When you think about it logically, we shouldn’t have been surprised by Snack World. After all, when a game’s developed by the legendary Level-5 and has already enjoyed a hugely popular anime series and toy line in Japan, it really should have been on plenty of gamers’ wishlists.
Despite this, it’s fair to say that even though Nintendo is handling publishing duties for the western version on Switch, it’s still sort of 'stealthed' its way to release (perhaps due to being sandwiched in between new Pokémon and Animal Crossing games). Make no mistake, however; if Snack World has somehow flown under your radar by this point, it’s time to plug that radar in and boot it up (or whatever it is you do to radars to see stuff on them).
On paper, there isn’t too much about it that seems remarkable. You start by creating a character, who then wakes up in a town with amnesia (because RPGs, naturally). Your aim is to embark on a series of dungeon-crawling quests – some to progress the story, others as side-quests – looting and gaining experience along the way. And at its core, that’s pretty much it; it isn’t really anything you haven’t played before.
Where it excels, though, is in its personality and its presentation. You may have dabbled in more than your fair share of dungeon crawlers, but we’d be surprised if you’ve found too many that are as charming and downright funny as this one. We found ourselves regularly chuckling away at its terrible puns, inventive character designs and endearingly silly sense of humour.
The land of Snack World – and the central kingdom of Tutti-Frutti specifically – is a world that revolves around all things food. Locations are named after food (the Falafel Flats, Succotash Sands, Gumbo Grotto), characters have suitably culinary names (such as star-crossed lovers Romano and Julienne or the mystical hag Sam Witch) and most of the consumable items you collect are literally consumable; all manner of food and drink can be collected and used to boost your stats.
Meanwhile, the enemies – who aren’t necessarily food-based – are the highlight of the game, most of them the result of some brilliantly terrible punsmanship. Take the sheep wizard, for example, with the viciously belittling name Shaman Ewe. Or the Infantry, who are literally young children who throw tantrums when you attack them. Or the best of the bunch: Ogre Actor, a monster who’s dressed up as a Shakespearean character and makes a hugely dramatic noise when you kill him.
There’s another good reason the enemies are so entertaining: all 168 different species can be recruited to your team. The more of each species you defeat, the more your familiarity with it grows; when it reaches its maximum you can take a photo of a downed foe and add them to your list of ‘Snacks’, which means you can call on them to accompany you on your quest.
You can assign your Snacks to one of two different types, Party and Pocket. Party Snacks can be chosen to fight alongside you as AI companions for the duration of a mission. To all intents and purposes, they’ll act like a co-op partner, which means you’ll need to resuscitate them if they’re defeated (though they can do the same for you). At first, you can only choose one Party Snack to accompany you, but as you progress through the game, this can be upgraded to three.
Assigning a snack as a Pocket Snack, meanwhile, sits it on the sidelines until you’re ready to summon it, at which point your hero will physically transform into that character. This means you can actually control them for a period of time and use their unique attacks as you see fit. It’s a fun idea and one that encourages more diverse play when things can start to feel repetitive.
It’s enjoyable to recruit and use enemies, then, but it’s equally entertaining to use one of the numerous other Snacks you recruit along the way. There are 254 different characters you can recruit as Snacks, and since only 168 of these are enemies, that means there are still nearly 90 other characters you can find and convince to join your cause, often by helping them out in side-quests.
Many of these other Snacks are even more appealing than the collectable enemies, mainly because you often get to know them first during their respective side-quests, and as such you get a better chance to know what makes them tick beyond simply ‘they’re a bad guy’. Our favourite by far is the Crock Ness Monster, a Nessie rip-off who’s made out of flames, has a crockpot on his back and has some of the best-written (and most authentic) Scottish dialogue we’ve seen in a game.
One thing worth noting is that, despite its colourful art style, this game may not be suitable for younger children. You’ll no doubt hear the usual cries of ‘censorship’ when it emerges that some of the characters have had their skimpy costumes replaced with more modest apparel, but the reality is that the game’s still packed with euphemism and is surprisingly sweary to boot. Granted, we’re talking the mildest of swearing – there’s plenty of “damn”, “hell”, “ass” and the like – but it’s still something to bear in mind if you’re considering it as the next game for that young Pokémon-loving child in your life.
On top of that, there’s a bunch of other stuff that will have you raising your eyebrows; nothing that may necessarily offend you but may surprise you nonetheless. One of the main supporting characters, Chup, has an unhealthy obsession with the Princess that verges on creepy and perverted at times, and the Princess doesn’t do much to help this with some extremely loaded dialogue deliberately designed with sexualised double entendre in mind.
Another early example is the mission where you have to track down some beauty serum for the Princess. You do this by defeating the Krapen, a squid-like boss who, when defeated, poos out the serum. Cue plenty of chat about how the Princess is unknowingly rubbing faeces all over her body and whether Chup would still like to see that anyway. It’s all obviously comically done but, again, maybe a bit much for the kiddies.
Then there are the three genies, who are camper than a Volkswagen van: while they’re clearly designed for comic relief and are no longer wearing the kinky S&M gear they were in the Japanese release (ahem), the fact they’re still over-the-top stereotypes (we’re talking Big Gay Al from South Park here), right down to the fact that they prance and skip instead of walking, may still potentially upset some. Not all, we should stress; we aren’t making a statement here, just letting you know what’s there so you can decide whether it crosses your own line.
The reason we’re focusing so much on the characters you encounter and recruit, and the game’s sense of humour (and controversy), is that they often carry Snack World when it may otherwise feel like a bit of a chore. There’s a lot of repetition in this game and many of the side-missions – and even some of the story missions – will see you returning to locations you’ve already explored time and time again. It may randomly generate a new layout each time, as is the dungeon crawling way, but even the most enthusiastic player would struggle to muster up a smile when sent to the same area for the umpteenth time, were it not for the fact that everything is just so charming.
Its approachable nature also theoretically makes it a good introductory game for those new to the dungeon crawling genre, and thankfully it knows it. There are plenty of assists in here that, while not compulsory, can help newcomers – or those short on time – to streamline their experience. Before beginning a new mission you can choose to have the game auto-equip the best outfits, weapons and power-ups based on the enemies you’re due to face.
Combat is also similarly user-friendly. There are a host of different weapon types which essentially act like Pokémon types: each does huge damage to certain enemies while barely scratching others. You enter each mission with a handful of different weapons and can switch between them at will, but if you lock onto an enemy you’ll also be given the option to press ZR to instantly switch to the weapon that’s most effective against them.
The result is a game that should appeal to all skill levels, though it does also mean that those who consider themselves ‘hardcore’ may find it a tad on the easy side unless they start actively trying to handicap themselves with weaker weapons and gear.
Snack World serves up a beautifully presented helping of dungeon crawling, garnished with generous amounts of humour and charm. Its character is also its saving grace, because it helps keep your interest when the actual mechanics start to feel repetitive. Or, to milk the food analogy further: its outer shell is so endearing that you’ll still enjoy consuming it even when you can tell it’s starting to get a little stale.