A snake isn’t the most obvious choice of useful characters for a new platformer, but I’m all for trying something new to the genre. Well, until realising this may have been a mistake as I slide off the last section of a lengthy climb yet again and land back at the start like a bundle of wet rope.
Snake Pass is less a platformer though and more physics puzzle game with disjointed and vague controls that bring back some not so fond memories of botched surgeries in Surgeon Simulator. It’s a bit broken, but you’ll persist, because well, you own the game now and don’t to admit defeat. And look at it, it’s so colourful, it’s for kids, it can’t be that hard! But it really is.
Noodle the snake is not an easy creature to control. Rather than simply pushing forwards on the left stick, you must hold R2 then waggle the stick side to side in order for him to slither with that sideways coiling motion real snakes use. An alternative easy control option removes the need to hold R2 and claims you can just use the stick, but you still need to rock it sideways, while pushing forwards – yep, basically impossible. So stick with the default controls.
So, we’ve established merely moving forwards is a cumbersome task. Well, wait until the platforming (well, climbing) begins. While moving, you hold X to lift Noodle’s head and then steer it with the left analogue stick to wrap him around climbing poles or over small ledges.
L2 acts to tighten Noodle’s grip to make sure his weight doesn’t mean he slops off the sides of ledges, usually thanks to his excess weight from his back end. The larger you get from eating collectible bubbles, the more difficult this becomes. You have a flying sidekick you can ask to grab the end of your tail to balance yourself out when you notice your back half starting to slide, but it’s no guarantee and can’t really be relied upon to save you from a fall.
Naturally, because all of this isn’t difficult enough, the camera will never make life any easier. It constantly shifts around too far, hides behind corners or gives you poor views that make the controls even more befuddled, gradually ticking off the list of things you never want cameras to do at crucial moments. It’s all so incredibly frustrating, as the game world itself is very appealing. It’s bright, crisp and colourful throughout and even the snake animations are incredibly smooth.
In each level, there are lots of collectible bubbles to find and some very well hidden coins too. The problem though, with so many objects behind perilous routes or lengthy climbs that might take dozens of attempts, there’s just no real incentive to do so. You just want to reach the end of the level.
But hold on there, slippery reptile fans. There are three gems that you have to collect in order to progress and some in the later stages are seriously tough to get. What’s worse, you could miss one by the time you get to the exit (without realising beforehand) and then have to go back, knowing you’re going to have to climb over so many obstacles again. Or just stop and try to find something else to enjoy instead.
- Not a bad idea
- A colourful game world to explore
- Snakes are more appealing than spiders
- Camera hates you
- Frustration over fun
- Controls are way too imprecise
The Short Version: Snake Pass is not the longest of games. But sadly it feels like such a chore to play. The controls and camera are too unreliable to forgive in this colourful exercise in frustration. With so little fun to be had along the way, only the most stubborn player will see it through.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One | Nintendo Switch | PC