The classic Legend of Zelda formula lives on in many an indie adventure these days, but few match the quality of The Swords of Ditto. This is a procedurally generated quest in which you have just a handful of days to prepare for and defeat an evil witch. Win and you bring peace to the game's colourful world. Lose and a new hero will have to take up your sword and adopt your legacy.
The randomisation at the heart of The Swords of Ditto adds a devilishly addictive twist to the aforementioned Zelda archetype. Every time you begin a new run, the world's environments change. Dungeons are replaced, you'll find new ways to play, and you'll discover secrets that can drastically alter the difficulty of your journey. The game's underlying mechanics mostly remain the same, but there's always just enough variation keep things feeling fresh.
It's a neatly balanced release that's really at its best once you've pushed through the first few hours. It can take a little while to wrap your head around the game's structure, but once you're in, it gets harder and harder to tear yourself away.
The core loop of The Swords of Ditto goes something like this: explore in order to level up you hero, head to the designated dungeon, acquire a powerful new weapon, and then repeat the process until time's up and you're forced to take on your evil adversary. Despite its colourful visuals and cheeky sense of humour, the tension can seriously ramp up as the big fight draws near. As such, you need to make sure that you're prepared for what lies ahead -- and that's where things start to get interesting.
Depending on how the world's constructed, the difficulty of your mission can vary quite a bit. One run may see you collect several weapons in a relatively short space of time, and before you know it, you'll be geared up well ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, a less fortunate run might leave you in a position where you feel woefully unprepared for the upcoming challenge. At that point, you just have to hope that your trusty blade and evasive roll are enough to see you through.
Indeed, the basics of combat are very simple. A standard slashing combo with your sword gets you past most enemies, while hitting circle and holding a direction makes you roll away to safety. On top of that, additional weapons -- or toys as the game calls them -- can be equipped in order to expand your options, and these range from your usual bow and arrow to a magical ring that unleashes a beam of energy. It's all easy to understand, and tight controls help elevate the whole system.
Things get slightly more complex when you add stickers to the equation. Stickers are basically items that can either bolster your existing abilities or grant you completely new ones, and getting your hands on an effective sticker can be a game-changer. For example, we managed to nab a rare sticker that negated all damage from projectile attacks, and when you've got hordes of bats shooting supersonic waves at you from a distance, you can bet that we were thankful for it.
As mentioned, the random nature of the game is what keeps you coming back, but admittedly, it won't be for everyone. Sometimes it can feel like your luck's dried up, and that can be frustrating when you're just trying to further your progress after a previously botched run. Patience is most definitely required.
Fortunately, you don't have to face the challenge alone. At any time, a second player can drop in and help out. Co-op is local only, but adventuring with a buddy by your side is great fun, and the added teamwork can actually improve the experience. With an ally, you can distract certain enemies or find alternate solutions to dungeon puzzles -- you can even come up with crazy tag-team strategies if you're creative enough.
The Swords of Ditto plays incredibly well, then, but it's the art direction that swoops in and ties everything together. The Saturday morning cartoon style is superbly done, and everything just looks so crisp and clean. Unfortunately, the game's performance doesn't quite match its impressive appearance. We ran into a couple of nasty crashes during our time with the release, and brief moments where the game sticks as multiple foes spawn can really throw you off. These issues thankfully aren't game breaking, but they're definitely an annoyance.
The Swords of Ditto is a great little indie adventure, perfect for quick stints of surprisingly tense gameplay. Although some slight technical issues are a bit of a pain, they're not enough to detract from what is otherwise a delightfully charming experience. Tight and tidy, this is an addictive time sink that's well worth a look -- especially if you bring someone along for the ride.