Game Title: Snake Pass
Developer: Sumo Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 3.7 GB
Availability: Digital Download (US, EU)
Battery Life: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Support Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld
There are some upcoming games that are trying to bring back fond memories of the colorful 3D platformers from the Nintendo 64 age. Yooka-Laylee is a big one that is almost like a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie franchise that tried its best to live on, but ultimately went down when its final entry did not fare well in the eyes of the fans.
3D Platformers aren’t all about jumping around with a bird in your backpack while fighting off an ugly cliché witch, though. Sumo Digital has made a game that has 3D Platformer, all the color and charm of the era, but with a more small puzzle-oriented theme to its game.
That’s what we’re going to cover today. Also released on the Xbox One, PS4, and Steam, here is my review of the Nintendo Switch version of Unreal Engine 4-powered puzzle game, Snake Pass!
Snake Pass stars a duo of animals. Noodle the Ground Snake and Doodle the Hummingbird live in a world above the clouds, connected to other islands through magical gates. Noodle is awoken by Doodle when the keys that power the gates go missing and urges him to help retrieve and restore the keys or be permanently trapped on their island.
The story of Snake Pass is, like the rest of the game, casual, cute, and very charming. You don’t get a ton of story in the game, but what tidbits unfold across each level just gives a cute and charming feel, which often will help balance the increasing difficulty towards the game’s finale.
Snake Pass is a 3D Platforming Puzzle game. Each stage is built like a puzzle game, but to collect all of the items required to open the exit to the next level, you have to platform around 3D environments with a pretty significant amount of physics involved as well.
The gist of the game is that in each level, there’s a gate that requires 3 color-coated keys to open. So your task is to collect the 3 keys and bring them back to the gate to proceed to the next level and repeat the process for the 15 levels that the game has to go through.
How you do the platforming is what makes the game so interesting. You play as a snake, so you can’t just walk and jump around the platforms to get what you need. You can’t even hold the analog stick forward to move forward. The developers made this game heavily rely upon a snake’s natural way of moving around: slithering. You slither left and right to start moving and pick up speed so you can move forward, up, and around all of the environments the game throws your way.
This makes climbing pretty unique as you can slide and wrap yourself around small poles to attach yourself and pull yourself up to get to a higher platform. And even after you’re there, you have the physics of getting up well. If only the head and neck of the snake reach the platform, the tail will hang and weigh you down, eventually pulling you off the platform and plummeting to the ground. There’s a process for everything and while there are many ways to navigate a platform, there is an efficient and easy way to do it.
The tail weight is balanced with your hummingbird companion. With a quick tap of the Y button, your bird friend will pick up the bottom end of your tail, preventing it from pulling you down off a platform, and another tap will let him drop it next to you as you head towards your next platform. While there are certain areas where he cannot help you, like when you are swimming underwater, this part of the game is a balance between knowing what situations the tail grab will help and others where you need that tail length for climbing.
Aside from this, you learn new elements as you go. Across platforming, swimming underwater for secret passages, wrapping around and using switches to manipulate your environment, and dodging dangerous hazards, the game becomes pretty complex by the time you reach Level 15.
And to add to the complexity are collectibles. In each stage, there are bubbles and gold coins for you to collect. You don’t need to collect them to finish the level, but if you’re a completion-ist, they’re there for you to figure out how to reach and collect.
One thing I’ll say is that the difficulty keeps climbing and climbing. The first set of levels is pretty easy and casual, while the second set starts giving you more complex platforming, the third giving you more hazards to avoid, and finally the fourth bringing in the biggest challenge. I won’t lie about the difficulty. The final stage is in a league of its own. It will test every ounce of skill you gain as you play the game. I spend at least 30 minutes on it alone.
Play Time, however, is something you will want to consider. Let’s say you want to just go through the game. Get collectibles you come across while searching for the keys, and that’s about it. If you want to do that, the game will only last you about 2 or 3 hours. 100% Players will likely get twice as much out of it, but a standard run your first time through will probably only take you a few hours. To give you an idea, when I streamed the game yesterday, I ran through Levels 1-7 in a single hour, which is about half of the entire game.
Controlling the game is one of the most crucial learning curves you will have to go through. Whether you’re playing in TV Mode, Tabletop Mode, or Handheld Mode, the has a control scheme as unique as the movement style of the ground snake you play as.
While the Left Analog Stick lets you slither back and forth, you cannot actually move forward unless you hold ZR while moving the Analog Stick. This can be toggled in the controls settings if you’d rather only use the Left Analog Stick. You’ve also got ZL to hold if you want to stick to the platform you’re wrapped around to take a look at the stage or move the camera. Finally, you’ve got the A button to raise your head in the air to actually move up stairs or platforms and Y to call your Hummingbird friend to lift your tail.
There’s only one thing that is bothersome about the control scheme. Hitting Y for the hummingbird. While the inconvenience of holding ZR and hitting Y at the same time can be worked around with the ZL stick feature, the hummingbird’s effectiveness cannot. There are many situations where Doodle will land on an object you’re supposed to go towards. In this scenario, you have to hit Y not once like most other times, but twice to get him to grab your tail. If you’re in a tight situation and need him ASAP, he will not get there in time and you will needlessly fall.
I found this to be a pretty big flaw as it makes you expect to only hit the button once when in select scenarios, you need to hit it twice. I failed dozens of platforming sections because of this.
Visually, the game looks good depending on what mode you’re in. In Docked Mode / TV Mode, the game looks pretty nice. In the few sections where the camera can zoom in on noodle, you can see a huge amount of detail, all the way down to individual scales on his skin.
In handheld mode, it’s a different story. The reason why is currently up in the air, across resolution speculation to a few other fan theories. But, in handheld mode, the game looks surprisingly blurry. Environments look good overall, but noodle’s model has a noticeable blur that isn’t there at all in TV Mode. There are rumors around that there will be a patch that fixes this, but as of the moment, it’s a bit blurry when playing on the go.
How the game plays, though, is great. Load Times never exceed 7-8 seconds and the game stays at a nice and smooth 30 frames per second.
In terms of Battery Life, and I’m sure the fact that the game uses Unreal Engine 4 is mostly to blame, it eats battery like crazy. From 100% down to 0%, here are my battery times for Snake Pass:
• Full Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 46 minutes
• Full Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 00 minutes
• Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 28 minutes
• Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 36 minutes
Like Zelda, you’re not going to get a lot of battery out of this game. Note that this is down to 0%, not 15%. This is the maximum you’re going to get before the system’s battery dies on you. Granted, that full charge is enough to last you the entire game, but as far as replaying, that’s another story.
In conclusion, Snake Pass is a very unique and charming platform-puzzler from its looks, calm music, and gameplay. While it is flawed in the Hummingbird button options, blurry visuals while in handheld mode, and a remarkably short play time, it’s still worth grabbing if you want a colorful platformer while waiting for Yooka-Laylee.