Review: Snake Pass has some great ideas but lacks finesse
This game will have you rattled.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Played), PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sumo Digital
With the rise of indie gaming come a handful of titles every year that enter the gaming zeitgeist along with their AAA counterparts. Snake Pass is one such game, a title you have undoubtedly heard online around various convention discussions. It is a game that has demoed incredibly well, but what's it like now that it's in wild? And more importantly, is it a good title to add to your new Switch library?
The game is a unique puzzle platformer that has you in control of a snake called Noodle. You use the left thumbstick to wriggle side-to-side which increases your snake's speed and can lift up both your head and your tail in order to navigate the bamboo platforms. If you need to control the head independently, you are able to grip down with your body. The controls are fairly simple, but as I came to learn, difficult to master.
Snake Pass is available for all three major platforms and the PC, but I opted for the Switch version as, despite my trepidations, I love Nintendo's latest piece of hardware. The game seemed like a beautiful palette cleanser to Breath of the Wild which I'm still playing. Whilst it noticeably may not reach the fidelity of a copy running on PS4 Pro, the presentation is still impressive for such a small device. The colors and design of the game are some of its strongest points.
Tripping over your own tail
Where the game falters is in its controls. As stated before, on the surface they sound simple, but maneuvering at times can be incredibly difficult. Since you're constantly moving side-to-side, when you're also controlling the camera, the wires cross a little. I am still trying to figure out whether it's just me or the game, but it hasn't improved over the few hours that I've been playing. Which is a shame, because based on the press release I've received detailing the length of Snake Pass, it sounds like those few hours are a substantial amount of the game.
Just when you think you get into the swing of things, the game throws you another curve ball. Moving platforms, lava floors, and mechanical switches all had me frustrated. And not the good kind of frustration like in a Dark Souls game; the kind of frustration that stems from unresponsive inputs. This may be more specifically an issue with the Joy-Con controllers, but I have a sneaking suspicion using my Pro controller isn't going to suddenly fix all the gameplay quirks.
Too much rumble in the jungle
[Edit: This is a bug and is being patched out]
Another big problem I had, which I tried to not let bother me, is the HD Rumble feature of the Joy-Cons in this title. It is loud. You cannot play in a public space without drawing attention, and separating the Joy-Cons from the system and playing wirelessly only slightly helps. When I played the game at PAX East I was rocking the Pro controller which didn't seem to have this issue. Not being able to play with Joy-Cons, however, removes a lot of the appeal with getting the game on Nintendo Switch. And no, there doesn't seem to be a way to turn rumble off.
An honest attempt at a unique platformer
Snake Pass is a game with promise, and an indie title I really wanted to enjoy, but in an already crowded gaming season, I don't see myself returning to it once I've finished my initial playthrough, despite additional collectibles and difficulty levels to tackle. Ultimately, I wish I had gone for the PS4 version of the game. An increased frame rate I imagine would slightly improve the gameplay issues, as well as negate that pesky HD Rumble.
Whilst Snake Pass has some highlights, it ultimately fails to connect gameplay and design in one cohesive experience.