Snake Pass Review

By Shawn Collier on May 2, 2017

Back during the days of the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation, finding a new 3D platformer on store shelves was a common affair. And this wasn’t just the mainstays Mario and Sonic either — it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of the action.

Once the era of the HD consoles came into being, this waned quite a bit and we haven't really seen much outside of the core Mario’s and Sonic’s. So to see a brand-new 3D platformer from veteran developer Sumo Digital is a rare and interesting sight — not just because of its genre but also for its gameplay style. But is that enough to warrant your purchase in this era?

Right from the get-go, Snake Pass hearkens back to the classic 3D platformer with a basic, straight-to-the-point narrative. You play as Noodle the snake with his companion Doodle the hummingbird as you travel between levels to get back home. It’s a basic premise, but it works great and doesn’t get in the way.

You might have noticed in that last paragraph (or from the title), the mention of “snake”. Unlike most platforms where you’re running and jumping across the levels, this time around you’re slithering across them just like a snake would. Sumo Digital implements a unique control scheme here by using the left analog stick to move Noodle, while you use the right trigger to control his acceleration. The timing comes into play as you attempt to mimic a real-life snake’s movements by gaining speed so you can wrap yourself around and scale objects without falling off of them, as you also need to be considerate of your body’s weight when coiled and how that affects things. The overall feeling of “being” a snake is felt quite excellently by these mechanics, and Sumo Digital does a good job of also guiding the player where they need to go next by using Doodle to move every so slightly to the next area the developers intended for you to explore next.

Where the game fall short is when you go outside of the game’s intended routing — specifically obtaining all of the collectibles scattered throughout the world. The main task in a level is to obtain three colored gemstones to open a portal, but there’s also orbs and five gold coins you can obtain. Usually the former aren’t too hard to obtain and will be in your general path for the most part, but the latter almost always will be in hard-to-reach locations. The problem is that Snake Pass’s checkpoint system only activates when you pass over specific checkpoint portals, so if you don’t backtrack after getting a tricky collectible and die, you’ll have to do it all over again. I also ran into some minor camera issues with some of the more difficult collectibles, which added to the frustrations, especially on later levels which remove the non-threatening water for instant-kill traps like lava.

To hearken back that old age of platformers, Sumo Digital brought in the talents of the renowned David Wise, best known for his work on the Donkey Kong Country series of games. It fits the game’s atmosphere absolutely perfectly, with a light, airy tone that matches the colorful atmosphere of the graphics. It does a lot to help when you keep dying trying to get that hard-to-reach collectible, that’s for sure.

With this being an Unreal Engine 4-based game, it’s available on all of the HD consoles as well as Nintendo’s latest console. For PS4 owners who have a PS4 Pro, you’ll get a higher graphical rendering option, or if you want to play at 1080p a higher framerate option. The Xbox One version ran as expected, although we noticed some slightly longer loading times. For Switch owners, it’s slightly paired down from the PS4/Xbox One versions but with the recent patches many of the initial launch issues have been fixed and there’s been some graphical improvements.

Final Thoughts

If you’re playing just for the experience and aren’t trying to fully collect everything, you’ll likely have no problems at all with Snake Pass. Completionists will run into some minor issues with its camera and the checkpoint system, but overall for Sumo Digital’s first attempt at their own self-published game, it’s a great achievement and I’m interested to see what they have in store next.

Snake Pass was reviewed using a PS4 digital code provided by Sumo Digital. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
Controls make you feel like you're actually a snake.
For those playing as the developers intended, the game does a good job in guiding the player along.
The Graphics are colorful and the music by David Wise fits the tone of the game perfectly.
If you're a completionist, the checkpoint system will become your bane.
The camera can be a nuisance at times.
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