Again, some slightly spoiler-ish discussion here. In my opinion, there is an intriguing hook to The Swords of Ditto: solve the mystery of what’s actually happening in the game and “break the cycle.” That hook, though, doesn’t even become apparent until the first time you beat Mormo, which may be after a few failed runs and several hours of playtime, depending on what difficulty level you choose. Even once you do defeat her and see the giant space whale (that’s not a metaphor), the randomized game world means you may not discover the really interesting bits until your fourth or fifth playthrough. All of that is placing a lot on the player. That isn’t a bad thing, per se, as there’s a great “a-ha!” moment when you realize and discover there’s more than what you see. Without that hook, though, there isn’t much to the game; it is THE thing to keep you playing and if you don’t buy into it, or if you miss it altogether, then it feels like you’ll bounce off this pretty fast if you’re playing alone. Fortunately, two player couch co-op is supported.
From a gameplay perspective, there aren’t a ton of changes when you bring a buddy along. The second player controls their own hero and can freely equip/use anything to which the first player has access. This means all healing items, all Toys of Legend, and all Stickers are shared between you both. Should one of you die in battle, the surviving player can revive the fallen hero with a hug (awww). There is a cost associated with this, however; the reviving player will give the fallen player half of their current life.
While co-op doesn’t radically change the underlying mechanics, having a buddy with you brings about some more conceptual changes. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have anything other than your own noggin when it comes to figuring out what’s going on in The Swords of Ditto and how to “break the cycle.” Having a buddy there to notice things you might have missed or bounce ideas off of makes that task a little easier. What’s more, there’s a definite social aspect to some of what you uncover; that feeling you get when you discover something new and want to share it with someone. With a co-op partner, it’s easy to turn to them and exclaim “what is going on!?” (I’ve definitely had a few of those moments), and then dive into some theories.
Outside of that, having two people opens up some interesting combos with the Toys and Sticks. For instance, you might equip a Sticker that adds the Fire element to your attacks while your co-op partner equips one that adds Poison. Apply these elements to an enemy causes damage over time, but they’re treated separately so you could inflict an enemy with Fire and Poison at the same time. Or maybe you use the “Giant Foot” toy to stun all the enemies and your buddy uses the “Bowling Ball” toy to finish them off.
I really like what The Swords of Ditto is trying to do with its various ideas even if it’s not always successful in executing them. Unfortunately, it relies a bit too much on the “there is more going on than what you see” hook, which is doubly unfortunate as that idea won’t even come across until you beat Mormo for the first time (personally, I recommend Easy for your first few playthroughs), and even then it relies on the player being interested in that concept. However, if it does manage to get its hooks into you, it will get them in deep.
I am driven, at this point, to know more and solve the bigger mystery at the heart of all this. I am willing to overlook the various issues in order to sate my curiosity. I am reminded of the entire second half of Full Metal Furies that I stumbled upon and that, regrettably to its detriment, was intentionally left hidden. While these things may make it hard to pitch, we need more games like The Swords of Ditto to challenge our notions for what “rogue-lites” and “Zelda clones” can be. For even as it treads familiar ground (over and over again), it also sets us on new paths that are worth exploring.
The Co-Optimus Co-Op Review of The Swords of Ditto is based on the PC version of the game. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
The Co-Op Experience: Battle Mormo and her evil armies alone or summon a brave friend to take up arms alongside you in local co-op mode. Fear not, even less experienced adventurers will find help from their fellow heroes through the magic of a good old-fashioned revival hug!
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.