Snake Pass PC
Sumo invites us to find a better way to Noodle around
Apart from that messy business of occasionally unhinging their jaws to eat, snakes can often appear rather graceful creatures. Whether gliding silently through grass or coiling around trunks and branches to climb, they cope well enough with having to get around on their bellies. Granted, we’d never thought too deeply about their handicap until now: the genius of Snake Pass is that it breaks down that instinctive motion into a tricky multi-step process, the mastery of which provides the main challenge. Those bright, cartoonish looks belie a game that takes the art of serpentine movement very seriously indeed.
The simple act of moving forward, for instance, is complicated by the fact that snakes don’t gain momentum by sliding in a straight line. Rather, to build up speed, you’ll need to tilt the analogue stick left and right in conjunction with the right trigger – essentially an accelerator pedal – to advance in elegant arcs. The snake, Noodle, will raise his head when you hold the A button, which allows you to pass over low walls and ramps, and to start making your way up and around bamboo poles to collect the three large gems that will open the exit portal, and smaller blue orbs situated in awkward places, which ultimately affect the number of stars you receive at the end of the level.
Efficient climbing is a fine art. Coiling around a single vertical or horizontal pole isn’t too difficult, but gaining the necessary purchase to keep going involves careful manoeuvring. Squeeze the right trigger fully and you’ll dart forward, prompting Noodle’s head to naturally loll downwards, dragging the rest of him with it. A gentler touch is required – lighter, intermittent squeezes allow you to make tighter turns and smaller loops, while the left trigger lets you grip tighter when you’re at risk of sliding off. Assuming, that is, that your lower half has something to grab hold of.
So, yes, under your control Noodle will be the clumsiest of his kind for a while. A narrow horizontal pole over a vertiginous drop proves a nerve-wracking trial for a beginner. It might sound easy, but internalising and executing the combination of inputs required to drop your head, move it under and around and bring it back up on the other side as you edge across – not to mention squeezing just enough to give you sufficient wiggle room to make such a move – is anything but. After several attempts, it starts to feel more natural, and the physics are forgiving enough to let you get away with the odd flub. Checkpoints are fairly generous, but a fall alone is adequate punishment given the contortions required to get back up to where you were.
Flushed with the confidence of having obtained all the orbs on the first stage, we attempt a level from later in the game. Here, there are rock platforms with protruding poles spinning above much longer chasms, demanding sharp timing and dexterity to successfully pass. With makeshift ladders, tube slides, narrow walkways and deep pools of water besides, it quickly dawns that we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the gentlest of practice runs. This time we take four times as long to finish with fewer than half the orbs, and as we finally curl up inside the portal we exhale deeply. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming looks: Snake Pass is a wonderfully tactile experience with an exhilarating depth of challenge. The instruction to ‘think like a snake’ might seem silly, but these crafty obstacle courses demand you engage your reptilian brain to become a truly skilled slitherer.
Snake Pass breaks down the instinctive motion into a tricky multi-step process