If someone told me that Snake Pass was a remake of an obscure PS1 game that was only released in Azerbaijan I would probably believe you. There is something decidedly old school about Sumo Digital’s charming puzzle platformer, and as a man with fond memories of the time when platformers ruled the planet, I have to say, It’s a bloody fine example of the breed.
Players take on the role of Noodle; a colourful, doughy eyed, adorable snake. Accompanied by his best buddy Doodle the humming bird the pair are tasked with recovering a series of keystones and returning them to the gates which allow the pair to travel between worlds. Sounds simple, right? We’ll you’ve never tried controlling the 8-foot long bastard-child of a corn snake and Kaa from the Jungle book
The game’s main conceit is that controlling a character with no legs, that is to say, movement via lateral undulation is far trickier than wandering about a level with a good ol’ pair of legs.
Rather than just using the left analogue stick, players move Noodle around the environment via a series of button presses which do a fantastic job of recreating the myriad of processes involved in a snake slithering through the environment. You can’t even travel I a straight line, Noodle needs to move left and right to slither through the tall grass. Using a deft combination of button presses players are able to coil round pipes, slither under bridges and traverse the increasingly difficult environment on their hunt for stones, coins and snake extending balls of energy ( I guess because having the cartoon anaconda consuming a cow whole may have a been a little too realistic)
Doodle will also help his serpentine buddy by lifting his tail up. Sounds a bit random but is really bloody useful when you consider that not only did Sumo make Noodle move realistically, but also have a proper sense of balance and weight, so if you don’t coil round a pipe properly or leave Noodle’s tail dangling too far off a cliff edge the weight of it can cause him to slip and fall if Doodle doesn’t grab his tail quick enough, and on the occasions when this sends noodle tumbling off the side of a level, watching Noodle fall wide eyed and screaming as he tumbles into the abyss, is just devastating.
It speaks to the quality of the character design and presentation that you can feel so emotionally attached to a snake. Now, I don’t have a problem with snakes; they leave me alone, I leave them alone. Let’s just say I would never want to cuddle one. But Noodle I would happily wear around my neck like a low -rent Jake the Snake impersonator. Noodle’s dopey face and huge emotive eyes just make me want to take him home. While Doodle is just as endearing as his plucky, albeit slightly put upon companion.
Each of Snake Pass’s 15 Levels are bright, lush and look lovely regardless of the platform you choose to play it on.. Though the game renders at a lower resolution than the PS4/Pro and it’s missing a couple of incredibly minor water effects. Thanks to a strong visual style and decent, lighting Snake Pass still looks wonderful on the Switch. You’ll also be happy to hear that the action also still rocks along at a consistent 30 frames. Considering it’s a UE4 game, it bodes well for future third party ports on Nintendo’s new system.
Accompanying the bright vibrant, visuals is another rock-solid score by veteran game composer, and Ex-Rare developer David Weiss; combining pan pipes and tribal drums to create an upbeat South American inspired soundtrack that help to give the Aztec inspired locales a sense of place, and keep the tone of the game light.
The only detractor to Snake Pass’s fun are the way you need to reach designated checkpoints before the game remembers what items you have collected, This is particularly irritating when you have had a good run of collecting coins, energy balls or a particular tricky gate key, only to make a wrong move, fall off the level and then have to go back and collect everything all over again. The only solution to this irksome issue is to regularly backtrack to the nearest checkpoint to avoid having to redo having to do half the level again, which is far from ideal.
Despite this, I still had a wonderful time with Snake Pass. It captures the sprint of the late 90s platformer perfectly while dragging it slithering and squirming into the modern era with beautiful visuals, a delightful David Weiss score and a unique and engaging control scheme Sumo’s first original IP is a right Charmer.