Action RPG’s seem to be multiplying like rabbits on the App Store these days. From the early days with games like Solomon’s Boneyard to modern masterpieces like Cat Quest, the ARPG has been a prime staple of iOS gaming. Even games that don’t fall within the genre have benefitted greatly from control schemes that were honed to perfection within the ARPG umbrella. A game like Brawl Stars might never have even existed without such groundwork. The Swords of Ditto ($5.99) is a ported ARPG that tries to meet the challenge set forth by its forbears, and it manages to hoist the mantle and represent many of the best facets of its genre.
In The Swords of Ditto, you take on the role of a nameless hero tasked with completing an epic quest to rid your land of an ancient foe who has bested multiple previous sword wielders in aeons past. With d-pad and action buttons in tow, you venture out in search of the big bad evil guy in hopes of liberating the common folk of the land. Ditto unfolds much like a classic Zelda game, with areas unlocking after certain progress points are reached. There is an inventory system for useable items as well as an equipment system where you can equip various stickers to different equipment slots for bonuses. You will need to roll, run, and slash your enemies to defeat them and power up your sword.
The primary adjective that The Swords of Ditto exudes is “Cute". The art is cute, the characters are cute, the enemies are cute and even the stickers you put on your gear are cute. I would say that Ditto compares favorably even to the most adorable ARPG I know, the aforementioned Cat Quest. This is probably the largest selling point for this game to me. A game that manages to encapsulate a sweeping storyline (albeit quite heavily trope-y) into a cohesive art style and a cohesive tone of cuteness is one that deserves recognition. In fact, the only non-cohesive part of the game to me seems to be the item system. While there are the Zelda-esqe items that run off of an energy bar system, there are also a number of consumable bombs and other items that don’t use the energy system. Its a minor quibble but it doesn’t have a solid flow when some of your items can be used indefinitely, and others are just used up after a few uses. Healing items are also one use items as well, and apart from these or leveling up your choices for regaining health are very limited.
The great downfall of The Swords of Ditto has to be the abysmal directional control stick. Now some on our forums argue that the extremely sensitive direction stick is a boon for precision action, but I find the opposite to be true. Unlike games with a proven d-pad functionality like Cat Quest or Brawl Stars, Ditto does not have a fixed d-pad. Instead there is just blank space on the left side of the screen that seems to almost taunt you by forcing you to try to decipher where exactly the dpad is supposed to be. You can tap down, and then slide to one side or another only to find that the character doesnt move or barely moves in that direction. Until you try to re-anchor your finger, you will NOT be moving in that direction. At all.
If the anchor fails weren’t bad enough, the auto-attack redirects are just painful. Your hero starts off with a 3 swing combo that in cases where no directional inputs are made you would either want to continue swiping in the same direction or auto-follow the closest enemy. It seems like this never happens; the moment you cease to give a directional input, subsequent swings veer off in extreme and random directions, ruining your combo and opening yourself up for an enemy’s counter attack. For an ARPG, this is probably the thing that can most easily make or break your game. If you can’t give a player controls that make them feel in control of their character, you don’t have squat.
For a six dollar game, Ditto offers a great amount of content, including a lot of replayability complete with some interesting new game+ mechanics. It’s tough saying I wouldn’t recommend a game I am scoring 3.5/5 but the control scheme is just that bad. This would be an easy 5/5 with an update to the dpad, but it seems unsure at this point if any updates to the game can be expected. Like I said previously, an ARPG lives and breathes based on its control fidelity, and sadly The Swords of Ditto needs work before its an enjoyable game for this writer at least. Many times we see ports that don’t live up to the source and this sadly is one of them.