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Playing games as long as I have, you take certain things for granted. While physics and movement in games are important and varied, the idea of getting from point A to B never feels daunting or engaging. You’re running, jumping, grappling, flying, driving, gliding, climbing, swimming and more; and while the game can make these all exciting with visual flair and other kinds of feedback, Sumo Digital’s Snake Pass figured out a way to make it feel fresh.

In control

By putting players in control of a snake, you have to think about progress with respect to that body shape and abilities. Slithering in a straight line can work, but it’ll be sluggish and unwieldy. Instead, you can build up surprising amounts of speed by going from side to side in a serpentine pattern, and even if I don’t know for sure how it should work it manages to do just that.

The same goes for winding around objects in the environment, gripping them, and moving upward to reach new heights and collectibles. It takes some getting used to and falls will happen, but the game is fairly forgiving (so far) with heights being manageable to work back up through once you understand a section of a climb. Even falling off a stage’s edge just respawns you at your last checkpoint, though if you’ve made any progress for a tough-to-reach collectible it might be a good idea to revisit the checkpoint. By triggering it again it can create a new save point; otherwise you may end up having to do a tricky situation all over again.

Highs and lows

There are a few early concerns though. The game’s shorter length at 15 stages across four themes may be an issue for some, though the levels themselves are larger than I assumed they’d be from prereleased footage. There are also added incentives for completionists to either be thorough on a first pass or revisit stages to gather everything available, including some extra elusive golden coins.

The other main rub is also its core appeal. If you’re unable to get a grip on or gel with the game’s unique movement mechanics, then it’s not going to get any better. Thankfully, the game has been pretty good about presenting set pieces and (unobtrusive) mini-guides within the experience itself to ensure you aren’t blind to the matter. That said, it’s certainly not “simple” at a first attempt, or even a second. But the sense of reward that comes with visualizing what you want to do and actually pulling it off is both uplifting and exciting in its own right.

While I’ve still got plenty of a sidewinding and coin finding to do before I can give a full report, I’ve been enjoying my first hours with Snake Pass. Learning how to control its uniquely shaped star smoothly has brought a smile to my face and got me thinking about what would otherwise be “typical” environments in brand new ways. Here’s hoping that feeling lasts throughout the adventure, but for anyone already loving the game’s look and concept can rest easy: if you can wrap your head around its movement mechanics it’ll wrap itself around your heart right back.

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Written by Ricky Berg

When he isn’t writing for Nintendo Wire, Ricky’s anticipating the next Kirby, Fire Emblem, or if the stars ever align, Mother 3 to be released. Till then he’ll have the warm comfort of Super Smash Bros. to keep him going.