The Swords of Ditto is single handedly the slowest roguelite I have ever played. It does away with the live fast, die fast attitude of most roguelites, and instead plops you into a cute and almost too quirky world, gives you an extremely lenient time limit, and lets you on your way. The quest is simple, defeat Mormo. How? Clear five dungeons, gaining new items to help you solve puzzles, and traverse the overworld in search of new powers to help you take down your fated adversary. Did I mention that this is a roguelite? Because I feel like I just described a Zelda game more than anything.
The real nature of The Swords of Ditto, is in a pure hybridization of two genres. If you showed this game off mid-run, like I did, most people will think you’re playing a top down Zelda with heavy RPG elements, and promptly leave it at that. Powerups, area layouts, and dungeons are randomized however, and losing a run will start you from the beginning in typical fashion.
A Cyclical Legend
Starting up for the first time, you’re given a little bit of exposition, and a small tutorial, followed by a quick seamless transition into… run two. Run two starts up and allows you a full run, albeit with a little bit of tutorial left over. The game doesn’t expect you to win this one either, seeing as how this time when you die, you’re greeted with a character select screen. The Swords of Ditto starts you out with three selectable characters, with a dozen plus to unlock via in-game treasure chests. Each character comes with some passive buffs and a different sub weapon. The characters also maintain a level progress that improves their “toys” and “stickers”, and incentivizes sticking to a single character to get the most power play in a run.
When you die, assuming you did one simple thing in the world map first, you will also get the option to carry over toys, stickers, and consumables upon death, provided you have the currency. The same deity that gives you this option allows you to simply buy a 1up as well, meaning that permadeath is effectively scrubbed from the game. It’s a little strange to play a roguelite and feel that death is a non issue.
Combat is simple, initially you have a roll and a generic three hit sword combo. Enemies do the Zelda standards. They can shoot, they can sometimes block, sometimes a little more, sometimes even less. The Zelda series is not exactly known for its combat, neither is Swords of Ditto. However, some of the toys do have really interesting properties in combat, like a bowling ball that accelerates as it tears through enemies, or a golf club that sends them ricocheting against walls and each other. As you gain levels you also gain access to new techniques, but the few that I got never resulted in much more than a niche new trick.
The overworld is filled with grottos that have fairly minor treasures, and seeing as how time does not flow indoors, there’s quite literally no downside to making frequent pit stops at every hole in the ground. In theory, since the time moves quite quickly on the overworld, you only have about 20 minutes per run, but I clocked in over three hours on my first success. The grottos and dungeons feature simple puzzles, never extending past switches and box pushing. Certain toys offer new puzzles, like the golf club hitting balls into place, but the complexity is never beyond a few seconds of head scratching. The randomized element is a detractor here, and while I understand that there’s only so many puzzles you could make before the players gets tired, a very simple remix of three or so puzzles doesn’t fair any better.
Aesthetically The Swords of Ditto is quite the looker. Clean lines and bright colors bring the world to life in a very vibrant style inspired by modern cartoon favorites like Steven Universe, while unique characters and monsters are easily recognizable and memorable. Writing-wise, The Swords of Ditto fails to inspire. Aside from the simple main narrative of slaying the evil witch, you’ll be talking to “quirky” NPCs, including a dung beetle spirit who guides you in each life. Puku as he is known, likes to make jokes and have silly dialogue that isn’t quite funny to me. Now, humor is subjective, and I’ve always been a little more jaded about this kind of thing, so your mileage may vary.
Still Definitely A Roguelite
There is more to The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse than initially presented. After the initial win, you’ll be thrust back in, with new content to discover, as well as the titular Mormo’s Curse, where each subsequent run will result in a new modifier, such as shorter time limit, or stronger foes, extending the variation quite a bit. More story is uncovered in each run, often found at the bottom of treasure chests in small notes written on smartphones and PDAs, urging you to keep playing to get the true nature of the plot, letting the world building properly kick in.
While I still think this is probably the easiest roguelite I’ve ever experienced, I definitely am reminded on each run that there is far more to do, even if it’s not necessarily new items or monsters. Unfortunately, without the difficulty the motivation to keep going isn’t always there, unless you find yourself really getting into the narrative. The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse has a lot of care put into it, and while it’s most certainly not perfect, it’s at least polished.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for The Swords Of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse was provided by the publisher.