For Christmas last year, my parents sent my son a paper craft kit. You were supposed to be able to make the Batmobile by folding tabs on card templates and slotting them together. My son’s three, and isn’t an absolute master of fine motor skills. But hey, a Boxing Day project, father and son, a nice way to spend the holiday, right?

Any other parent knows what happened. He got bored pretty quickly and headed off to play with something that was actually made and existing right then and there. I labored on until the point where the thing expected you to make tires and tank tread things, ripped a tab, fixed it with tape, couldn’t get anything to slot in. The Batmobile met its recycling end with the paper it was wrapped in by the following weekend. But anyway.

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When an email pinged into the KP vacuum tube sorting office that had the Snake Pass code within, I took the rare step of recruiting My aforementioned three year old. This, along with the imminent Yooka Laylee seemed to be a great time to broaden my wee scamp’s gaming horizons beyond Go Go Thomas the Tank Engine on the iPhone. It’s a simple collection affair, based around finding blue gems, coins and three computed keys to open up the next stage. Navigation is the task at hand, without the hassle of combat or time limits.  Sumo Digital are certainly the studio for it meanwhile, thanks to their years of working with Sega blue skies. Snake Pass looks bright, busy and cheerful, Noodle the snake being an expressive chap, and the game generally having a cheery feel good nature.

So, me and the lad sat down for a nice afternoon of snaking. The parents can anticipate what happens next. To be fair, the Dual Shock 4 is not built for infant hands, and as a family venture, Snake Pass would certainly be more suited to the diminutive Switch Joycons. We’re on PS4 though, so it came to me driving and him navigating.
‘Look, there’s a key there.’
‘Righto.’
‘Climb up there.’
‘Yep.’
‘No, daddy, up.’
‘I’m trying.’
‘You fell off.’
‘Sorry.’
‘I want to play with cars.’

So, sadly though not entirely unexpectedly, it was down to me after the boy went to bed. Snake Pass puts Noodle in basic and fairly compact 3D platforming levels, with the twist being that he’s unable to jump. Instead, he can coil himself around columns to climb up them, and at the push of a button, command his tutorializing bird friend Doodle to lift his tail. You use one trigger to propel yourself forward, the other to tense up and get a tighter grip on items, and a third to elevate Noodle’s head and get him up to higher plains.

It’s reasonably simple in theory but infuriating in practice. The stringent physics here mean that you can be mid way through a seemingly safe ascent, but tumble either to the ground or off the map entirely too often.

Platformers rely on traversal being enjoyable, and emphasizing achievement. In Uncharted, there’s a spectacle to making short work of tough mountains. Even in harder to control games like Grow Home, pleasure comes from carefully navigating yourself upward and being able to look back at how far you’ve come.

A simple bridge becomes a tough challenge in Snake Pass. As intended, but rarely to an entertaining end.

A simple bridge becomes a tough challenge in Snake Pass. As intended, but rarely to an entertaining end.

The stages in Snake Pass are small, and the tasks involved would be ludicrously simple if you were playing a normal platforming protagonist. The very premise of the game then handicaps the player, and doubles down on irritation rather than interesting play. It’s as if Sumo have provided you a notebook and pen and said ‘write your name with your feet’- it’s a challenge, sure, but an uninteresting task with an unnecessary impediment. As a result, there isn’t the Grow Home like impetus to master controls to make dizzying climbs, nor is there the desire to muck around and create slapstick a la Octodad.

All that’s left marries frustration with mundanity. Even in open spaces that give you the freedom to roam somewhat, Noodle moves incredibly slowly, requiring you to slalom in a bid to build up speed; a move emblematic of the busywork the game is having you perform at large. Not even the camera is on your side, frequently struggling to frame things as you climb around corners, and not being easy to adjust manually when your hands are contorted into the requisite claw to keep Noodle from falling.

It feels depressing to dislike Snake Pass. It’s lavishly presented with bright, likable visuals, and pulls off its concept of controlling a physics heavy snake through platform stages just fine. That concept may be what separates it from other platformers, but it’s also fundamentally flawed from the outset, and it’s hard to enjoy. A paper Batmobile of a game.

KAIJU VERDICT

1/4 Pops: Weak  One pop games may be functional, and enjoyable to some, but not the reviewer. Mechanical or conceptual failings make them impossible to recommend

PS4 version tested.
Review code supplied by Sumo Digital

About The Author

Gamer, Educator, Writer of Stuff, wrestler of professionals (sometimes)