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Snake Pass Review (PS4)

After years at the helm of titles such as Little Big Planet 3, developer Sumo Digital have crafted an engaging, challenging and adorable platformer with their new IP; Snake Pass. With an innovative movement system and well-designed puzzles, Sumo Digital's first step into the world of original IP has been a successful one.

Snake Pass Review (PS4)

Introduction

Snake Pass is a retro-influenced 3-D platformer where players control a snake through various worlds collecting items in order to progress to further levels. In order to collect the various orbs, gems and coins that litter each world, players must use the wrapping, coiling and slithering of the snake in order to make their way through platforming challenges. Developed Sumo Digital's first new IP, having previously worked on titles such as Little Big Planet 3, the studio has produced a slick, engaging, if slightly repetitive platformer that evokes the spirit of the early 64bit generation without neglecting gameplay for the sake of nostalgia.

Snake Pass is available for PS4, Xbox One, Steam and Nintendo Switch.

Story

The game opens when Noodle the snake's slumber is interrupted by his bird friend; Doodle. Doodle informs Noodle that the keystones that sit atop the gates between worlds are begging to disappear and that if Doodle is unable to retrieve them, they could be stuck there forever. The game features little narrative, but the few moments of the story are effective at building the world and giving each of the characters personality. Neither of the protagonists is voice acted, instead the game opts for some occasional emotive grunts that accompany text on the bottom of the screen, however, both are extremely expressive. The player is able to dictate Noodles expression with the D-pad, something that is no doubt an homage to Sumo Digitals work on Little Big Planet. As in LBP, this is completely adorable and makes the main character instantly lovable. The small instances of written dialogue are also charming and never intrude on gameplay or outstay their welcome.

Snake Pass Review (PS4) Noodle is an early favourite for 2017's character of the year.

GAMEPLAY

The game's core mechanic is the movement of Noodle the snake. In order to move forward, the player must rhythmically move the left stick from left to right while holding R2 in order slither. This unique control method is not only interesting but also feels genuinely rewarding. Building up momentum or navigating a tight puzzle by gracefully sliding around the various platforms in each level feels great and is impressively realized. Players are also able to call Doodle in order to have him lift your tail up when you find yourself hanging off a platform by your head. This is not only a useful mechanic but also alleviates a lot of frustration when you find yourself accidentally on the verge of plummeting to your death.

In each level, the player is tasked with collecting three keystones that must be delivered to the levels gate in order to proceed. These keystones are placed at the end of various platforming puzzles and require the player to build upon the central movement mechanic of slithering in order to complete. Later levels add mechanics such as water, fire hazards and the wind in order to add a layer of depth and skill to puzzles, but for the most part, you'll be slithering around wooden poles that protrude from platforms. These puzzles are fun, but it does feel rather repetitive after the 5th or so level of similar puzzles.

Snake Pass Review (PS4) Later levels introduce environmental hazards that add a layer of precariousness to puzzles.
The game also includes rather few levels. The main campaign features 15 levels across four environments. Players that are exclusively seeking the gems and leaving the level will be able to complete the game rather quickly depending on their skill level. Each level does feature a myriad of collectibles and extras in order to promote sticking around in a world after finishing the main objective, but for those not interested in 100% completion there might not be a lot left for you once the main campaign is finished.

After completing a level, a time trial mode in which players can attempt to complete levels in the fastest possible time is unlocked. This is a fun inclusion and I can see the mastering of the rhythmic movement being something that draws me back to continue to play. In some ways, I'm reminded of Mirrors Edge in the way that the game rewards players for skillful, finessed play. Patience and timing are rewarded with smoother and often more effective climbing. 

That being said there were a few puzzles I was able to pretty much avoid by using the game's generous float that occurs when falling from a height, but aside from those few instances, the puzzles remained challenging and interesting, if slightly repetitive.

PRESENTATION

Ex-Rare composer David Wise provides the game with a relaxed and soothing soundtrack that is joyful and fits the era the developers are trying to evoke perfectly. While no single track will be committed to the same folklore that some of his work on Banjo-Kazooie was, it's reassuring to see that when you need a soundtrack that screams platformer, Wise is still your guy. 

Snake Pass Review (PS4) Don't leave the controller down for too long of Doodle will mess you up.

Snake pass features a colourful and bright visual style that feels like a modernisation of the character platformer style of the late 90s. Both main characters are well designed, Noodle in particular however is absolutely adorable. I would proudly bare a t-shirt with his big dumb face on it any day. The movement of the titular snake is also extremely impressive. The slithering motion and the cohesiveness of the entire snake as it moves around the platforms is wonderful. I'm reminded of an almost Disney-like sense of realism that is able to be conveyed in a cartoon snake with enormous eyes.

Conclusion

Snake Pass is an adorable, fun and challenging platformer. It understands its central mechanic perfectly and uses this mechanic to craft one of the most interesting and unique puzzle games I've played in years. The lack of variety in the environments and the relatively short number of levels is disappointing, but the sense of satisfaction I felt when chaining together several of Noodles moves in order to traverse a difficult puzzle was huge. Sumo Digital have made an exciting first step into the world of original IP and if I were them I'd be hard at work coming up with a litany of new worlds and environments for Noodle to slither through, because, with a core idea this well realised, they may just have something very special on their hands. 

PROSCONS
+ Brilliantly executed central mechanic.– Few levels
+ Rewarding and challenging puzzles– Little in environmental deviation
+ Noodle is totally adorable.
+ Great soundtrack.

8
Great

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