Snake Pass is an intriguing game. At first glance, it looks like a platformer ripe from the golden age of Rare – think Banjo Kazooie or Conker’s Bad Fur Day. But playing Snake Pass highlights a crucial difference. Noodle, the snake you play as, has no legs. He can’t jump. He can only slither. Therein lies the crux of Snake Pass’s unique premise. It’s a platforming game that has all the intricacies of a retro inspired platformer but one in which you cannot jump. It sounds aggressively unfun, but it’s much better than it sounds on paper.
There is a story here but it’s very minimal. Noodle the Snake and his best friend Doodle the Hummingbird are woken one day when their world is threatened by a mysterious force. Noodle must traverse several gates, or “Snake Passes” to restore the worlds to their former glory. It’s an elemental storyline with little to no surprises – what’s worth mentioning instead is Noodle and Doodle themselves. As characters, they never speak any lines of dialogue and yet their characterisation is so well executed. Those expecting the back and forth bickering of Banjo and Kazooie should look elsewhere, but the way these characters are animated and brought to life without voice is just as impressive.Snake Pass is a strange game. You don’t move straight forward and jump from platform to platform. Instead, you slither. The way that you slither affects your speed and how you grasp on to certain objects too. It’s this unique movement system that affects how you approach each of Snake Pass’s situations. Really, it feels more like a puzzle platformer than a traditional one. Every gap in the world or every structure that needs to be climbed must be approach with a basic understanding of the game’s physics and how Noodle’s body can be used to climb or cross the obstacle.
By default, you move Noodle forward by holding a trigger, and gain speed (or momentum) by slithering him to the left and right. It’s strange and unusual at first, but you’ll slowly grow accustomed to it. Noodle can wrap himself around posts to ascend and clear vertical space or (in a more convoluted process) fling himself from post to post. You can tighten your grip around certain objects (purely to stop yourself from falling off) or even call in Doodle to lift your back half if it weighs you down.Snake Pass offers other options for the less dextrous. Less confident players can instead opt for the game’s Easy control scheme. While I was slightly embarrassed to do so at first, using Easy controls made me better understand Noodle’s physics better. Such a result allowed me to switch back to the game’s standard controls, which let me pull off some more complex manoeuvres to collect everything in the game’s levels for a greater completion.
Like puzzle platformers similar to Captain Toad, Snake Pass is course based. Each level throws Noodle into a world and asks him to find everything in it before reaching the exit. Collectibles come in three flavours, but only one set (three keystones) are required to move on. Only requiring a few collectibles to progress does make progression feel much more manageable, but it does mean that it’s a little bit too easy to breeze through Snake Pass quickly.Snake Pass consists of only fifteen levels of which many take around ten minutes or so to finish at minimum. Those who want to collect everything will easily spend twenty to thirty minutes on each level – sometimes slightly less. Though for the most part, just slithering through Snake Pass’s bare offerings will easily take players less than four hours. Finding every collectible in Snake Pass, while not necessarily tangibly rewarding, is recommended as it’ll make the experience feel slightly more worth it. Time trials extend the experience but your mileage may vary as to the perceived value of these.
Snake Pass feels reasonably paced. It never outstays its welcome and introduces smaller obstacles along the way to keep you interested. The idea of playing as a Snake invariably would have started out as a basic tech demo of some sort, but Snake Pass takes such a concept and elevates it to feel like a fully fleshed out game. There are times where you’ll be wrestling with the physics, which can be slightly frustrating, but you’ll finish Snake Pass feeling satisfied but still thinking about what more could have been done.Perhaps this is because Snake Pass is meant to be a relaxing kind of platformer. One with no immediate threats, no combat system, no enemies to conquer. There’s something mesmerising to watching Noodle pick up a rhythm to his slithering, as strange as that sounds. Though Snake Pass’s greatest strength is also its greatest downfall, as some may find the slower pace to be trite.
From a presentation perspective, Snake Pass is beautiful looking. I played the game on the Playstation 4 Pro and was met with two options – one to play at 30fps but in 4K and another to play in 60fps but in full HD. I chose the latter option, as the smoother framerate felt like it suited a game about a slithering snake better. Make no mistakes, Snake Pass is colourful, vibrant and dense with life and essence. Locales like jungles, lakes and clouds are all beautifully stylised and rendered to create a world that could easily be mistaken for a modern Donkey Kong or Banjo-Kazooie. Noodle himself is scaly and glistens in the sun when wet. There’s a lot of polish and attention to detail in Snake Pass which is to be commended.Without a doubt the biggest publicised aspect of Snake Pass is the game’s soundtrack. David Wise, the mind behind the soundtrack of Donkey Kong Country and Yooka-Laylee, has composed the music for Snake Pass. The result is a game that not only looks but sounds like a platformer of the 90s, which only helps the vibe that Snake Pass is going for. Such a solid score is spread incredibly thin, however, and you’ll notice repetitive tracks as you play some levels for more than five minutes at a time.
Snake Pass is a delicious combination of interesting concept, a solid execution but with room for future potential. A platformer without a jump button sounds absurd, but Snake Pass uses a kooky physics engine and great level design to make it feel as natural as ever. Though sometimes frustrating, Snake Pass is charming and simple, a different experience, even if it feels like it’s over a little bit too quickly.
The Playstation 4 version of this game was played for the purpose of this review. You can read our review policy HERE.