By Nick Benefield / June 20th, 2019
|Title||The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse
|Release Date(s)||May 2, 2019 (Switch)
April 24, 2018 (PS4/PC)
|Genre(s)||Action-Adventure, Rogue-Lite RPG|
|Platform(s)||Switch, PlayStation 4, PC|
|Age Rating||E10+ for Everyone 10+|
I initially intended to start this review off by describing The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse as “The Legend of Zelda as reimagined by a team at Cartoon Network”. Unfortunately, this appears to be a very common observation by reviewers and players alike. It’s not hard to see why this is though. From its bright and varied color palette, to its similar swordplay, to its emphasis on using unique items to solve dungeon puzzles, it really does seem to mix influences from both. Originally released as The Swords of Ditto back in early 2018, Mormo’s Curse is actually a recently released update for the base game which overhauls a number of issues present in the original version. For the purposes of this review, I’ve taken a look at the recent Nintendo Switch release which comes packaged with the free update already included as part of the game.
At the onset of the game, the developers pull a bit of a switcheroo on the player. While I won’t expand too heavily on this, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to see this and thought that it was an interesting way to start things off. After this event, players find themselves asleep in a small house in the woods and are awoken by a guiding spirit who directs them to visit a nearby monument. It’s at this monument that players become a “Sword of Ditto”, a heroic warrior tasked with saving the land of Ditto. It seems that an evil witch named Mormo awakens every 100 years to wreak havoc and cause chaos. Well, mostly she’s just kind of a snarky nuisance. Luckily, one of these Swords of Ditto is chosen every 100 years as well. If the sword can defeat Mormo, then the land will experience 100 years of peace. Otherwise, the people of Ditto are doomed to another 100 years of darkness and destruction. It’s up to players to train themselves up to Mormo’s level, weaken her by completing trials, and finally seal her away for 100 years. All of this needs to be accomplished while trying not to die even once.
Before we go too far, we need to discuss the art style as it is likely to be the first thing which stands out to players. In short, the artwork in Swords of Ditto is nothing short of spectacular. The developers seemingly wanted to make this game look and feel just like a cartoon. By all accounts, I believe that they succeeded in doing so. From the wide range of colors to the hand-drawn feel which permeates nearly every aspect of its design, the artwork really sells this game for me. I’ve played numerous other titles in the past which have tried and failed to pull off this type of cartoon aesthetic. I think what really sets the good examples apart from the bad ones is the quality of the animation. Some game developers spend all of their time on perfecting character designs and backgrounds, but they use limited frames of animation and this sullies the experience for me. I’m happy to report that this is not the case for Swords of Ditto. Every little detail from the way that characters move around and interact with things to seemingly minor background animations are very fluid and I walked away feeling very impressed. If art design alone was enough to sway my purchasing decision, then consider me swayed.
What does tend to sway me more is stellar sound design. I’ve purchased many games in the past based solely on the quality of their soundtracks. While the art design in Swords of Ditto is still arguably one of its best features, the sound design is also a close contender. The soundtrack can best be described as a blend of nostalgic 8-bit tones, but mixed alongside more modern, ambient tracks. Some tracks reminded me a bit of the music from Fez, though not quite as synth-heavy. The music here felt right at home with all of the other design choices and never felt repetitive. All in all, I’d say that while none of the individual tracks stuck with me after playing, the sound design as a whole is solid and I could see the soundtrack being worthy of an official release.
Let’s move right along and talk a bit about gameplay. The Swords of Ditto is essentially separated into a series of different playthroughs, each about five or six hours in length. Each playthrough takes place exactly 100 years apart and tasks players with defeating Mormo by achieving both a specific goal and a specific experience level. You spend much of each playthrough working to weaken Mormo by destroying her anchors and working yourself up to that required level. Once you finally attain that level, you are given 24 in-game hours to wrap things up and get ready for your face-off with Mormo. Keep in mind too that depending on which difficulty level you choose, the consequences of dying may be quite staggering.
