When I first saw Snake Pass I didn’t really know what to expect. The concept seemed simple enough but as it turns out it is one of those titles that looks really easy when you are watching someone else playing it but it can become really challenging once you get past the first few levels. You have to think like a snake here to solve the problems that are put in front of you which often involve trying to get to something on high ground so you have to work your way up slithering in and out of small spaces as your snake body wraps around poles to try and help propel you upward. It is an interesting idea and it actually controls really well. The physics in Snake Pass are also pretty well done, you aren’t going to be doing anything exceptionally crazy here.
Snake Pass features 15 different levels over the course of four different worlds. Each world will feature its own set of challenges. One of those challenges is definitely controlling Noodle (the snake) himself. When someone tells you to “think like a snake” that might seem easy at first but it definitely isn’t. You need to be able to master the nuances of that are presented with this new type of gameplay. You also have a hummingbird friend named Doodle that tries to help out whenever possible. One thing that would help me out from time to time is having Doodle grab the back of my tail and lift it up which would give me that extra boost at times to reach the next section. Snake Pass is a retro-inspired platformer but there really isn’t much platforming, per se. You don’t jump from platform to platform like one might expect and there aren’t any enemies. You simply have to traverse the environment and try to get to the next section whether it is finding out how to slither up a wall using bamboo sticks to cling on to or whatever the case may be. As you progress in the game there are definitely some mind bending puzzles that you will have to stop and think about before trying to tackle them.
Snake Pass is light on story but there is something there. An intruder has threatened the tranquility of your home and so Noodle and Doodle set out on an adventure to try and figure out what is going on and what they need to do to protect their home. Being able to do it will require mastering the controls which will take some getting used to. Essentially you control Noodle’s head with the left analog stick. If you want to raise your head to try and get to a higher platform then you have to hit the “A” button. Holding down the “ZR” button will move you forward while holding “ZL” will cause you to grip what you are on, a bamboo stick for example so you don’t fall down. It can get really tricky at times and it might be hard to wrap your head around at first but once it clicks for you, you should have a lot of fun. You can also hit the “Y” button to ask your hummingbird friend Doodle for assistance by picking up the end of your tail as I mentioned up above. There are probably going to be some mixed reactions when it comes to how the game controls. While I have obviously never been a snake it does seem like they really nailed how one would move and what you would have to think about to get around. There is a definite learning curve here and hopefully most people will stick around until they get to the moment where it all comes together and they truly understand how to control Noodle.
While going through Snake Pass I really only had one gripe. The checkpoint system could have used a bit more work or could have been a bit more forgiving. There are checkpoint locations in the levels that are easily identifiable, however, if you die in-between checkpoints then you lose the progress since that last checkpoint, including any items you might have collected that you need to finish the level. While I realize that sounds like your normal checkpoint system that a lot of games have, the learning curve here and the fact that we have never really had to “think like a snake” before should have been considered a little more. There will be times where you will fall off a cliff or a ledge or whatever and need to respawn at a checkpoint and losing progress is never fun in a game, even if it is just small things. If they didn’t want to have that as a default setting in the game then maybe put it in the options menu so people could utilize the more forgiving checkpoint system if they choose to do so.
With this being a Switch game I spent a good amount of time playing this title on my television as well as in handheld mode and it seemed to run great in both instances. When I was playing the game on my tv I was using the Pro controller to control Noodle and then using the Joy-cons when in handheld mode. Both felt comfortable to use and worthwhile ways to experience the game. No matter which mode I was using I enjoyed the art style of the game and the little details they put in throughout. The soundtrack is mellow and relaxing and does a great overall of adding to the atmosphere of the level that you are in. The game can get a bit tense at times as you try to make that final push to that next area but the ambiance is fantastic.
Overall I think Snake Pass is a great early game for the Switch. It is different than any other game on the system right now and has a great price point. This is something that will keep you busy and while it doesn’t have achievements or trophies there are collectibles placed throughout the levels if you are a completionist that likes to try and do everything in a game. I definitely recommend picking up this title if you are a fan of the genre and learning how to “think like a snake.”