One of my biggest issues about games today is that everyone is obsessed with high end graphics and multiplayer has moved predominantly over to online only. Gone are the days of sitting on the sofa next to your mate playing Mario kart and giving them a swift elbow in the ribs as you see they are approaching an important corner on the track. Being in the same room having that shared experience with pizza and beers is an era of gaming that seems almost lost today.
It’s refreshing then to occasionally see genres in the store with labels such as “couch co-op” and offline multiplayer. Not everyone wants to play online and some people still crave a 4 player Goldeneye session on the N64 (That’s an article for another day). So it was with great joy that I found not only an offline local multiplayer, but an old fashioned top down cartoon style, RPG Zelda clone with rogue-lite mechanics to boot!
Swords of Ditto starts with your character waking on a beach and a glowing dung beetle named Puku hovering above you. Acting as your guide, Puku informs you that you are the new sword of Ditto and it is your duty to vanquish the evil witch Mormo. Straight to it, Puku leads you across the land to a giant castle. Floor by floor, you fight your way through the castle to find Mormo and confront her……then you die. Spoiler warnings are not really necessary here as this is all part and parcel of the tutorial and how the mechanics of swords of Ditto works. 100 years pass within the game and you wake up as a different character that is now the new sword of Ditto.
Skipping ahead slightly, this is the rogue-lite aspect of the game. If you manage to defeat Mormo, then your character is able to live out their life in peace until Mormo returns in 100 years at which point a new sword is chosen. A statue of your previous character will be present in the town centre and by visiting you can collect all the loot you had previously accumulated. Should you die, 100 years will pass, the town will look broken down and dilapidated, monsters will run rampant and the sword will have to visit a small grave at the cemetery instead of the glorious statue in town. In this case you will carry over experience and skills, but not necessarily your gear. There is an end to the story which requires you doing something specific to stop the cycle repeating every 100 years and breaking the curse of Ditto once and for all, but I will leave that for you to find out for yourselves.
There is a temptation to go real old school Zelda and cut all the grass and smash all the pots to find coins and food to regain health. Caution however is there is another mechanic here at play. Each 100 years that pass will bring you to a new era. Having minced about during the 2nd era (the tutorial is considered the 1st), we were surprised to find out at the start of the 3rd era that Mormo has upped the ante on the curse of Ditto. Players now have 5 in game days to do whatever they want, but then must face Mormo whether they are ready or not. The in game day/night cycle takes roughly 8 minutes for a day to pass, so you actually do not have long to level up and find new loot. Don’t panic too much though as time only passes while you are on the main above ground map. When you are in the town, dungeons or caves, the time is frozen so you can take as long as you need whilst there. You will see a clock with a red cross at the top of the screen letting you know that time is not passing.
Let’s say you are a master ditherer (much like myself) and spent far too long wandering the main map and time is passing. You will be notified how many days till you have to face Mormo and Puku will pop for a final warning on the last day. Should you collect 8 celestial tokens, these can be taken to a whale shrine to communicate with Serendipity, an omnipotent space whale. Once unlocked, a new currency called celestial fragments can be farmed and offered to Serendipity to turn back the hands of time by a whole in game day. This will give you that extra time to clear all the dungeons and loot caves before having to face Mormo. Be warned though that each time you turn back time within an era, the cost will increase meaning there will be only so many times it can be done before you simply must go fight Mormo.
All the weapons are referred to as toys and stickers can be equipped which provide status effects, buffs and armour. Stickers can also be traded with some of the townsfolk and they came in different rarity of sticker from common all the way up to the golden trim of a limited edition!
Despite the child friendly appearance and cartoon style graphics, the difficulty of swords of Ditto can be brutal! As we were playing this local 2 player, we were able to help each other out and found parts of the game easier, but would definitely be rock solid if playing through single player. I’m sure there is an element of level scaling by having 2 players, but I don’t know what it is like as I have only ever played with a second player. Despite being max level at end of the 2nd era, starting the 3rd era we found all the creatures across the land were several levels above us. It was here we realised this game is not going to be a cake walk. We found we had run out of time by the end of the 3rd era and had not hit max level (for that era) and had missed several of the loot dungeons. Choosing your route and where to go is absolutely critical in not wasting time and getting mobbed by higher level enemies.
I’d say this is the kind of game that anyone can pick up, but may be difficult to master. With the time limits, scaling enemies and the risk of losing all your gear can create genuine risk and excitement when running through a dungeon and realising you are out of food to regain health. This for me is absolute must play. If you are looking for a local 2 player adventure, with a little challenge and a nostalgic trip down memory lane of how RPGs used to be then get this game. At its price tag of £16, Swords of Ditto is well worth the money and will hopefully bring you many evenings of fun as it has for me.
Swords of Ditto is out now on PlayStation 4 & PC