For number seven of my best of 2017 list, we turn to a game that came out right at the start of the year, but managed to be a great example of one of my favorite talks on game design.
Snake Pass by Sumo Digital was a great example of the concept of subjective difficulty; where the game’s difficulty was measured by the player’s skill level.
How the game worked was that you could control the movement and positioning of Noodle the snake. The positioning of his body was crucial to grab objects and maneuver your way through obstacle courses of traps. What made Snake Pass work for me was how the game’s difficulty curve was tied to the player’s progression.
Each level had three difficulty tiers of collectibles. The easiest tier was required to beat the level, while the medium and advanced tiers were hidden in areas that corresponded to their difficulty. There were no elements of abstracted progression in the game; unless you count the post game reward of x-ray collectible seeing.
If you wanted to fully beat the game, you had to master the control scheme and mechanics of controlling Noodle. The game itself felt like a hybrid of puzzle and action gameplay. Every new collectible taunted the player to try and get to it, and then get back to safety.
The level design was really great at providing easy, medium, and advanced sections that all grew progressively more challenging over the course of the game.
It’s very hard to do subjective difficulty right, and we could argue that Snake Pass may not have been the most accessible form of it. Outside of the opening area, the game doesn’t really give the player instruction in terms of advanced play and left it to them to figure it out.
The game was also on the short side (depending on your skill level). Because everything was based on the player’s progress, it did limit how much they could have reasonably done to the game. With that said, Snake Pass was a great and challenging game. While it may not be for everyone, players looking for a challenge should not miss this gem of 2017.
For my #6 game of the year, we have a game that surprised me in terms of its depth.