There are few games out there that manage to pay homage to classic retro titles without going out of their way to be too much like their inspiration. The Swords of Ditto is quite the opposite. It lovingly pays respect to Zelda, most especially A Link to the Past, but it manages to do so while still being its own game, thanks to a brilliant little twist.
Every hundred years, an evil witch named Mormo threatens the land of Ditto, a fantasy world that loves toys, junk food and kazoos. It’s up to a hero to pick up the sword and do the ultimate deed, but the thing is, he or she only has one shot at winning. Every time they die, the land falls into the witch’s clutches for another hundred years until another sword of Ditto rises again.
That’s right: The Swords of Ditto is very much like A Link to the Past, but with a light roguelike element. The big difference from a traditional game from that mold is that developer onebitbeyond is a little more lenient with Ditto’s design, allowing you to keep your character’s power level from run to run, resetting everything else, including the world map’s layout.
The other quirk to the game is that you only have four in-game days to finish it, which is thankfully not nearly as pressuring as it sounds, since the clock is frozen every time you enter a dungeon. Dungeons work as means to getting new items, called the toys of power, which in turn help power down Mormo in order to make that fight easier. Once you find one of those, you can in turn use it to destroy one of her anchors, or, if you’re up to a challenge, you can forgo that step, keep the weapon, and go fight her ultimate form.
There are other items that you can spend gold to buy and equip, like stickers that can be attached to your character’s body, arms, head and weapon that can boost your defenses, attack power, or provide other benefits. You can also get these during questing too, or as treasures from chests, which make the gold investment be somewhat pointless when minutes later the same badge randomly drops for you (hey, it happened to me!). Consumables are also part of the stuff you lose after each run, so it’s not worth hoarding your junk food health items or potions, and thanks to an item that’s incredibly easy to find, you can up the drop rate of these pick-me-up’s from enemies.
The Swords of Ditto is charming and at the same time positively evil in its design. Having to start runs and gather the resources needed to try and fight the boss is a great mechanic that is both tense and satisfying. Every run I’ve gotten an hour or so in, a sense of dread always settles in, more than once resulting in a really dumb death, forcing me to start all over again. Like any game of its ilk, Ditto awards you for balancing playing conservatively and at the same time pushing you ever forward with its clock.
There are advantages in having a game that changes everything up with each playthrough. For one, it makes this incredibly replayable, thanks to the sheer amount of variables that you can run into. The placement of some NPCs is completely random — outside of the main town in Ditto, all stores, caves, dungeons and houses are randomly placed throughout the map — so there’s always the off chance you’ll get a combination that ends up favoring your run, or totally not. During my 10 or so runs so far, I’ve had a wildly varying amount of luck, but still sadly no go at the last boss yet.
Granted, there are little quirks that can be a little annoying. Sword of Ditto’s Navi equivalent, Peku the dung beetle’s dialog text quickly gets repetitive in subsequent runs, since she says the same things every single time you start over. It would’ve been nice to just skip her spiel after a couple of deaths, but sadly that’s not the case. It’s also a little frustrating to get trapped into corners thanks to the collision detection between your character and enemies, who pummel you mercilessly when they get close, which in any other situation would’ve been fine thanks to how mobile your hero is thanks to the roll move.
If you’re hoping to play cooperatively with a friend online, you’ll find yourself disappointed with Sword of Ditto’s lack of that functionality. Still, if you can manage to grab a buddy and couch co-op, Ditto can be a lot of fun. The cartoony presentation plays up the pure chaos that some fights can turn into thanks to the sheer amount of enemies that can pop up on screen, even more so while playing with a friend.
The Swords of Ditto is an excellent game on its own, regardless of how much it draws from Zelda. Its roguelike nature makes each run feel exciting and unique, thanks to tight combat design and quick character development, not to mention the absolutely insane amount of overall charm, both thanks to the visuals and witty script. If you can get a pal to play with, great, but if you do it solo, you’ll still have a fantastic time playing this.