Playing a 3D platformer without a jump button is a strange experience. When I first started Snake Pass, I felt lost without the warm blanket of a double jump. How do I get to that floating platform across the chasm? How am I supposed to change direction after I screw up my initial movement? And just how am I to obtain that arbitrary hard-to-reach shiny collectible?!
Answering these questions is easy once you realize that Snake Pass requires you to not only move like a snake, but think like a snake. Initially, I struggled to adapt to my lack of legs (I’ve grown quite attached to my limbs, you see): falling from the top of high peaks, slithering straight off rocky cliffs, and slamming into walls were sights seen far too often–making much of the mid-game more frustrating than enjoyable. But somehow, things clicked, and slinking up a pole to reach an objective became a natural and strangely beautiful movement, and one that distinguishes Snake Pass as a platformer like no other.
You play as Noodle, a vegetarian snake, joined by Doodle, your hummingbird companion. Like Yooka-Laylee, Snake Pass has clearly been inspired by late 90s platformers such as Banjo-Kazooie, but rather than simply retread what has come before, its central mechanic aims to innovate. Unfortunately, while Noodle and Doodle have cute names and appear full of character, their voices and personalities–or lack thereof–don’t quite have the charm of the aforementioned Rare mascots or other popular mascot creatures.
The joy, then, must come from Snake Pass’s mechanics. Make no mistake, this is a game about momentum, and about ‘feel;’ about how well developer Sumo Digital can translate being a serpent onto a gamepad. Initially, this is taught well, with easier obstacles and smaller enclosures allowing you to get to grips with your new boa constrictor body. You’re afforded the time and a safe environment to learn how to wrap your body around poles, how to accelerate across flat ground (you actually have to move side-to-side), and how to successfully climb upwards.