The early console wars between Sony, Nintendo, and Sega created a whole generation of platformers which changed the landscape of game development for quite some time. Titles like Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro the Dragon, and Jet Set Radio were among some of the best known and romanticized titles of their generation. Fast forward to 2017 and almost all of these original collection based platformers have disappeared.
Snake Pass breaks the cycle with a core series of game mechanics that are so very reminiscent of these titles of old, but with its very own uniqueness. The player takes control of a colourful cartoon snake named Noodle along with the help of their hummingbird companion, Doodle. The objective involves collecting a series of items scattered around each environment and continuing to the next world. Essentially Noodle has awoken to discover that all the portals to migrate with the other snakes have mysteriously closed. Doodle awakens Noodle and follows along to discover who has been closing these portals.
The comparison to something like Banjo-Kazooie is immediate, especially in its richly vibrant worlds covered in all kinds of obstacles and pathways to take. The big draw beyond this retro aesthetic is a very different control scheme to move Noodle about. The controls involve operating Noodle so that the movement mimics that of an actual snake. Using one button to control raising and lowering the head, while another controls forward movement. At the same time another button controls a tight grip around a wrapped up object, and yet another controls Doodle to assist in keeping Noodle’s tail up in trickier elevated areas. These controls may sound a little difficult to wrap your head around (bad pun, I know), but that is a big part of the appeal. The controls are difficult, but not punishing, and completing difficult platforming sections are a very rewarding experience.
The amount of platforming a player can complete is also up to how heavily you wish to explore. Completionists will have a lot of difficult little sections to swing around with great risk to losing progress between checkpoints. Things can get very difficult, or can be played in a more leisurely manner without the need to collect absolutely everything, and no punishment exists for passing by a coin that may be just a little too tough to get to. Realistically only three of three core gems are required to open the portal into the next level.
While either rushing through or taking your time, there is always a lovely soundtrack with a great vibe of retro Donkey Kong style music. They may sound similar since the composer, David Wise, is the same composer who created the Donkey Kong Country soundtracks. The theme changes to match each world as Noodle passes from jungle, to volcanic, to sky themed levels.
Overall, Snake Pass is a throwback to the days of the earliest of 3D platformers that retains much of the nostalgic charm the originals contained. All the while the presentation of a challenging but rewarding control mechanic that never truly punishes the player in any unfair way. Anyone looking for a little throwback with a modern twist would be remiss not to try Snake Pass.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good