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.