Snake Pass – REVIEW (Nintendo Switch)


A game where you are a snake, in a jungle
world with a soundtrack by David Wise, best known for making the tunes for Donkey Kong
Country. That had me sold, but Snake Pass by Sumo Digital
didn’t just rest on their laurels of having David Wise as its composer. Starting off, how does one play as a snake? No, you don’t sneak around in a box. Noodle the vegetarian snake, no M rating here,
moves forward around with the ZR trigger button. Slither from side to side to get a bit of
a speed boost. Reach upwards by pressing A and use ZL to
coil around objects tighter and even lock yourself in place. This fairly simply button scheme ends up being
able to get a lot done in the game world setup chock full of large bamboo poles to wind around. Some of these bamboo pole structures are friendly,
others treacherous and a few of seem downright impossible at first. A big part of Snake Pass for me, was going
back to replay old levels and see if I could tackle challenges that I couldn’t handle
before. I was able to zip through levels that before
I would be extremely cautious on. Snake Pass is pretty forgiving about physics
and it really does help to have momentum to power through obstacles. This snake does have an ace up his, er, somewhere,
for when you’re in trouble. You can call your hummingbird buddy to pick
up your tail, which is helpful in situations to give that final little boost over a ledge. Not necessary most of the time, and sometimes
won’t save you, but it is handy on occasion. There’s even a water world to put a new
twist on controls, filled with aquatic ambience from what was my favourite David Wise track
in the game. …*pause for music*… Yeah, there’s no mistaking who composed
that. What Snake Pass manages to pull off is really
incredible from a technical and gameplay perspective. I don’t know if Unreal Engine 4 is simply
that good or if some programmer is a genius at Sumo Digital but they made wrapping around
objects look easy. With a game like this, I’d expect the snake
to become some sort of garbled glitchy mess with tons of clipping errors, but nope, Snake
Pass is solid. The closest game I could think of is Noby
Noby Boy and looking back, that was far more floaty. Snake pass is only floaty while Noodle is
falling, to perhaps give the player more of a chance for recovery. In addition, Noodle can traverse on almost
all of the world’s geometry with the exception of some trees and thin hanging branches. There aren’t any invisible walls and barriers,
although that may benefit from the levels being composed of large floating islands. For the most part, if you see something, you
can work your way to it, OR you can make it to certain points or collectibles in a way
that wasn’t necessarily intended. It was very, very rare that I got stuck on
any geometry. This is the sort of freedom I loved in Mario
64 way back when, and what we have also seen in Breath of the Wild more recently. I played Snake Pass with a pro controller,
but I did try playing a few levels with joy-cons also. And well, I found using that middle-aligned
right analog stick to move around the camera isn’t so comfortable. If you only have joy-cons and want to leave
that right analog stick alone, the camera does do decent job most of the time and you
can center it with the left trigger. However, lining up the camera in tough spots
does come in handy at avoid accidental falls. Simply put: I would highly recommend getting
a pro controller. There are 15 levels, and I was thinking I
was in for a really short game based off how quick the first two or three levels went. However, those levels are mainly there only
to show you the ropes and do a really good job at teaching what you can do the rest of
the game. Later levels are pretty sizeable and generally
in a manageable three part structure for each keystone that you have to recover, especially
thanks to their beacons of light. And fortunately, Doodle the hummingbird sidekick
keeps quiet from hand-holding at that point onwards. Snake Pass really encourages exploration and
I found levels designed in a way that really communicated well about when to expect a hidden
item nearby. Like when you just know a block is going to
have a mushroom in Mario, Snake Pass manages to do similar things in a new series. Clever tricks like having a gap in the middle
of a slide, or a subtle bit of bamboo sticking over a ledge help hint at these. Not all of the 5 gatekeeper coins or 20 blue
orbs in each level are hinted at though, some you have spend time exploring or work your
way backwards through the level to see, and others are visible in plain sight but just
plain tough to get. In Snake Pass, it’s one thing to go out
on a ledge and get a collectible, it’s another thing coming back alive. And what I came to realize is that it was
best to practice “checkpoint management” to immediately hit a checkpoint after collecting
a tough coin or orb to avoid having to do it again. This part wasn’t the best short-term but
after finishing a level, the game takes note of which orbs and coins you did get, so you
don’t have to collect them ever again. Also in levels, It’s not just purely winding
your way through them; Some levels have levers or spools to wind around as a trigger to start
an event or rotate part of it to access new areas. It’s worth noting that while the game’s
frame rate is mostly smooth, it did chug from time to time when large distant areas were
visible. Hopefully Unreal Engine 4 will continue to
be more optimized for Nintendo Switch in the future, and Snake Pass ended up looking pretty
darn good after all. One of the weaker points of the game was the
story. While the game did give a reason to why the
3 keystones in each level were out of place, I felt that I was getting half the game’s
story and lore through messages on the loading screen before each level. Could the game have gone without a story? Probably could, but it did hint an end encounter
that might encourage players to slither on. On the plus side, any cutscenes were quick
to get through and then it’s right back to gameplay. Some of my main issues with Snake Pass were
not with the game itself but with presentation that normally I take for granted. I found out Snake Pass wasn’t auto saving
my game progress after finishing each level when one time my pro controller and all its
buttons stopped detecting in-game but worked still on the Switch via the home button. I had to restart the game and lost 8 levels
of progress. I’m guessing at some point there will be
an update to fix this if it hasn’t already, there wasn’t a save button in the menu so
to get around this, I had to go back to the main game screen and from there it would auto-save. And here’s one that fooled me the first
time, note how the buttons on the screen don’t reflect the layout of the Switch controller. Small issues aside, in the end I was impressed
by how well Snake Pass played. Overall, I’d say I “liked” Snake Pass’
mostly relaxing gameplay experience that made me think of new ways to get around in a game. Sure there were some tough parts for collectibles
that were frustrating but the game’s system allowed me to leave them and come back later
when I was better at the game. Thanks for watching, if you liked this review
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