The Swords of Ditto is an immediately responsive, fluid and humorous game that feels like The Legend of Zelda. It has smooth animations, tight controls, and the basic gameplay – moving, attacking, and picking up and using items – is simple and fun. It can get too repetitive, but that's the nature of the beast for a roguelite RPG.
The game's premise is that you are a Sword of Ditto. There are actually hundreds of these Swords of Ditto. Whenever you die in this game, you start anew as one of them. These different characters you play as are spaced 100 years apart. After each century has passed, a new Sword is called upon to defeat the evil queen, Mormo. Once woken by a ghostly dung beetle named Puku, you have to prep for the final battle, which involves exploring an overworld and dungeons and getting items and stat enhancements. In short, it's very much like a 2D Zelda game.
The controls are simple: there are keys for movement, attack, roll, and item usage. You assign items to the directional pad, if using the Xbox controller, and then use the item with the Y button. Keyboard controls are similarly bound: a few keys close to each other and easy to use.
As a roguelike, the game is not paced exactly like a Zelda game, but it is very Zelda-like throughout. Throwing pots and opening treasure chests in this game are both reminiscent of Zelda. When the game opens, you are a young boy sleeping on a beach when you are waked by Puku, a part that reminded me of Link’s Awakening. The next awakening scene, and henceforth the one you’ll see each time you restart, is nigh identical to A Link to the Past’s opening.
Repetition is the crux of the game. Puku, the dung beetle spirit, even bemoans it. He is weary with waking a new Sword of Ditto every 100 years, knowing exactly what will happen next. You’ll fail like all the rest of them, Puku must think, and that’s exactly what happened each time with me. I’d fail, then start as another character. These characters can be of several different makeups. One was an anthropomorphic dog. I grew somewhat attached to each character, so I was tepidly depressed after losing each. Games like this hit you hard when they remind that when a character dies, that’s it.
The land of Ditto reorganizes each time you come back, so it isn’t technically the same experience after each awakening. Virtually, however, it is. You’ll explore the same looking outdoor areas, town and shops, and dungeons, while listening to the same music and accomplishing the same tasks.
The repetitive nature of the game didn’t bother me. I just liked exploring. The game rewards this: after reading signs, coins popped out, as if thanking me for taking the time to explore an out-of-the-way place and actually reading a sign. While exploring, I liked cutting grass. We gamers are legion who obsessive-compulsively cut every blade of grass in 2D Zelda games. You just have to clear the screen, you see, and I could have started a side grass-cutting business with how much I practiced grass-screen-clearing in Swords of Ditto. Even when I committed myself to move on with the game, I could not stop going to town with grass cutting. It speaks to the simple fun extracted from the game’s visuals and animations. Moving your character around and cutting grass has a pleasing sense of immediacy and fluidity.
Reading signs and cutting grass gave me plenty of loot. What did I do with it? I bought toys and stickers, the game’s items and stat boosts. Some “toys” are bombs, and of these there are variety. You can infuse toys with Ether, the game’s magic, adding to the strategy. Stat boosts include the ability to bust enemies’ shields, harbor immunity to projectiles, gain increased defense, and other like upgrades. You’ll need to obtain and use these to stand a chance at progressing through the game’s final dungeon.
There’s a time limit to get all buffed up, too: you’ve got five days. As each game hour is equal to a real minute, players are granted an hour and twenty minutes to get ready for a showdown with the final boss. You could explore every dungeon and get buffed. You could spend the entire time just cutting grass. You could sleep the whole time and go straight to the final dungeon. The game is flexible.
There are many parts of the item and buff system I did not explore. One of these is the use of “serendipity” coins. You collect these and also discover fountains you can donate them at. The fish-like creature you encounter there is less than enthused about your journey, and is another part of the game’s humor. It again ties into the repetitive nature of the game: like Puku, the spirit dung beetle, this serendipity fish has seen it all.
The music is boppy. Some of it got stuck in my head a little too easily, like the music that plays in the town. Annoying-ness comes with boppy-ness.
One bit of audio stood out as particularly annoying: the kazoo sounds that play for the “Air Kazoo” travel system. This is a fast travel system that looks like the Magic School Bus, and its represented by kazoo stations on the map. These play the noted kazoo noises, and they never clicked with me. A kazoo noise also plays proudly at the game's title opening. Clearly, the developers wanted the kazoo to be a major part of the game's audio, but I never liked it.
I didn’t fully explore The Swords of Ditto. In my brief time with it I found a fun, simple, partly pleasing and partly annoying little Zelda-like. A repetitive cycle is core to the experience, and may determine how much you enjoy it, but if you don't mind the permadeath and endless retries of roguelikes, you'll enjoy the charm that The Swords of Ditto has to offer.
Trevor covered The Swords of Ditto on PC through Steam using a copy he had purchased. GameLuster did receive a code for The Swords of Ditto, but this had been used by another writer, no longer with the site, and not for the purposes of this brief impressions piece.