Ever since I first saw Noodle’s wide-eyed smile, I knew that Sumo Digital was slithering toward something truly special with Snake Pass. The slippery reptile, with his hummingbird companion Doodle, feel right at home on Nintendo Switch, which we can be thankful for, seeing as the game that they star in is particularly fun to coil around in.
This colourful physics-based puzzle platformer came into existence after creator Seb Liese was allowed some time to learn how to use Unreal Engine 4, a playful experiment with some rope soon seeing him remember the two snakes that he once had as pets. Then, when Sumo Digital ran an internal game jam, a colleague had pushed him to explore the idea more, and, after seeing how the public reacted to it at EGX Rezzed, it went into full production.
Sometime later, an unlikely hero slithered into view. When Doodle discovers that a Keystone has been stolen from a nearby gate, he flutters back to wake Noodle for help. They soon discover that someone has been removing the Keystones from each of the gates in Haven Tor, which are the only way that the creatures that dwell there can travel around the world.
Noodle and Doodle, therefore, decide to set out on a heroic journey to discover the identity of the mysterious intruder and the reason why they are keen to disrupt their otherwise peaceful paradise.
That epic quest is one of playful discovery as you continually experiment with how Noodle can move around each level. Straight away that will see you realise that wriggling from side to side will let you slither forwards more quickly and that curling Noodle around canes will let you climb with less struggle.
There are button inputs for moving forward, changing the way that Noodle’s head is facing, lifting his head upwards, gripping on to any object that he is coiled around, or even whistling at Doodle to request that he grabs Noodle’s tail.
It can be said that the controls are simple enough to grasp, but there is an undeniable appeal in learning to master Noodle’s snakey behaviour over several hours with the game. The opening world, Bol-Dor’s Realm, eases you in to the gameplay mechanics, but it isn’t long before you are faced with new surprises such as rotating platforms, molten lava, and water – in which Noodle can dive ever deeper without the fear of running out of oxygen.
Those looking to explore every nook and cranny in each level will find their curiosity rewarded in discovering Orbs and Gatekeeper Coins to collect, while a Time Trial mode will surely entice speed freaks that are looking to prove their worth on the leaderboard.
If the impeccable presentation and captivatingly colourful art direction weren’t enough to impress, Sumo Digital was also lucky enough to have David Wise compose music for the game. The result is a spellbinding experience that players of all ages can freely get lost in. There’s even a cheerful nod to the developer’s work on the LittleBigPlanet series, with the player free to set Noodle’s facial expression – whether happy, sad, scared or angry.
The serpentine hero and his feathery friend aren’t free from criticism, however. That’s more disappointment from the game being over just at it starts to click – their escapades limited to 15 levels split between four worlds. The Time Trials and online leaderboards were added in a software update, and there has been some talk about downloadable content, so we can at least hope that more is on the way.
As it stands, the unique serpentine physics in Snake Pass makes it stand out from the crowd, and that should be applauded. Gratifying when it all comes together, it regularly treads some nail-biting moments that only add to what amounts to an enjoyable experience that will leave you as wide-eyed as the game’s slippery protagonist.