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

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