A few weeks back, I covered the announcement of Snake Pass coming to Switch. Even then, I could tell that this would be a game right up my alley, so I jumped at the chance for a demo at PAX East. For this demo, I played the Nintendo Switch version using the Joy-Con Grip controller, while others played the other platforms around me. Sitting next to me through the entire demonstration was none other than Sebb Liese, the main designer of the project. Here are my thoughts on this physics based platformer.
For starters, let me preface with the fact that I have been playing 3D platformers since their incarnation on the N64 and beyond. Most notably I’ve spent a ton of time playing Banjo Kazooie, a game from which Snake Pass takes a lot of inspiration. However, my skills and schema that were built upon the backs of Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, Mario 64, and more were torn asunder by the new skills I would need to conquer the challenges of Snake Pass.
Liese talks about Snake Pass the same way in many of his interviews, including our brief time chatting at PAX. Players will have to think like a snake in order to succeed, something that’s a bit hard to explain until its being played. Noodle, our hero snake, must wrap around posts, coil to gain more distance in her jumps, and slither back and forth to move quickly. The trigger is mapped to accelerate, while the left trigger was mapped to grip, which tightens Noodle’s body to hold on. The player can also lift Noodle’s head to go upwards with a click of a button, while another button calls on Noodle’s friend, Doodle the hummingbird.
Using Doodle to pick up Noodle’s lower half is useful in a few different ways. Usually, this is used to redistribute Noodle’s weight, which the player must always keep in mind. I can’t tell you how many times I fell to a watery pit because I didn’t balance correctly. Coiling around properly to anchor the snake more firmly and using Doodle when needed are just a few excellent uses of the game’s simple, but deep mechanics. The game’s level design compliments this perfectly, slowly teaching the player without forcefully instructing them. For best results, plan ahead and take the time needed to readjust before moving forward.
Not going to lie, I was not as skilled at playing Snake Pass as those around me. I even had to pass the controller to Liese a few times to get past some tricky segments. Finally getting the hang of it though, felt amazing, as I was going through the courses and getting the necessary items quicker and more accurately. Even in the thirty minutes I played, I was quickly learning just how a snake would solve these puzzles and get to where I needed to be. This is a game based entirely on the physics of the character and its a set of mechanics I’ve never experienced before. Out of all the games I played at PAX, Snake Pass was definitely one of the most original at the event.
Visually, the game looked great on Switch, even though the PS4 and Xbox One versions did look a hair better due to the higher resolution. This visual fidelity didn’t bother my time with the game though, as it ran smoothly and without problems. The colorful world and characters popped with style, taking what worked so well in the N64 days and giving it a huge upgrade. Music was catchy in all the right ways and the characters had fun voices to make them feel more vibrant. In fact, the music was composed by David Wise, who is famous for his work for Rareware on games like Donkey Kong Country 2 and Battletoads. Snake Pass is a game that looks great and sounds great no matter what its being played on, but of course, coming out of the system’s release, I was most excited about the portability of the Switch. It’s also worth noting that Snake Pass is a part of Microsoft Play Anywhere, which means those who purchase the game on Xbox or Windows 10 PC will get the alternate version as well.
Liese actually told me of an earlier build of the game that he had made during a game jam, the one that he used to pitch the full project. One of the common criticisms he received was that the characters were too realistic. Harnessing the power of all the games he enjoyed, the team created a cuter look, really nailing the themes they were striving for. It feels like a classic platformer, but it plays in a way that is more akin to a puzzle game. I really hope to spend more time with the game upon release, mostly so I can redeem my shameful skills. It will also be interesting to see how speedrunners might approach this one. Who knows what kind of impression Snake Pass will leave on its players, but I can bet they’re in for something that feels new and unique.
I wish I could have had more time to really dive into Snake Pass, as its a game that begs the player to become better and better. Can’t wait to sharpen my slithery skills when Snake Pass releases on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PC on March 28th for North America and March 29th for Europe and Australia. Playstation players can even pre-order the game on the PS Store right now at a 20% discount.
Find out more information about Snake Pass at the official website.