Every 100 years or so, a new Sword of Ditto is born. Tasked with saving the island of Ditto, the Sword will have to gain experience and equipment by exploring the island and tackling dungeons, before fighting the evil Mormo in four days time. This is a Rogue-lite action-RPG with a sense of humour and cartoon aesthetic, wrapped up in a Majora’s Mask-style time limit, but without the angry moon.
You begin the game being woken up by Puku, a slightly transparent human-sized dung beetle that has been tasked with guiding the Sword in its quest. After retrieving the sword, Puku takes you straight to face Mormo which, naturally, results in you being impaled horrifically. A brief cutscene later, you wake up 100 years later to the sultry sounds of Puku’s voice, reincarnated and ready to give it another shot. Thankfully, when you retrieve your sword from where it is inexplicably sticking out of your grave, you regain all the power of all the previous Swords of Ditto, which is to say that you regain your experience and equipment.
Between these lives the island of Ditto will change considerably. As Mormo tightens her grasp on the area, the town’s village, which goes by many names, will inexplicably move to another location, as will the island’s caves and enemies, and even Mormo’s own castle. The game sells the idea as making each new adventure play differently, and it’s technically correct even if they start to bleed together after a few too many deaths. This isn’t helped by the time limit at the end of which you fight Mormo, though this can be delayed in a few different ways. Obviously if you don’t beat her, you die, and so you go through the cycle again, grinding in dungeons to level up as time is paused whilst in dungeons.
Reincarnation is something you’d experience plenty of times anyway, as the game can be a little difficult, which is why it’s a little mystifying why it’s so drawn out. You wake up in a house two screens away from the graveyard where your sword is, and there is absolutely nothing to do except walk to that graveyard to get the sword. You can’t do anything else, so you just hold the analog stick in the direction the objective marker points towards. It doesn’t take much time at all, but after the seventh or eighth time it will feel like it does.
Once you have your sword though, you can make your way to the village and buy some stickers to stick on your face or sword, basically taking the place of the gear in any other RPG. Alternatively, you can venture towards a toy dungeon to solve some puzzles and get yourself a toy, which is basically an ability or spell that can be anything from a bow that works how you would expect it, to a vinyl record that deals damage and is thrown like a boomerang.
These open up combat, as without them it’s a relatively simple affair. It plays similarly to the classic 2D Legend of Zelda games, where you will be slicing and stabbing between rolling out of the way of attacks from enemies that each have distinct attack patterns for you to dodge. You can also use items such as a torch to set enemies and tall grass on fire, which can then spread to more enemies or through an entire field. It’s incredibly satisfying to swing your torch and watch the flames spread towards some unsuspecting enemies.
The enemies themselves are the best part of the combat, with enough variety between them so they don’t get too dull, but in groups they can be a real challenge. There is a bird that likes to quickly swoop down at you that, when combined with a zombie that vomits at you whilst soaking up damage, makes a dangerous combination that requires care to deal with and not take much damage. Thankfully, you can heal with items bought in the village or found by cutting down long grass, which also drops coins as greenery often does in these games for some reason.
More interesting, though, is the enemy design, which looks like it was inspired by a cartoons like Adventure Time or Gravity Falls. Enemies wander around aimlessly, but their eyes narrow into over the top facial expressions as they notice you, whilst others giggle to themselves as they unleash things to mess with you. There’s a little rock monster that angrily stomps towards you and then tries to slam down on you, getting dazed afterwards, which is adorable, whereas another enemy adds a status effect to you that causes your attacks to heal enemies for a short time.
This creativity expands into the rest of world as well. On top of silliness like using a kazoo to summon a bus that travels via portals as the game’s fast travel system, there are characters dotted about that are just delightfully absurd, such as the huge penguin explorer who upgrades your bomb carrying capacity for locating his tiny penguins about the world. The game is incredibly endearing and just bursting with the imagination that’s usually reserved for strange cartoons, and being pin sharp and full of bright colours makes the game very pretty to look at.
The Sword of Ditto is a good looking, adorable and funny game that is held back a little bit by its time limit. I would love to explore the island and its quirky sense of humour at my own pace, but the constant ticking clock makes it feel like you’re being rushed through the environment. It’s fun and worth playing if you don’t mind time being a factor.
Version tested: PS4 – Also available for PC, Mac & Linux