The Swords of Ditto / The Swords of Ditto: Mormo's Curse

A game by One Bit Beyond for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4, originally released in 2018, with the Mormo's Curse version released in 2019.
The Swords of Ditto begins with a familiar premise, but offers a unique take on the time-tested formula. Every 100 years, a great evil named Mormo rises, and every 100 years a young hero from the nearby peaceful village rises to face her. The hero collects the Sword of Ditto from the gravesite of the former legendary hero, and with it, she marches to Mormo’s evil lair to put a stop to her nefarious deeds… but this time, the hero loses the fight, and the world is plunged into 100 years of darkness and despair.

The game begins with a girl lying on a beach, and a strange flying creature appears out of thin air and hovers next to her. The creature is a dung beetle named Puku, who informs the nameless protagonist of her quest and guides her into the colorful idyllic village to collect the sword. For some reason, Puku has decided to bring the hero to Mormo’s lair a few days early, and she is unprepared for the fight and quickly killed.

100 years later, a different young girl lies asleep in her bed, and Puku shows up to tell her of her legendary quest, except this time, the village is run down and partially destroyed. Previously, the grave of the past hero was in the center of town with a statue built over it, but this time, the fallen hero’s grave is in the graveyard outside of town. With sword in hand, the girl is told to head to the village where she learns a bit more about the game world and its systems.

The town has a kazoo shop which allows you to snag a free travel kazoo. By activating kazoo statues around the game world (their presence is heralded by kazoo honks), you can play your kazoo anywhere on the overworld to hop into a magical portal-hopping bus and transfer between locations. The town also has a shop where you can purchase health restoratives and bombs, a museum where you can view the world’s lore as you discover it, and a sticker shop where you can open sticker packs and purchase new stickers.

Stickers act as passive buffs, allowing the player to unlock new types of attacks, add elemental effects to attacks, increase damage resistance, and add a lengthier health bar, among others. However, at the start of the game, stickers are priced well beyond the player’s means, as most enemies only drop a coin or two upon death, and the cheapest stickers cost 100.

The same can be said for toys, which are even more expensive and act as the game’s secondary weapons. The player’s sword allows him to unleash a 3-hit combo, and beyond this, he has only a dodge roll at his disposal by default. Toys offer a wide variety of special attacks, with lasers, bows and arrows, exploding drones, bombs, and a few oddball items like enchanted records that can be thrown like Frisbees. While toys are quite expensive, some can be found by making progress in the game. Most toys draw from a secondary energy meter that refills over time, or the meter may be refilled instantly by drinking a cup of coffee.

The player only has four in-game days in which to increase his power, purchase items, and complete a series of dungeons. At the end of the four days, the player must enter the final dungeon, whether he is ready or not… and most likely he will not be, at least in the early going.

The game’s opening hours are tough on newcomers, as it takes time to learn exactly what is needed to succeed in the world. The player knows that a countdown clock ticks ever away (except in shops and dungeons), and he is shown a point on the map that he must reach, but that's all. Areas on the map are not filled in until the player reaches them, and he often discovers that the most direct route is blocked to him (usually by slimy pink barriers), requiring him to retrace his steps - sometimes across great swaths of the map - and the player’s pace is quite slow.

Various creatures roam the world, and there are base forms to these creatures as well as a number of possible variants, such as elemental attacks, poison attacks, or exploding when killed. Each enemy has its level and health meter floating above it, as well as a color-coded status bar that can be impacted by elemental attacks. For instance, burning a creature causes the meter to turn red, and enemies take continuous damage until the meter drains. The player has a similar meter to indicate elemental damage or poison.

Enemy creatures require a wide variety of strategies on the part of the player, as each foe has its own behaviors, methods of attack, defense, and weaknesses. Often, the player is placed in areas with multiple enemy types and must prioritize his attacks accordingly, and use the proper strategies with each. For instance, a skeleton swordsman can block most direct attacks, but if the player waits for it to strike, and then dodges out of the way, he can get in behind it and unleash a flurry of attacks… often following from one combo to the next without giving the enemy a chance to counterattack.

Some enemies can spawn others into play, encouraging players to focus their attacks on the source. Shelled creatures can absorb melee damage but are often susceptible to elemental attacks, and they can be lured to expose their weak points. Many enemies can cast magical spells which must be avoided. Slime creatures are cut in half with a sword attack but rebuild themselves after a while, necessitating a magical attack. Plant-based foes and the undead are weak to fire and can be cooked from a distance with ranged elemental attacks.

As the player defeats enemies, the sword levels up. Levelling up not only increases the player’s strength and health, but it also causes more powerful enemies to spawn. As such, the player will spend the game fighting enemies that are roughly in line with his own strength, but tougher enemies also offer better drops, allowing the player to purchase new weapons, gear, stickers, and health restoratives.

The player’s primary goal is to reach dungeons and defeat the bosses at the end, allowing him to find legendary toys and destroy a series of anchors. Destroying these anchors reduces Mormo’s power and makes her easier to defeat… but it’s also possible to defeat her without destroying any of them. In fact, at any point, the player may opt to go to sleep and fast forward to the final day if he feels he has the skill to take her down, and the more the player levels up, the tougher the final dungeon becomes.

In addition to formal dungeons, there are lots of other challenges and optional areas to find in the overworld. The world is largely open, allowing the player to explore as he likes. Some optional areas include holes in the ground that lead to treasures, a multi-level challenge arena that rewards combat with stickers and large sums of money, and a statue that summons a wish-granting whale…

By finding celestial tokens spread around the game world, the player can offer these to a whale statue, and collecting enough of them summons a whale goddess. In exchange for collecting crystals dropped by enemies, the whale can reverse time by one day or grant the player an additional life. As such, skilled players can thoroughly explore the game world and engage in combat to rack up a large number of crystals, allowing them to better prepare for the final battle.

The game is built around lots of silly humor, even beyond the game’s premise. As the player explores the world, he discovers numerous unusual characters, some of whom are just there to chat, some offer side quests, and some offer their services. For instance, there is a great Mormo admirer who offers to sell you some of her special gear, and a guy in a lighthouse who just opens up packages found washed up on the beach.

The game has a roguelike structure, and each time the player is killed, the world map is rearranged and dungeons have different modifiers that can benefit or harm the player (such as poison attacks becoming more deadly, or restricting the use of health restoratives). The player does get to keep his money and some items, and the sword remains leveled up from the previous run, but he loses his toys and stickers. The roguelike structure does mean that the player will be covering a lot of similar ground and facing the same enemies again and again, which grows repetitive… particularly if the player gets killed multiple times in succession. However, the game does offer three difficulty settings for those who would like to tone down the challenge and reduce the burden of the time limit, and players can team up for local 2P co-op.

The Swords of Ditto was developed by One Bit Beyond, headed by Jonathan Biddle, formerly of Curve Digital. This was the studio’s first release.

The game was published by Devolver Digital, which has published a number of 2D indie games including Serious Sam: Double D XXL, Luftrausers, Broforce, Foul Play, Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike, Hotline Miami, Hotline Miami 2, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Ronin, Downwell, Enter the Gungeon, Mother Russia Bleeds, Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour, Minit, The Messenger, Crossing Souls, Gato Roboto, Katana ZERO, Carrion, GRIS, and Witcheye.