On first glance you might think that Snake Pass is a colorful and charming 3D platformer, and you would be completely right, but beneath that veneer of kindness lies a deep hunger that can only be sated by the tears of countless players. Since there is no jump button, and since most collectibles are perched over humongous drops or pits of lava, you will need to master the controls and become one with the snake inside if you wish to last long. This process will most likely take you a while, but once it finally clicks you might just find that being a snake is far more complex and enjoyable than you could've ever imagined.
So if you're wondering whether Snake Pass is the type of platformer you might enjoy, and whether its gameplay mechanics are more than a simple gimmick, allow me to share my thoughts on what I've experienced throughout my journey to collect every single deviously hidden coin. And believe me when I say, collecting these things was quite the journey!
Whether that's a look of exhilaration or pure terror I'll leave for you to decide
The very first loading screen I encountered gave me a simple tip: "Think like a snake." Back then I paid that advice no heed, because after all I've spent the entirety of my childhood puzzling and platforming through all sorts of games, so what could Snake Pass really do to me? However, after dying well over 50 times on the optional challenges from the very first level I realized that my patented "just brute-force it" method would not be bringing me much success in Snake Pass.
This is due to the simple fact that Snake Pass does not control like your run-of-the-mill 3D platformer. Instead of constantly jumping around and stomping on enemies with your butt you play as an adorable 'little' snake called Noodle, with all of the advantages and disadvantages that form brings. You can slither alongside walls, extend your body in order to reach far away places, coil around bamboo in order to easily climb large surfaces, and also slide straight into a bottomless pit because getting used to realistic 'snaking around' takes a bit of time.
Thankfully the learning process is entirely natural and you're not going to be struggling against the controls, which is quite an impressive achievement when you consider how much depth there is to the movement. I've tried playing Snake Pass with both a gamepad and mouse & keyboard combo, and I am very glad to say that both options are perfectly fine. It might even come as a bit of a surprise to hear that I ended up going with mouse & keyboard as my preferred control scheme for a 3D platformer! That said, there is one very annoying bug with the controls. Your hummingbird friend Doodle often takes way too long to respond to your commands, which wouldn't be such a problem if he wasn't assigned to the endlessly useful "OH GOD I AM GOING TO DIE, HELP ME" button.
Just look at that evil glare, he knows what he's doing!
While Snake Pass does get deliciously tricky later on the very beginning offers a nearly perfect introduction to the controls... as long as you don't try to go for the hardcore optional challenges that will gladly throw you straight off a cliff, over and over again. You'll mostly spend the first few levels in relative safety, just climbing up and down poles, learning how to effectively navigate obstacles, and slowly realizing that being as fast as possible is a surefire way to die given how hard it is to keep track of every part of your snake. These 'tutorial' levels are all nice and simple, but also sprinkled with enough hidden collectibles to slowly push you towards learning harder and more complex tricks.
Once you get to the second world, however, I sure hope you've managed to learn all of the mechanics because playtime is over! In World 2 and beyond the difficulty spikes once reserved for the most hidden of collectibles are suddenly the norm, while the previously safe environments are swiftly replaced with actual spikes, deathtraps, and falls that waste 30+ seconds of your time. I'm not someone who shirks in the face of challenge, and indeed I managed to 100% these levels as well, but the difficulty curve after the first world is just completely ridiculous. I learned most of the advanced tricks while dying over and over again on the first level, but even that knowledge didn't save me from the beatdown World 2's hidden areas delivered upon me. I eventually adjusted and managed to complete all of the levels just fine, but it would've been nice if the difficulty curve was just a bit smoother while I was still learning how to walk... or rather slither.
Spikes are fine, but World 2 introduces far too many of them, far too quickly
World 2 doesn't just bring with it an increase in difficulty, it also marks the beginning of much more open-ended levels and even better secrets. There are plenty of simple little puzzles to solve, bottomless pits to dangle over as you try to collect coins, and even massive pools of lava you will need to bypass by crawling across two pieces of bamboo tied with a bit of string... and yes, its about as safe as it sounds. The level design isn't going to set the world on fire, expect via the previously mentioned pools of lava, but it does a pretty damn good job of exploring Snake Pass' unique mechanics.
As such its a bit unfortunate that the checkpoint system does almost completely the opposite - it discourages experimentation and crazy tactics. To its credit, you do respawn almost instantly after each death, which goes a long way towards removing some of the fatigue you might encounter in the later levels. The problem is that the checkpoints are too sparingly placed, so you're often going to solve two tricky obstacle courses, slip up on the third, and then find yourself right at the very beginning. Its needlessly frustrating, and for some of the more tricky areas it occasionally even made me rage-quit the level because I simply couldn't force myself to redo half of it over and over again. On the positive side, this is an issue that can be fixed rather easily, so hopefully the developers will do just that as it will greatly improve what Snake Pass has to offer.
The legendary level 1 puzzle I managed to lose ~30 minutes on
Even though I quit a few levels out of pure anger it is very hard to stay grumpy at Snake Pass, and soon enough I was back exploring its rich and colorful world. If you've taken even a single glance at any of the images so far this won't come as much of a surprise, but Snake Pass really is a beautiful game. All of the levels have a plethora of little details and personality about them, and this even includes the fire world which is actually my favorite. But what might be Snake Pass' biggest achievement is the simple fact that it manages to make a snake completely adorable! Add to this a relaxing and upbeat soundtrack that greatly reminds me of the collectathons of old and you've got yourself a platformer that is simply oozing with charm.
I just wish the camera would actually let me see all of that instead of firmly lodging itself into the nearby wall. Mind you, this isn't a constant problem that detracts from the otherwise lovely ambiance, but every time you enter an enclosed area you're going to be in for quite a ride. In these sort of scenarios you will not only have to move around like a snake, but also grapple with the camera at the same time, which unless you have a third hand this is not going to be the easiest of feats. Its really not something that will ruin your experience with Snake Pass, but its definitely aggravating enough to deserve this mini-rant!
It might be a lava-filled hellscape, but World 3 is downright beautiful!
Snake Pass has a couple of annoying issues, but if you're a fan of platformers and collectathons then these are problems you can easily ignore in favor of the unique but still enjoyable gameplay. The world is brimming with colors, the controls are solid, and the gameplay mostly manages to remain relaxing while still challenging enough to make you work your collectibles. It might not be as massive as the upcoming Yooka-Laylee, but Snake Pass definitely has enough going for it to make it worth your time.