As you complete each playthrough, you will end up unlocking and purchasing various toy weapons, stat-altering stickers, and additional swords to select from in subsequent playthroughs. The toy weapons are essential to your quest as certain dungeons will require the use of specific ones to reach the end. These can be unlocked in various “toy dungeons” or purchased at the toy store. You can also upgrade your toys by collecting batteries scattered throughout the game. These toys felt very Zelda-esque and I enjoyed trying out all of them. My only suggestion to the developers would be to make the dungeon puzzles which utilize the toys a bit more complex. For example, puzzles dependent on the golf club item barely felt like puzzles most of the time.
Those aforementioned stickers are arguably just as important as the toys. Perhaps more so, as each sticker offers different stat buffs, unlockable sword abilities, and miscellaneous status effects. You can either find these stickers peppered throughout Ditto, by purchasing them at the sticker store, or by exchanging sticker vouchers which are also dispersed throughout the game. As you level up your sword, you will unlock additional sticker slots which can be filled with these stickers. Levels carry over from one sword to the next, so each playthrough should give you more and more combination options. The fact that these stickers carry over between playthroughs makes collecting them all the more fun and important.
The unlockable swords are much less common than the sticker and toy drops, but they too are very important. When you begin each playthrough, you are given the option of choosing which sword to start with. Each sword has different traits which they excel at as well as special toys that coincide with those skills. Additionally, as you play The Swords of Ditto, not only will your experience level (the one that carries over from sword to sword) increase, but the stats associated with that specific sword will also increase. Essentially, you have an overall level as well as a level specific to the sword that you pick. This encourages players to stick with the same sword as they play while also providing an incentive to return to the game later to try out the others. That’s how I felt at least, so hopefully the developers intended it that way.
Difficulty scales as you play and continue to level, so each playthrough will offer a greater challenge than the last. This is definitely a good thing as it helps set each playthrough apart and keeps things from feeling too easy as you progress. The first playthrough for me felt incredibly easy, so I was happy to see the challenge ramp up as I continued to play. For those who enjoy permadeath, I’d also suggest playing on the “Hard” difficulty setting as it is the only mode with true permadeath. The Mormo’s Curse update has made the other modes a bit more forgiving this time around. Difficulty aside, the gameplay as a whole felt pretty competent as well. Very rarely did I encounter a glitch or a bug and everything ran at a consistent 60 frames per second. The controls were very responsive and using various weapons and toys felt intuitive. My only negative comment is that fast traveling in The Swords of Ditto results in a 15-second long animation every time you do it. This animation can not be skipped and becomes repetitive. Since I needed to fast travel quite often during my playthroughs, this sequence became a bit annoying after awhile. Again though, this was minor and did little to sour my overall experience.
For all that it does right, what does The Swords of Ditto get wrong? I found the majority of the game to be quite enjoyable, but there were a few minor caveats. I already mentioned the slight lack of complexity for some of the puzzles, but the game itself also felt a bit repetitive after a while. The overworld and its contents are generated at random for each playthrough, but your mission remains the same each time: complete two toy dungeons, complete two associated trial dungeons with those toys (crippling Mormo in the process), and reach the target level specified at the beginning. After that, you defeat Mormo, reawaken as another sword, and repeat the process. While new stickers and toys offer a bit more variety, I would’ve liked to see some more variations to this fairly linear process. The only other downside that I can think of is the lack of originality for some of the side quests. There are some small side quests scattered throughout the game, but these always tend to involve a delivery of some kind, using a key to some randomized dungeon, or killing a specific number of one enemy type. This by no means soured my experience, but I would’ve liked to see some more variety here as well.
My time with The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse was undeniably an enjoyable one. I was initially attracted to the art style alone, but I found the game as a whole to be equally as appealing. Despite the formula occasionally feeling a bit repetitive, my roughly 25 hours of playtime left me feeling very satisfied. I can’t speak for the original base version of this game, but the updated version feels like a well-polished product. It’s also worth noting that this game can either be played alone or with one additional co-op player. Sadly, I did not get a chance to test that functionality but I can easily see multiplayer adding an additional layer of entertainment. The Nintendo eShop listing for Swords of Ditto is priced at $14.99 and I think that is a very fair price for what you’re receiving. If you enjoy games with lots of bright, vibrant colors, cartoon art styles, puzzle-oriented dungeons, and a wide variety of customization options, this one is definitely worth your time.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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