After 20 years since 3D platformer graced our lives and blew our minds with ploygons, you’d have thought that there’s nowhere left for the genre to go. The genre’s stale and no developer could bring something new to make things fresh. Well, you’re absolutely wrong because Sumo Digital have done just that.
Snake Pass is a completely upside-down take on the genre, where you play as a snake. And, yes, Snakes can’t jump, yet Snake Pass is one of the best platformers in years.
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sumo Digital
Release Date: March 28, 2017
This review is based on a review copy provided by Sumo Digital.
Snake Pass has little to no introduction whatsoever, as should most 3D Platformers. You start off by being awakened from your nap and told that the world is in peril. That’s about it. The game just lets you go off, and explore the level as a Snake. And boy, is it weird to maneuver as a Snake.
This is by far the most interesting, perplexing, and amazing part of the entire game. It’s not as simple as just pushing the analog stick forward, and off you go. You have to calibrate your mindset to that of a snake. This means slithering side to side to gain momentum, and the most difficult part: wrapping yourself around objects.
This is where the perplexing, and down right frustrating, part of the controls/mechanics come into play. As a fan of platformers, I’ve always been used to constantly moving forward, where the game always pushes me to have constant momentum to get to my objective. Snake Pass essentially turns that philosophy on its head, and will be the reason for 50% of your deaths. However, it will also be the reason to make you foolishly grin, due to the creative and imaginative nature of its mechanics.
Throughout the game, that grin always found its way to pop up again on my face. Snake Pass has found a way to bring back the magic from platformers of yore, and avoid the stale “Been there, done that” nature of other games trying to bring the genre back. Now, just because that magic is there and I found myself always smiling during my playthrough, doesn’t mean that this is a cakewalk, either.
It’s one thing to master the controls of Snake Pass, which is quite a hurdle. However, it’s another thing entirely to use the mindset you’ve gained in order to get around the levels. This is where the level design in Snake Pass shines. All the levels and obstacles have the mechanics in mind. It should be a given, however the brilliance in its execution help the snake mechanics come to life. The satisfying feeling of wrapping yourself around a pole, or dangling from a ledge to get a collectible is that much more satisfying only due to the combination of the two.
Although the design of the levels is brilliant, it doesn’t carry over so well in the aesthetics department. Too much of Snake Pass’s world looks the same, minus color scheme changes here and there. With each new world, the only difference brought to the table is the thematic natural element for each one. The trope of using the elements — earth, wind, fire, and water — to differentiate a world is a trope I wish wasn’t used for this modern platformer. It’s one thing to use a cliche to design a world, but it’s another thing entirely to just sprinkle it on top, and have everything essentially look the same.
I can understand that perhaps this was done so as to make each world seem cohesive and not feel disjointed from one another. Yet, that’s not the point when making a 3D platformer. I want each world to feel fresh and exciting. New aesthetics to a world give the player incentive to go around and explore, and this was sorely lacking in Snake Pass.
Even though all the worlds look and feel similar, that doesn’t take from the fact that Snake Pass is still a pretty game. It’s graphical art style is one that evokes pure joy, while staying simplistic. It’s not going to knock your socks off, but it’s not an eyesore, either.
More so, adding to the jolliness, is its soundtrack. Although it’s quite simplistic, Snake Pass’s music is effective in making you feel the childish wonder you had way back when playing your favourite 3D platformer. There a few times, especially early one, where I’d just stop and appreciate the subtle music.
Overall, Snake Pass is something you shouldn’t pass up on. It’s a modern platformer that has the magic of the classic, while still managing to feel fresh and exciting. Although it’s worlds all feel similar, it was never a slog to get through each one.