Crawl through the frustration for some entertaining moments.
The concept of a dungeon crawler has always intrigued me. There is something nice about going from room to room, collecting treasure, and slaying a whole bunch of monsters. Snack World, a game from h.a.n.d. and Level-5, tries to elevate the genre with instantly switchable weapons and multiplayer functionality. There are some exciting moments to be had, but what Snack World lacks is a constant drive to push on. With a simple premise, Snack World knows how to reel you in, but really doesn't have enough to capitalize on those initial moments.
Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl - Gold takes place in the gloriously named Tutti-Frutti Kingdom. It is here that you, a playable avatar, is found all alone and hurt. The King Papaya and his daughter Melonia bring you into the fold and ask you to fulfill quests big and small. It really doesn't go further than skin deep. The initial dialogue is charming, but it gets really grating over the main course that is Snack World. The humor they decided to apply later in the adventure really didn't gel well with me. There is a lot that the localizers got away with, and bravo for that, but it didn't boost my confidence in the game. Even between the disappointing bits, there are moments that brush the negativity away, like a collection of flamboyant genies. Overall, though, the dialogue is very much a mixed bag.
The gameplay is very grindy. The player, alone or with buddies, will take on a large slew of missions that force you to keep looking ahead. The controls are pretty straightforward: there are light and strong attack buttons, plus the usual array of movement options. The overhead perspective makes it easy to figure out a direction at a glance. While it seems mostly like basic fare, Snack World does have a significant trick up its sleeve: the Jara weapons. These pocket- sized weapons glide into your pocket and can be pulled out at a moment's notice. As soon as one runs out of steam, you will swap around to keep attacking at the highest of levels. This is a crucial strategy, mostly as the most devastating attacks can only be used a limited amount.
In addition to the Jaras, there are also Snacks. These are creatures that you can team up with, be they enemies or special characters that hand you their calling card. As the majority of the adventure needs to be played solo, you quickly learn to rely on the human AI characters and the Snacks. They do a decent amount of attacking on their own, but I found myself providing most of the offense. For some reason, my friends were quick to perish, forcing me to revive them in less busy moments. This was barely possible as enemies are quick to group up on you.
I would have less of a problem with this if the missions weren't rough on the player. Right from the get go, the game speeds up to 120 kilometers an hour and then leaves your side very fast. The missions always seem above your grade, asking you to do some heavy grinding. Leveling isn't a speedy process in the slightest. The same is true for upgrading clothing items and Jaras, which require three or four materials for a level upgrade. With the weapons, you require a copy of the exact same jara to make level ups happen. The whole set-up seems like a lot of effort for what basically comes down hacking and dungeon crawling.
The dungeon crawling aspect, at least, is enjoyable. Regardless of how many times you play, the layout changes. There is a fun element of surprise as traps, harsher enemies, and additional rewards await you at every turn. What Snack World does right is rewarding you for uncovering every corner of the map, which feels quite rare. It just felt right destroying opponents, and getting various materials, some important and others less so. The higher ranked materials get fun roulette wheels, and hidden rooms shower you with fun trinkets. The special Jaras I got in those instances are unlike anything else in Snack World. It made a really big difference as I worked towards completion. That being said, the dungeons can be a bit long, which all depends on pure luck.
The HUB area found in the middle of the Tutti-Frutti Kingdom is great as well. There are enough shops to prepare you for the next step in the adventure. There is a dedicated Weapon Parlor where you can purchase the exact Jaras you might need, a shop that hands you recipes for new outfits, and a Hero Mart with crucial consumables. Money is surprisingly hard to come by, making Snack World's economy a little wacky. If you play missions enough times, however, you should gather enough materials you will likely not need at the moment. You see, even as you fail over and over, the earned trinkets stay in your pocket.
Another thing that can be accessed from the HUB is the local and online multiplayer. When I noticed this feature, I was sincerely hoping that you could play the majority of the game with some pals. That—and I say this honestly—would have really improved my experience. There is a different flow when you play with another person, making the whole experience more of an equal playing field. Each character has their own specific strengths, making the missions more doable. The game is sadly split into different ranks, and only a handful per rank can be played with your friends. With every new target you hit, roughly five missions become available to play this way. Luckily, these aren't overly easy, but it would've been nicer to tackle main story bosses together. These bosses offer a unique behind the back perspective, forcing you to adopt somewhat of a different strategy. You still face them inside missions sometimes, but that certainly doesn't feel the same.
The presentation is certainly a nice upgrade over the Japanese Nintendo 3DS version. The character models are quite colorful and lively, particularly the mainstay characters. Level-5 is amazing when it comes to scaling an experience for different systems, and Snack World does this wonderfully. The game is quite fun to look at, with crisp movements and environments. Naturally, the music is usually of the utmost quality. The boss themes in Snack World are genuinely amazing, with some even featuring some very cheesy lyrics.
Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl - Gold is a journey with highs and lows. The gameplay itself is quite entertaining with cool weapons and slick movement. On the other end, it is also very grindy, with dialogue that can become real grating. Some of these problems fade away in multiplayer, which makes it such a missed opportunity to make that aspect a bigger focus. Snack World isn't a bad game, but it’s somewhat misguided in how it wants to present itself. If you can deal with the frustration, you will find that the dungeons themselves can be fairly entertaining.