Snake Puns everywhere!
SumoDigitalLtd’s latest game Snake Pass for the Nintendo Switch is a lot of things. It’s a fun, beautiful and lighthearted puzzler. It’s a family friendly and brightly colored game with a catchy soundtrack. Most importantly: it’s the single best Snake simulator game I’ve ever played. I played SnakePass on the Nintendo Switch, and will be providing my experience from that perspective below.
Snake harder than you’ve ever snaked before. Climb stuff. Grip stuff! Look at things! Be a snake! I purchased the game thinking I’d show off my twitch setup that allows for Switch play, and discovered I was immediately infatuated with the mechanics and easy to control snake named Noodle. Snake Pass is an interesting physics experiment that takes inspiration from what feels like an entire lifetime of puzzle games, but manages to deliver in a very fresh manner. I immediately started making snake puns and calling attention to my superior ability to fall off of sssstuff.
Snake Pass manages to be both fun and complex for new players and hardcore completion-focused gamers alike. Blending a charming art style and play mechanic with climbing challenges and collection driven gameplay; it’s a game for a wide audience. At it’s core, Snake Pass is pretty and fun. I had a smile from the moment I booted it up to the moment I stopped sliding around the playground-like worlds. It’s easy to engage with, and doesn’t try to be anything more than a very well-made unique puzzle game.
The game focuses on finding keys in the form of floating gems, which have been scattered across the map. Collecting all the pieces will allow you to unlock the gate (provided you can get there) and move to the next level. There are small blue power orbs and coins floating across the map as well, in difficult to reach locations. Collecting all of these yields rewards, and will be a significant challenge for those among us who need the coimpletionism trophy. Often the game level will finish, but a multitude of collectables remain. It’s a tough choice to return to get the additional pieces, especially as the level difficulty progresses. Often, it’s better to be thorough in your sweep to the goal and try to grab everything as you pass. Returning to the start of a level will in some cases prove so complicated or tricky (or downright inaccessible) that you’ll end up wanting to just run the whole level again. I quickly abandoned my desire for completion and instead focused on making my way through each level and grabbing as many collectables as I could, in order to rank myself. I’ll come back and clear them on a rainy day. (I tell myself). The blue orbs are strategically placed in difficult to reach areas, and encourage you to try to get them all. They aren’t always accessible to first time snake players, and the game allows for re-play of each level later from the select screen, which tells you how “complete” the run was.
Now, controlling a snake is both really intuitive and really complicated. The move mechanics are exactly how you would expect a snake to move: Wriggle back and forth to pick up speed, and lift your head to climb stuff. You can get Doodle (the hummingbird friend of yours) to help occasionally by lifting your tail – giving you just enough of a push to get over a high ledge, though he’s not strong enough to pull you up entirely. On the one hand, movement across a map is simple, fun, and easy to understand. On the other hand, climbing upwards on poles ranges from moderately more tricky to “what even are you trying to do- snake, just- please stick- PLEASE! Oh my god no don’t fa- DON’T FALL. DON’T. Ugh…” if I had a dime for every fall off of a pole in this game… It’s worth commenting that despite the frustrations, the game maintains such a light atmosphere and style that it’s pretty impossible to get mad at it. You just try again or go to another path until you can move on. The levels are well designed, and for a snake, pretty accommodating for mobility.
In this regard, there are certain puzzles that you actually need to be comfortable with the controls in order to engage with. It’s been my experience however, that if a puzzle or path seems insanely difficult, you probably haven’t flipped the switch or spun the wench or pulled the thing that will make it easier or even possible to continue. Doodle tries to give you some hints by flying over to stuff occasionally, which is helpful for certain difficult puzzles. I found myself fighting with a path of bamboo bars up the side of a wall that then lead to a path over spikes to the final puzzle piece on level 6. I fought and fell about 30 times (I’m persistent) before I decided to look around the exit in frustration. I noticed that the other end of the path from the final piece emptied out in a slide to the exit gate, and wasn’t too high off the ground. I climbed up a vine attached to the slide and bypassed the puzzle entirely, allowing me to leave. I haven’t tested this theory, but I would expect that difficult paths for Noodle might have a backdoor of sorts that’s a bit more easily accessible for situations like this. This is a good thing, and it allows for alternate solutions when players get stuck and otherwise frustrated with the very unique gameplay style.
Snake Pass therefore becomes an accessible title that is best to play in a small group or with a friend. Though the game is single player only, it has the feel of a couch-tag team title of early Nintendo, where you’d hand off the controller to your bestie between points, or trade in your younger cousin because your mom said you had to. Snake Pass reminds me of Donkey Kong 64’s maps and music, coupled with Spyro the Dragon’s art style and a friendly duo companionship on screen that nods towards Banjo Kazooie. All that to say that this snake-based puzzler is an entirely new title with a delightful retro-classic feel. It tosses me back to my days of youth immediately, and in my mind, it’s an instant classic.
The game has a charm that I feel doesn’t discourage new players or less coordinated gamers from enjoying what it has to offer. You can basically scale the difficulty by deciding how much or which items you care to collect each level. Often the challenge isn’t in getting all of the keys to move to the next level, but in collecting ALL the coins or ALL the orbs. In this manner it’s a good game for handing off to your buddy or significant other and seeing what you can do to progress together. E.g. Trade off every level because fingers get tired (though there’s an easy control scheme that removes the need to hold down the trigger to go forward). Or, trade off every death, because the game does start trying to kill you a bit more seriously on later levels. Not to mention falling to the abyss every time you try to grab something extra that’s Juuuust out of reach. Couch tag-team is what you make of it, but because it’s such a fun game to play and watch, you’ll want to do this with a friend.
Snake Pass is available on Nintendo Switch, Ps4, Xbox One, Steam, and Windows 10. On sale for $19.99 USD and available now. For the challenge and fun, we do feel that this is a fair price for the game. There is a lot in each level, and very obviously the design and challenges were carefully curated for the player to provide the most fun and least frustration. The levels are very unique from one another, and the progression feels almost arcade like. It’s missing a global tracker to see how my friends are slithering along, but that’s about it.
Final opinion: Solid game, worthwhile purchase. It’s hard to fault this game in many ways, because it doesn’t try to promise a whole lot. It’s difficult for me to say, “well the controls are a bit wonky”, because that’s the literal point of the game. It’s also difficult for me to call attention to small things like overly challenging level design, because again, that’s the point of the game: figure out how to climb it, and get to the goal. It’s also difficult to fault the game when I fall off of something and die, because I’m just not good at being a snake yet. There’s a significant learning curve, but it never feels like the game is punishing you for failure, and is light hearted enough that I expect to be playing through this game for a long time.
I’d ultimately rate Snake Pass as a 9/10 puzzle adventure. Great for couch tag-teaming of levels, and absolutely great to get lost in however you play it.
For more information, head over to http://www.snake-pass.com, and check out my livestream play of Snake Pass on the Switch on our youtube below: