collectibles I’d picked up along the way is a kick in the teeth. Like any good platformer Snake Pass is heavy on collectibles, and some are cleverly hidden in tough-to-reach places. Falling into a pit will dump every prior thing you’ve picked up, often forcing you to repeat tough puzzles over and over after the slightest mishap. Admittedly, the repetition made me a better Snake Pass player, but it also scared me off from ever going near some collectibles if there wasn’t a checkpoint nearby.
As you’d expect, the PC and PS4 Pro versions are the best looking versions of Snake Pass, with options for higher display resolutions and better lighting. Both also support for 60 frames per second, but Snake Pass looks fine on a PS4 and Xbox One at 1080p 30fps. The Switch version has slightly fewer shadows and lighting effects, but the colorful stages look good on the system in docked or handheld mode.