The Swords of Ditto wants you to die. Not in the way a Dark Souls might, by punishing you, but rather because this is a part of its inherent design. Developed by fledgling indie studio onebitbeyond, Swords of Ditto is a Zelda-like with elements of games like Rogue Legacy built into its structure. The top-down action RPG not only feels like Zelda but looks like something crafted in the heyday of the 16-bit SNES era with its hand-drawn aesthetics.
The story of Swords of Ditto is a pretty straightforward one: you wash up on the shore of an island called Ditto and must defeat an evil sorceress named Mormo. To help you accomplish this task, you can seek out and complete dungeons scattered across the island, each one of which will give you a cool gadget that you can use in your quest. Sound like Zelda yet?
Well, here's where the similarities end. You see, in Swords of Ditto, you're not necessarily expected to make it through the entire game on your first attempt. Should you die - hint: you should! - a new hero appears on the island after some time has passed, ready to take up the mantle and sword of his fallen predecessor. The same holds true if you should defeat the evil sorceress. She will eventually reappear, and thus a new hero must needs come as well.
The island changes over time. This is partly accomplished by your success or death having long-term consequences; if you die, the sorceress's darkness accumulates, and the island feels its effects, from the kind of enemies future heroes will face, to what shops and NPC are available to help them on their quest. Die many, many times and...well, you get the idea. But apart from that, the island is new for each adventuring hero, as it is procedurally generated, as are its dungeons. Certain stats do carry over from hero to hero, so dying does have its advantages, but gadgets won in dungeons reset. In fact, which dungeons the next hero finds and their layout are all left completely up to chance.
The game supports couch co-op, which is exactly what we did once the formalities were out of the way. I grabbed the second controller and became the hero's robotic sidekick, though with all the same abilities he has, and my demo guide from onebitbeyond took over the reins of leader. All dungeons in the game are programmed to be playable with either one or two characters, including puzzles, though the solutions may be slightly different for each scenario. After some aimless overworld antics, we proceeded into an actual dungeon to see it in action.
Each dungeon is designed around the theme of the gadget it contains, and made specifically to utilize said gadget in its solution. The one we found ourselves in was built to accommodate the vinyl record gadget to complete it. The record can be thrown, bouncing off walls, dealing damage, and ultimately returning to the sender. If thrown through a lit torch, it catches fire and will light other torches in its path or deal fire damage. As one can imagine, two players bouncing flaming frisbee records left and right off walls was a pretty fun time. Sadly, I'm afraid I was more baggage than anything, often running to catch up to my buddy, and costing him chunks of his own health whenever he had to revive me during the boss fight.
One of the most entertaining things about Swords of Ditto will be unearthing the many other secrets it has in store. Gadgets like the vinyl record, a golf club, and a giant monster paw dubbed 'The Foot' tickle the imagination as to what situations they would be useful in. We'll find out when it launches on PS4 and PC in early 2018.