Hands-On: Snake Pass

Hands-On: Snake Pass

by March 13, 2017

Here we have a game that takes a seemingly-strange premise and manages to transform it into a polished, unique experience. Developed by Sumo Digital, a name you may recognize from the Sonic & All-Stars Racing series, Snake Pass puts a twist on the puzzle platforming genre by placing you in control of a very unconventional protagonist. We took an extended look at the game at Sumo’s booth on the show floor, and here’s what we discovered.

As its name implies, you play as an expressive and rather athletic snake in Snake Pass. Of course, snakes can’t jump, so how do you get around in this game? The movement mechanics mirror that of an actual snake, which means stage traversal occurs via slithering up and across obstacles. You can wrap Noodle, the game’s reptilian protagonist, around poles and rocks to climb to new heights, and you can constrict yourself around objects to tighten your grip and keep from falling off.

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The biggest barrier to fun in this game is far and away the control scheme, which may seem imposing to players at first. The game asks you to control Noodle much as a snake moves in real life, which includes slithering back and forth to gain speed; simply moving in a straight line won’t get you very far. You’ll also learn, among other things, the best ways to scale obstacles and when to have your hummingbird partner pick up your tail and save you from falling down a pit. Mercifully, early levels appear to be designed in ways that help you come to grips with the game slowly and thoroughly, so the learning curve seems reasonable from what we could tell.

Once you, for lack of a better phrase, wrap your mind around this unique set of controls, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Moving Noodle around and exploiting the unique mechanics feels oddly satisfying. In an effort to make the game more inviting to those put off by snakes, Noodle is a bit cartoony and very expressive; it’s a small joy to watch the character react happily to collecting something or panic as it starts falling down a pit. Levels revolve around you obtaining three keystones in a given stages and bringing them to an exit gate in order to advance, and their locations generally correspond to the more obvious and surmountable areas of a stage. In a nod to the collect-a-thon platforms of yesteryear, levels also contain multiple orbs of light called Wisps and golden coins for the completionists in all of us. Cleverly, these items are placed in areas that will require you to be more comfortable and daring in your approach to the game, so as your skills improve, you may feel inspired to try and collect more of these objects as well.

In many ways, Snake Pass feels like a throwback to classic 3D platformers with an idea and mechanics that are genuinely new and interesting. I can’t say that I’ve played anything like it before, and given its impending release date, it won’t be long before you can play it, too. Snake Pass launches on March 28th in North America and a day later in Europe and Australia. It will be available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch for $19.99, and it supports the Xbox Play Anywhere program.