Devolver Digital, the publisher behind ‘Absolver’, ‘Ruiner’ or ‘Gorn’ is known for publishing indie-titles that are different from what we are used to.
During their E3 presentation in 2017, Devolver went the extra mile to make it as abstract and disturbing as they can. They showcased their new titles and fake ideas in a show titled ‘Tomorrow’s Unethical business practices today.’ Although the presentation itself was obviously a jab at the big publisher and developers, who promise the best and newest things ever, and for whom everything is revolutionary, they’ve also showed trailers for their new games. One of those was The Swords of Ditto.
This game, developed by Onebitbeyond, is an action-roleplaying game, a semi-roguelike dungeon-crawler. You awaken on the shores of an island, and a magical dung beetle tells you that your legendary destiny is to take the Sword of Ditto, which makes you THE Sword of ditto, and fight the evil of the witch Mormo. If you fail, and die, there will be no new hero for a hundred years, and the hag and her monsters will have free reins over the island.
Also, if when you die, you wake up as the next sword. Your character might be a young lad, or a girl, or even a robot or some cute animal. You need to make a depressing journey to the grave of the last hero, and reclaim the Sword, which bestows the previous users’ power and abilities to you. This means you never lose your level, only your items.
All of this is packaged in an adorable cartoony look with a jingly tune in the background. Most dungeon-crawlers are dark, both in story and visuals. The setting is usually poorly lit caves full of monsters. Well, Ditto’s caves are certainly full of enemies, but I wouldn’t call them mouldy, or dark. Everything feels like it was ripped from a morning cartoon.
Instead of looking for better metal armour or magical swords of forgotten ages, you use stickers to level up your toy weapons. These stickers give stat-boosts or combos, and you can equip them on your head, body, and arms. If you die, you lose all your stickers.
You also lose the legendary toys you’ve managed to find in the dungeons. These are powerful weapons that require ‘Toy Power,’ which is just a fancy name for your stamina.
The things you don’t lose are your levels, your money, and your kazoo.
And here is another adorably cute idea: there is a fast-travel system in the game. You have to play your kazoo to summon a space-hopping school bus (which resembles an iconic field-trip transporter from the ‘90s), which takes you to your desired destination.
Although you never lose the kazoo, but because a hundred year passes between characters, the map changes. Nothing is where it was before you died the last time, so you always have to activate the bus stops for your kazoo.
You can meet many colourful characters at shops and at random locations on the map, like the fat cat, the explorer penguin who is looking for his penguin-buddies and the walrus who opens the crates that have washed up on the shore for you.
All of this sounds neat, right? Well, in theory, yes, but according to the Steam reviews, the developer didn’t manage to put it into practice properly. It’s sitting at a 50% user score, with many users mentioning the problem with the levelling system. See, if you die, you may not become level 1 again, but everything else scales up. For example, a dungeon you need to be level five to enter might need you to be level six or seven. Enemies’ levels scale faster than yours does as well, so you may be overwhelmed in the late-game, when dozens of monsters push you into a corner, with nowhere to run.
Others mention the bugs that fill this game. They say it crashed for them many times, and has other performance issues as well, like long loading screens.
Some complain that the game is essentially a huge build-up for a pile of nothing in the end. They say even if you defeat Mormo, it’s not a rewarding experience.
On the PlayStation Store, the rating is four out of five stars, which may mean that there is a significant difference between the different ports of the game. Or it means that Steam users are more prone to complain then their console-playing counterparts.
Other pros of the game are controller support and two-player co-op. I feel this is a game that multiplayer improves. Helping each other, getting angry at the other for not doing the right thing… Good old times.
Well, anyway, after one playthrough alone I’m not going to put on the cape of the Sword again. Maybe if I can play co-op with someone who has never played the game, I’d consider re-installing it. For £14.99, though, I think it is a really nice game, either to pass the time, casually, or to look for collectibles, or just a challenge.