Note: For the Review, I played both the PC & PS4 editions of the game. Both versions play the same though I put more time in on the Playstation edition, though it is worth noting the PC version plays aswell on Keyboard or Controller.
It’s worth acknowledging here, at the start, I am quite terrible at video games. No really, I am quite thoroughly awful. As a result, Roguelike adventures have never been my friend because how do you cheat and use a guide for a game with near limitless combinations of what the map could be? Luckily, as well as being a bad gamer, I am a glutton for punishment and a sucker for a strong art-style so when a game as pretty as this comes along, I’m willing to suffer through. It helps that The Swords of Ditto is really, damn fun.
So to start with, the game does a nice job with its opening preamble of giving a fun spin to the traditional ‘start with all your powers and lose them’ opening. It gives you some of your abilities but not nearly enough to keep you alive through the prelude. Then, if you’re me, you’ll die a lot more over the next few hours. So the game’s central hook is that you, as a conduit of The Sword of Ditto, must fight the evil witch Mormo who returns once every century. But, if she wins, it takes you one hundred years for another incarnation to develop. This leads to a complete overhaul of the map as a century’s worth of development happens in the meantime. Also each time you wake up, you only have 4 days of game time to get everything you want done before you have to go and fight (and probably be killed by) Mormo.
One of the more intriguing potentials of this mechanic is that if you’re good enough (which I can’t stress enough, I am not) at the game, you could pull off a Far Cry-esque early finish to the game and kill Mormo on that first playthrough, it’s unlikely, but the potential is there. Though that would mean you’d miss out on some of the exciting and entertaining side characters and weapons to explore out there. When I tell you a supercharged laser for distracting cats is one of the tamer weapons in the game, you can tell there’s more to discover. It must be said that the nature of the four-day timeframe coupled with the century gap between characters may frustrate completists as there are going to be a myriad of side-quests you don’t find time to compete. I’ll never be able to collect that eleventh tennis ball and I have to live with that.
As much as I would like to tell you I loved nearly everything about this game, I can’t wholeheartedly do so as the game’s main problem is that while the combat works within the shorter bursts, after a while you realise it is quite limited. Practically every monster and most bosses are beaten by dodging their attacks and timing your own. Also, I would have liked it if there was a greater sense of development to the actual world and not just faint re-skinning with every playthrough. Though the charming simplicity of this does complement the art style.
I wish I could tell you whether the game’s ending is satisfying but I’m not quite there yet. What I can tell you is that so far, the journey has done nothing yet to make me want to stop trying to get there. It’s like a cute cartoon feature-length video game version of the Samuel Beckett quotation ‘Try, fail, try again, fail again, fail better’. It’s a little bit Minit (Devolver Digital’s other RPG about death), a little bit Rogue Legacy and quite a lot Zelda, even if it that works against it, to an extent. A game with a limited time before the somewhat end of the world that isn’t Majora’s Mask? Though truly, if you can accept that it’s not and never will be Majora’s Mask, then it’s certainly worth your time, though be prepared to lose more than four days to it.
The Swords of Ditto is Available on PlayStation 4 or PC now.