Dive into a whimsical dungeon-crawling adventure with the help of your Snacks and comrades to overcome the evil Sultan Vinegar and his horde of enemies. But will the bothersome mechanics and lack of variety stop Level-5’s Snack World franchise from winning over Western audiences?
Ask any of your gaming friends about developer Level-5 and you’ll see them crack a smile, fondly recalling memories. From the popular franchise Yo-Kai Watch to the more recent iteration of the Professor Layton series, Layton’s Mystery Journey – Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy Deluxe Edition, Level-5’s ability to create something out of the ordinary and, for the most part, compelling, isn’t something to be ignored.
The Snack World universe is one that you’re probably not too familiar with – and for good reason – as it’s largely gone under the radar outside of Japan. It’s been given the manga treatment, received a healthy portion of merchandise and was released on the 3DS as a Japanese-exclusive title. In North America and PAL regions, the ‘GOLD’ edition for the Nintendo Switch adds the pre-released DLC to the package. It’s also worth noting that the game comes digitally and physically on this side of the pond.
As mentioned in our preview, progression in Snack World is separated into segments of dungeon crawling and quests. The main platform for story-telling, weapon buying and quest retrieving, however, occurs in a town called Tutti-Frutti. This colourful location boasts an impressive amount of folk to interact with. From a quirky receptionist at Muff Inn to the knowledgeable cafe owner at ‘Covfefe Cafe’ (yes, really), there’s always someone to speak to. Having multiple choices to carry the conversations makes for some humorous banter and offers extra excuses for Level-5 to shoehorn in cringe-worthy puns. But, that being said, it’s light-hearted and upbeat.
With the world predictably evolving around grub, the designers have been as creative as possible with the names and themes of pretty much everything here. The locations, enemies and quests all encompass some narrative surrounding food and the novelty of this does, unfortunately, wear thin early on in the adventure. Coupled with the realisation that the majority of the quests follow very similar goals, it’s a shame that our interest isn’t held in a world with an admirable amount of charm, yet very little variety.
The main driver for players in Snack World is to carry out the quests offered by the townsfolk, many of which are based around helping the Princess of the town, Melonia. The King is hell-bent on appeasing her every need without lifting a single finger and it’s up to your character – and the help of a select few others – to essentially run errands. Each quest, be it Story or Side Quests, gives you the chance to gather the essentials to level up and earn enough ‘Gravies’ (the in-game currency) to bolster your inventory with better weaponry, improved armour and more effective potions. Being given the ability to fabricate and fortify headwear, bodywear and Jaras (weapons), is a nice touch and, with a touch of a button, you can ask the game to auto-equip – great for those wanting to crack on with their quests, without the need to alter the setup each time.
One way to get the upper hand over your enemies is to salvage loot. Each dungeon and level is littered with treasure chests that cough up materials for you to utilise on your equipment. Of course, you have the option to sell your Jaras and materials to vendors in Tutti-Frutti if you wish, as you hope for the best to score some rare and powerful weaponry (if that’s more your style).
Combat, from the outset, is straightforward. Manoeuvring your adventurer through the randomised levels to complete the tasks is quick and accessible. Away from the dungeons and in the main areas, which are more open and wide, a helpful map is there to guide you through. But it’s in the dungeons where things get a little more complicated and frustrating. See, this is a rogue-lite title so death isn’t too punishing – you’ll still get your loot if you do fall – but in dungeons, being quick on your feet is a must. Navigating through the randomised dungeons, uncovering the map as you go, is meant to be a thrilling experience. But with the constant need to change weapons to effectively defeat your foes and a hidden time limit that drops an overpowered enemy into the mix to chivvy you along, we couldn’t wait to find the boss and leave.
Sure, exploring every corner of the dungeons rewards you with more loot and the prospect of more experience, but with button-mashing combat and ever-spawning enemies, it’s more of a chore than an adventure. By no means is it unfair, it’s just unimaginative; we would have liked to have seen more variety in exploring rather than going from A to B, hoping for the best and waiting for the elusive boss door to appear. Things aren’t helped with both story and side quests continuously repurposing the same settings for similar tasks.
The repetition is broken up, though, by joining some friends both locally and online. Helping to mix things up, jumping online with a couple of other adventurers from across the globe highlighted that tackling the side quests (not story quests, unfortunately) together made room for some strategic battles. The action was solid with very little slowdown and roaming around Tutti-Frutti with our chums (and the help of voice chat on Discord) gave us a less solitary experience. Thankfully, you’re able to level up and loot as you normally would on your own so it proved to be a useful exercise when jumping back into the solo story quests with beefed-up stats.
If joining other players to complete quests isn’t at the top of your list, enlisting the help of Snacks – monsters that can be captured using your in-game camera phone – will aid in battle. Think Pokemon or Digimon, who can either be selected to follow your avatar and automatically target and attack your enemies. Credit has to be given to the vast amount of different Snacks that are present here, both obtainable through capturing and those available to fight against. Learning their fighting patterns and weaknesses can be rewarding, it’s just a shame that their designs are forgettable. However, categorised into support, healing and attacking Snacks, configuring your loadout pre-dungeon crawling with an effective combination of companions is entertaining.
Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – GOLD will appeal to those gamers looking for something unfamiliar to dive into. It won’t take more than 25-30 hours to complete, but you’ll get more out of this if you want to capture every Snack and complete every side quest. If you’re tired of roaming the Galar region, have explored every inch of Diablo 3 and Yo-Kai Watch is gathering dust then this will cater for some of your adventurous needs. But don’t expect an expansive and enchanting world that you’ll itch to jump back in to. What has the ingredients to be a compelling RPG with roguelike side dishes, unfortunately, boils down to a mediocre cold buffet of half-baked ideas and passable visuals that never fully gets the taste buds tingling.
A review copy of Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – GOLD was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.