Title: Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG, Dungeon Crawler
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: PEGI 7
Release Date: 14/02/2020
Price: £39.99 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Some games have a way of drawing you in before you’ve so much as installed it. An on-paper description and a short trailer can be all you need to know you’re in for a good time. Other times, the reality is crushing.
Dialogue is as simplistic as it comes but utterly devoid of wit bar the odd cheeky pun, suggestive joke or fourth-wall breaking comment. Granted there’s a strong whiff of charm during interactions with teammate snacks, but it’s at the cost of any substance. On more than one occasion I found myself so unengaged with the dialogue that I had to reload a save just to make sure I’d not missed anything worth commenting on for review purposes.
Each doll-eyed character certainly looks the part, and whether a fan of the chibi style or not, there are plenty unique design flavours to at least tickle your palate. Monster design leans heavily on the food/snack theme to fantastic effect, and environments, however, never evolve beyond generic low-poly templates and, given some of the playful ideas (the names are especially great; ‘the Falafel Flats’ anyone?) the border between ideas and on-screen entertainment is never truly bridged.
Butter me up, just to let me down
While the world initially appears colourful and rich, on closer inspection, the game’s 3DS roots quickly start to show and damn, they do not run deep. Tunneling through the hub world takes mere minutes with very little of genuine interest to do, see or read between stores.
This isn’t an issue in itself, after all, it is only a hub world, and many RPGs resign these areas to little more than menu and some background art, but Snack World has the unsavoury effect of tickling your taste buds with something sweet, such as the thematic mixture of convenience stores and smartphones in a pseudo-medieval fantasy setting, before it immediately fades away to revelation that you’re actually snacking on an out-of-date, pre-packed corner shop butty.
Dungeons are procedurally generated. Whether you generally find that feature a boon or a fault, Snack World does such a bad job of mixing environments that it really doesn’t matter. Every level feels haphazardly mashed together in an indigestible medley of boxes and corridors, sometimes open, sometimes claustrophobic, never inspired.
Spill the beans
One of Snack World’s more interesting elements is its take on monster collecting. Once prompted, you are tasked with taking a photograph of a defeated enemy as a means of teaming up. Forming a group of up to three additional snacks to aid you on a given outing adds a little garnish. Other characters can be recruited through game progress or side quests, helping to alleviate some of the trappings of the simplistic combat. Unfortunately, it’s not enough on its own.
Dishing out your standard attack patterns feels slow and uneventful with contact unsatisfying and visual flair all but absent. The skeptic in me feels that Snack World’s switching equipment on-the-fly feature is more of a fly-in-your-soup to attempt to distract you from the stale, insipid battle mechanics.
Mash attack with a short or long-range weapon, activate your special attacks and that’s your lot. The problem is the lack of fluidity. Having to switch weapons to match an enemy’s weakness demands your attention, but merely feels like a nudge to wake you from your food coma rather than anything exhilarating.
Piecing together the most effective outfit shouldn’t be a chore, but the clunky menus and lack of interesting variance to gear in terms of statistical buffs makes it so. On the plus side, gear does change your appearance so slapping on a whacky outfit on your customised main character is a nice bonus.
To alleviate the tedium of working out the best gear combination you can, for the early part of your adventure, simply ignore the need to align types and equip based on statistical gains on account of the game’s modest difficulty. Alternatively, you can use the extremely welcome auto-equip option. Once you enter the latter stages, the difficulty suddenly skyrockets (basically everything takes an age to die) so, if you are determined to see this one through, hold out for the best gear where possible.
Crafting is as simple a feature as one would expect from a game based on Snack World’s franchise theme of ‘hyper casual fantasy’. Drop a few ingredients in based on pre-defined recipes and hey-ho, upgraded gear. Helpfully, the game practically tags items you shouldn’t be selling by assigning a low price to them. Gems collected through your travels offer the best way to earn in-game currency (the on-brand, playfully named ‘gravies’).
Most of the tasks feel like a complete waste of time due to the value imbalance of purchasing equipment. Simply put, you can spend hours grinding to earn gravies to then drop on items you need, but you’ll naturally gather better equipment through randomised drops. Weapons have abnormally high prices for such small gains, and it is, frankly, exhausting to press on for most of the game.
If one of your marketing taglines is literally ‘May the RNG gods look kindly upon you as you clear quests to collect ever-better booty!’, surely you’d make sure decent drops are frequent enough. Not so. Best get to grinding.
Performance holds perfectly throughout, as it probably should for a 3DS game with a paint job, but it’s certainly a mark of quality that the conversion was made without any noticeable hiccups even if it isn’t technically demanding on the hardware (judging by appearance and gameplay alone admittedly).
Audio design is fine but irritating, with yelps and grunts repeated ad infinitum alongside the same music over and over again.
You can play online or via locally (with multiple systems) which is limited to dungeon runs, which works a treat for gathering materials and generally taking the some of the sting out of the grind. Snack World doesn’t really suffer from the lack of co-op story mode as the bulk of the game is reduced to a pound-shop dungeon grind.
In between story beats there’s so little of interest to do that you’ll simply be repeating the same areas and seeking loot (the only facet of all quests in the game). Again, on the face of it, this is something inherent to the genre so isn’t necessarily an issue however, the slow combat, uninteresting locations and forceful repetition of dull randomised dungeons tired me out.
Comparisons are unavoidable in some instances. Are they unfair? Absolutely. But, with the trailer and description, let’s not pretend we all didn’t see a LEVEL-5 jaunt that promised the charm and creativity of Yo-Kai Watch mixed with the depth and variety of Fantasy Life. The unfortunate truth is that, if the aforementioned classics were the starter and dessert, Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl is the side salad. Without dressing.