Snake Pass (Switch eShop)
Snake Pass is a pacifistic game that may cause more violence than anyone expected. Controlling a snake may be novel, but that doesn't mean that the game should get a pass for fundamental errors. It starts with the necessity to move in a snake line to gain speed; this could have been easily an automated process to avoid making basic movement cumbersome. Since the hero of Snake Pass, Noodle, can't jump, he has to make do by twisting himself around trunks to gain height. The controls are all sorts of awkward because the unreliable head movement repeatedly makes you miss the points for proper entanglement, so you find yourself falling down. This isn't much of an issue in the first few levels, but later on a mistake commonly results in death.
The physics don't help and are kinda funny. As soon as you touch a trunk, Noodle can raise his head notably higher than normal and he also gains speed. The funny part about the physics is that you can ride on horizontal bars instead of crossing such passages the proper way; other obstacles can be cleared by exploiting the physics too. Activating levers and other mechanisms is unnecessarily hard and takes too much effort. The ZL button allows you to hold on to whatever you are twisted around, but at the same time you can't move forward anymore, so I found this functionality largely pointless. A rear gear, while unrealistic, would have been helpful; if Noodle's head is too far beyond whatever he holds on, the only option left is failure. What's worse is that he repeatedly begins to slide off on his own while you are trying to rotate the camera in a proper position; this is a rather frequent situation, because the automatic camera often does an insufficient job.
I would have prefered semi-automatic climbing controls that "glue" the snake onto whatever it touches and a button press would cause a release once you want to move on to another object and initiate the next instance of sticking onto something. This may have reduced the challenge, but that wouldn't be a bad thing for a game that, for one, is lending itself to be a relaxing experience, and two, is way too difficult anyway. Clearing levels in a barebones fashion is already challenging enough after the halfway point, but obtaining all collectibles constantly throws you in life or death situations. The tried and true band-aid for such poor game design are frequent checkpoints and they are indeed plentiful in Snake Pass.
It took me a good four hours to finish the 15 levels of the four worlds and since the ending was a cry for help by a certain character, I assumed that collecting all gatekeeper coins would unlock a fourth level in the final world. I was very disappointed when that turned out to be wrong. All you get for making the herculean effort to collect everything are alternate skins for Noodle and Doodle (the bird buddy). A free update added time challenges and online leaderboards for each level. Needless to say, a game with such problematic controls isn't fun to play that way, because failure due to something that isn't really your fault sucks.
I was pondering if the score should be a 3 or 4. In light of the ever-present lackluster controls, I opted for the lower score. A score of 4 usually means a below average, but still serviceable package. It's right at the edge of giving a title a chance at a significant discount, but Snake Pass isn't something that I would recommend. Unless you are a masochist, of course.
|Controls||10||A control scheme that literally gets in its own way.
A bad camera makes tricky situations even more stressful.
|Gameplay||Find three keys to unlock the exit of any given level.
Collectibles in tough spots add more challenge.
|Story||The setting is okay, but cutscenes are unskippable and
trigger every time you play a stage.
|Single-player||The difficulty ramps up fast and goes beyond what would be
reasonable for the provided controls.
|Graphics||A nice game to look at, but the framerate is
notably inconsistent in the final world.
|Sound||The soothing soundtrack is at odds with the frustrating
difficulty. Only one composition per world.
|Value||Over ten hours to complete the game 100%, but the content
is very much stretched by the high difficulty.
|Replay Value||Time attack and online leaderboards may be an incentive,
but they aren't a good fit under the given circumstances.
|Score||3||Snake Pass is an exercise in frustration and can't stop
reminding the player that things don't work as intended.