The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past, we can all agree that was some game can’t we? Incredible story, complex puzzles that had you up at night and dungeon crawling before dungeon crawling was even a thing – a pretty worthy entry in anyone’s greatest games lists (including mine). Not a risky thing to say really is it? Clearly the folks at Devolver Digital agree, because The Swords of Ditto plays like a lovingly crafted homage, and all at once it harks back to one of the greatest games ever made while at the same time managing to stand out all on its own thanks to an imaginative game mechanic upon which the game is built.
My first impression’s upon seeing The Sword of Ditto in action were that it looks like the unholy product of a late night drunken fling between The Legend of Zelda and Adventure Time. While art critics might scoff at my choice of art comparison, I wasn’t far wrong with Legend of Zelda. Fair warning from here on in – this obvious link (no pun intended) will come up often during the course of this review, so I will add this little opt out simply because I’m nice like that – if you enjoyed the Legend of Zelda, or more specifically A Link to the Past, you will find lots to enjoy in The Swords of Ditto.
- Developer: Devolver Digital
- Release Date: April 24th, 2018
- Price: $19.99/£15.99/€19.99
Within the first 20 minutes you are quickly introduced to the spine upon which the whole game is based – stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An evil witch by the name of Mormo has taken over the land and you are the hailed hero of prophecy, destined to free the realm from her evil clutches with the help of an all-powerful master sword. Sorry, Sword of Ditto. This is all told to you via Puku, a ghost-like bedbug looking creature who appears at certain key moments to explain just what the heck is going on. Having filled you in on the ins and outs of the land, it is here you set off to attain a Toy of Legend, a powerful item that will help banish the evil Mormo, with the added caveat that you only have 4 in-game days to do it.
From here your quest begins and it is down to you how you want to go about it. Should you decide to toughen up you can defeat enemies which grant the usual XP bonuses such as greater health and damage, or unlock stickers, which are the armor buffs within The Swords of Ditto world. Any experience you gain is tied to your sword, not your character. What this means is that when you die, that’s it, no repawning or loading an earlier checkpoint, you’re done, but the sword carries over to your next playthrough along with the levels you acquired. The game starts in a similar fashion from the second time around – you wake up, head off to the graveyard to retrieve the sword, and have another go. Enemies level up as you do so that doesn’t mean that it’s any easier second time round either.
As you set off again to retrieve the sword from the graveyard and unlock your power a few things become apparent. Not only do you look different, but the world is different too. Each subsequent death and reset alters the world, changing where things are and how they look to represent the fact that another 100 years have passed under the rule of Mormo. Every reset starts you over in the same way as you wake up as someone new before Puke appears and explains that the big battle timer has also reset back to 4 days. This mechanic works well, and the timer constantly running down might force you to take risks that you wouldn’t otherwise. You can explore, and uncover points of interest scattered around the map, or jump straight in and head off to the first dungeon where the Toy of Legend is located, but what ever you choose the 4 day timer is ticking away in the background with an occasional reminder flashing up as every new day begins.
It is not only the superficial changes that impact upon how you play. After my fourth initial death and world-reset, I finally managed to avoid any distractions and head straight for the dungeon inside which the Toy of Legend was to be found. Working my way through each room defeating monsters and solving puzzles, I eventually made it to the final chamber, defeated the enemy within and opened the chest to find a Vinyl disc that I could throw like a frisbee, collecting any items and damaging any monsters in its path. A little overconfident with my new-found toy, I managed to get myself killed again within about 10 minutes of acquiring it. I quickly went through the whole waking up and heading to the graveyard opening, grabbed the sword to find… the Vinyl frisbee no longer in my inventory. This recklessness cost me, and the frustration I felt because of the time wasted in acquiring these items only to lose them was more annoying than anything else.
Some may argue that this will make you value the items and stickers you acquire all the more as you are only ever one death away from losing them, but this didn’t stop it feeling like a major kick in the teeth the first time it happened. Also, as each of the dungeons is procedurally generated, it might not be the same items or stickers you find from one play through to the next, so don’t get too attached to certain abilities you acquire. Luckily some toys and stickers can be bought in the two shops that always appear in the town, but both require coins dropped by enemies in order to buy them.
The time limit that constantly hangs over you can be slowed if you decide you need a bit more time to get things done. This is accomplished by finding Shrines and using Celestial Tokens to unlock them, but this too takes time, and it becomes a trade-off between levelling up sufficiently and moving the story along enough to give you plenty of time before the big battle. A mistake I made early on was I spent sometime levelling up before going to investigate a dungeon only to find the most obvious path blocked by a big wall of slime, so I spent far too long in game time finding an alternate route. Further compounding this is the fact that each dungeon has a level requirement before it will unlock, meaning a fair amount of grinding is needed in order to progress through each one. Time management plays a real factor, as each in-game day equates to roughly 30 minutes real-time, giving you about 2 hours before being thrust into the final battle, regardless of how prepared you might be.
If you decide early on that you want to face Mormo without acquiring any Toys of Legend or destroying her anchors that power her, so be it, you can head back to you house and sleep the 4 days away, but why you would do this and miss out on such a beautifully crafted, albeit small, world is beyond me and surely must be meant for higher level adventurers who have watched the centuries tick by a good few times.
Enemies are varied, and after a few teething problems early on none will cause you that much trouble, however some do have a nasty knack of being able to get through your standard sword swing. Abilities can be unlocked that are tied to certain stickers, with you being able to equip more as you progress, but by the time I hit a certain level cap I had the enemies pretty much sussed out. The Hawk in particular can be a bit of a pain, as it does like to attack at off angles which can make it a bit fiddly to avoid. There is no block, with roll taking up the closest you have as a means of defence, so often it is easiest to go in swinging.
Throwing something different in to the mix, The Swords of Ditto offers up local co-op, meaning that should you wish you and a significant other can drop in drop out and help you solve puzzles or slay the enemies that plague the land. I must confess I did abuse this a few times when I could see two buttons that needed pressing at the same time, but other than that I didn’t really try out this feature although I can see how it could be fun.
The only gripes I can really pull out of the many hours I spent playing were a few bugs that I encountered – one really nasty one that scuppered my chances halfway up the Tower dungeon you have to climb to defeat Mormo on the final day, but other than that I really enjoyed the time I spent with The Sword of Ditto and I know that I could dive in and do it all again. A few characters require some very specific items which aren’t too easy to come by offering replay value later on, but the whole procedurally generated dungeon dynamic and how it ties in to the changing world plays nicely with the “hero of legend” story we have seen so many times before. If you enjoy an old school style dungeon crawler, with puzzles and enemies aplenty, then The Swords of Ditto might just scratch that itch.
The Swords of Ditto PS4 Review
Comparing The Swords of Ditto to The Legend of Zelda isn't much of a stretch, and The Swords of Ditto knows this. It has fun messing with your expectations and at times even rubs your face in it. From the opening act, where you rise and are sent to defeat the wicked Mormo who serves as the Ganon of this tale, the game is well aware of what it is trying to emulate. With a twist on the Hero of legend mechanic, The Swords of Ditto succeeds at what it is trying to do, with obvious care and love shown to the source material.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.