bhlaab's Snake Pass (PlayStation 4) review

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It Mostly Works

Snake Pass is a platformer where you play as a snake. In each level you have to collect three stones. Optionally you can get orbs and coins, neither of which do anything besides provide self-satisfaction. Getting these collectibles as a snake requires you to slither and climb your way up and across poles. They get a lot of mileage out of poles, especially when they start introducing poles attached to moving and rotating platforms. That said, the game is somewhat short. There are only 15 levels, with most of them taking about an hour to 100%. It's kind of shocking how well the snake concept actually works in spite of the fact that the game is often frustrating in the second half. By that midway point you'll likely to be easily pulling off maneuvers that seemed almost impossible at the beginning.

Unfortunately there are a number of elements that hold the game back in a very big way.

Number 1 with a bullet is the camera. It can not keep up with what the game is trying to do at all. It's the sort of camera that needs to be baby-sat, which is difficult to do when you're using all of your fingers to stay suspended to a bamboo jungle gym and you're trying to transition onto another bamboo jungle gym that is attached to a spinning platform. When the game picks a camera angle for you, it's the wrong one. There are two zoom modes: way too close and way too far away, and you always have to change at the least opportune moment. The camera gets stuck on walls and obstacles. I've had my stupid hummingbird friend park his ass directly in front of my view while I was trying to do a difficult platforming challenge. It's just crummy and is the game's biggest downfall.

"Thanks for the help, camera."

The second biggest problem are small technical issues with the controls and physics that add up. To be honest, you're never actually in control of a snake in this game. It's more like you're in control of a snakes head, and the rest of him is just dead weight attached to the head. Most of your body is fairly useless for clinging to poles and that takes some getting used to. The analog stick is used to navigate the head, but the head uses camera-relative "2-D" controls while the game requires intense 3-D navigation. It's difficult to explain, but in practice it means that if you're doing a lot of rotating around poles (you will), the game will often get left and right confused. This can turn your coiling into an un-coiling in the heat of the moment. Not good! While the analog stick navigates your orientation, vertical movement involves raising your snake's head with the very non-analog A button. It creates a bit of a pat-your-head-and-rub-your-stomach effect where A is the only element of the controls that you have to Bird Leaf. Then there's the general sluggishness of your snake. In order to move with any speed at all, you need to slither back and forth in an "S" pattern. This is true to how snakes move on the ground in real life, but here it just sucks. Often there isn't enough room to actually go back and forth, and so you're stuck going at the slowest possible speed. It's annoying to have to spend so much time waggling the stick. Acceleration is very slow, making deaths even more frustrating.

Frustration is the third biggest problem. While there are several checkpoints in every stage, there needs to be way more. There should be a checkpoint after every major obstacle, since repeating already-completed challenges in this game is not particularly rewarding. The time from death to respawn is... honestly not that bad compared to so many other games, but it really needed to be as fast as a game like Super Meat Boy, especially if getting your snake up to speed and back into the fight is going to be so arduous.

Honestly, I had a good time with this game. I 100%ed it! But I could only ever stand to play one level per session, and the bad points left a much greater impression than everything else. I'd say this is a good game to get for five dollars. Maybe eight.

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