The Swords of Ditto review: Familiar, But Not Too Familiar

If I told you to imagine a game where you smash pots and whack baddies with your sword, what would you think of? How about a game where you use items to solve dungeon puzzles, and collect all sorts of goodies along the way? Well, it’s not the game you’re thinking of…probably. It’s something a bit more off-beat, with more ‘rainbow’ than ‘bow and arrow’: It’s The Swords of Ditto, a roguelike action-adventure RPG developed by Onebitbeyond.

Your game begins with you being awakened on the beach (strong Link’s Awakening vibes here) by Puku, a mysterious beetle-like creature. There’s no character select screen here; rather than being a set character with a set name or appearance, you are resurrected with randomly generated features. Where your adventure goes from there is fairly straightforward: You must retrieve the Sword of Ditto and train towards defeating the evil witch Mormo, whose influence curses the whole region. Your character will need to seek the Toys of Legend to defeat Mormo’s Anchors and loosen her grip over the town.

The Zelda vibes don’t stop at the introduction. The game’s core gameplay revolves around running about, whacking enemies with your sword and solving dungeon puzzles. You’ll also collect Stickers and new items along the way to power you up. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but the game’s combat and controls are well-refined, if slightly monotonous. Small details like the animations and screen-shake when you hit an enemy are super satisfying, and there’s no fault to be found in the tight graphical style.

Thematically, the game is very colorful and youthful, with quirky items like kazoos and foam-bullet guns sitting alongside the traditional RPG torches and bombs. It’s a nice blend of traditional RPG fantasy and childlike fun, which – in my opinion – is the game’s greatest strength, as well as its wonderfully relaxing soundtrack.

The fact that the overworld’s layout changes with each new file is fun and adds some variety to a story that would otherwise get quickly repetitive. In terms of narrative, the game’s potential is limited by its randomly generated nature, and the dialogue can be a bit cheesy at times. While The Swords of Ditto provides a fascinating take on the usual character design process, it’s a bit disjointed in the sense that because you don’t grow to develop a strong sense of character, or attachment to your avatar. Each time you die, only your level and currency carries through to your next character, which can feel disappointing if you’ve gone through a very strong run only to die because you couldn’t heal in time. Though generally, this aspect of the game gets easier, and the game’s progression opens up more with each ‘story’ you play through. Your character’s journey begins in almost the same way, which gets a bit repetitive; however, it gets you back into the action quickly, and after a few times you’ll know exactly where to go to continue your adventure.

Though I played through it by myself, The Swords of Ditto is a game that’s very well-adapted to co-op play. Unfortunately, the only two-player mode you’ll find here is local, which is a shame given how perfect the game would be for online multiplayer sessions. Although the game’s user interface is designed around controller use, I discovered that the game detected the keyboard automatically as a second player. I found myself having to manually drop out as one ‘player’, often several times in a play session. It’s a hassle that takes away from an otherwise smooth and pleasant control system, and an odd issue given the emphasis on controller optimisation. Some players have also reported that the game’s randomly generated maps can make it almost impossible to complete some dungeons, though this wasn’t something I personally encountered in my playthrough.

Despite some small technical flaws and gameplay that’s prone to repetition, The Swords of Ditto is a genuinely enjoyable little game with great aesthetics. It’s easy to pick up and play, especially with a friend. Even though it’s not at the pinnacle of its genre, it’s a cute and fresh experience. The price point might be a bit high for some, hovering around US$20 at time of writing, which isn’t far off the price of some blockbuster titles that offer a much bigger experience. All in all, it’s an excellent debut effort from Onebitbeyond.