Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold Review
It’s hard to quantify exactly what Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold is, and what it brings to the table. I could say it’s a dungeon crawler — as the name suggests — and it definitely is, but it’s somehow so much more than that. It’s an experience of the strangest kind, in which every part feels a little bit out of place, but against all odds, they all come together in the most satisfying way. One thing is for sure, though: Gold is definitely the right word for it.
So let’s talk a little bit about the history of Snack World. It’s a game that originally released on the 3DS in Japan in 2017, though it never got an English release on the handheld, and was ported to the Switch the following year. Two years later, it’s popped up in the West, though it’s probably a little bit inaccurate to say it’s exactly the same game. The first major giveaway is the game’s classification, strangely enough; in Japan it received an A from CERO, the nation’s classification board, denoting that it’s acceptable for all ages, similar to Australia’s G rating. Here in Australia, however, the game has an M rating, for its use of “crude sexual humour.” And boy, does it have a lot of that.
Snack World is absolutely filled from top to bottom with sexual innuendo, and it’s utterly brazen about the depth and frequency of it all. It’s a little like when children’s movies sneak in subtle innuendo intended for the parents of the children watching it, except it’s not subtle, and unlike those movies, would probably struggle to fly over the heads of a younger audience. It’s crude humour, without a doubt, almost always sexual in nature, and you’d think it would get tiring, but it weirdly never did. It’s difficult to explain why; the humour is frequent and often predictable, but juxtaposed against the cutesy art style and innocent framing of the entire world in which its set, it always surprises. It’s a little like hearing your high school teacher swear; even if they do it often, it’s never not surprising.
But with that out of the way, let’s talk about the story and gameplay. The former is a little bit lacklustre, and the latter is a little bit too complicated, but again, somehow, it all works. We’ll start with the story.
In Snack World, you play an amnesiac, player-created character in, uh, Snack World. After waking up in a field in the Tutti Frutti kingdom, you’re taken to see King Papaya and his daughter Melonia. There, after explaining your lack of memories and establishing that you’re probably not a threat, you meet a delightful cast of dungeon crawlers under the service of the king. From there, you’re tasked with a series of ridiculous quests, doting on Princess Melonia, who suffers from “first-world problems,” according to her father, a serious condition to be sure. And that’s the entire first half of the game. Of the game’s ten story chapters, the first five are spent fetching meaningless trinkets for Melonia, with little to no story progression outside of that. It’s a little frustrating, because at the very start of the story it seems like there might be a teensy nugget of an interesting story ready to unfold — and the game does absolutely nothing with it for more than 10 hours.
After chapter 5, things do thankfully start to grow interesting. When your player-character starts to recall some earlier memories for the first time, you learn of the game’s major threat: Sultan Vinegar. Yes, it’s both a terrible and a wonderful pun. The Sultan torched your character’s home village, killing everyone except you, and is generally just kind of a jerk, hell-bent on world domination. He’s a cartoon villain, but given the silly tone of the rest of the game, that’s just fine. From there, the story turns more towards gathering information about Vinegar, infiltrating his palace (called The Distillery, because vinegar), and taking him down once and for all. As I said, it’s a little bit simplistic, and a little bit lacklustre, but it’s a fairly hands-off approach to a game that focuses heavily on its gameplay loop above all else.
And that gameplay loop is pretty phenomenal, all things considered. You accept a quest, run through a dungeon, get the loot at the end based on how well you perform — then go back to the hub world to start the loop all over again. Looking to score a rare piece of loot from a particular mission? Well, you can just jump straight back into it, and grind it out as many times as you like until you get it. It’s a very dungeon-crawly approach, reminiscent of similar loot-based games like Diablo, and while it can be a little bit frustrating if luck isn’t on your side, each mission is relatively bite-sized, and it takes mere seconds once you’ve finished a mission to jump back into another one.
This quickness is something that carries over into most aspects of the game; it’s an incredibly streamlined process. Jumping around to the various shops and points of interest in the game takes two button presses, you can choose to have your fashion and weapon choices auto-equipped for the best outcome in each mission, and even the online integration (more on that in a bit) is quick and painless. The result is an experience that never feels like a chore, even if you’re spending hours trying to snag a particular weapon or item.
The combat itself could do with a little more work on this front, however. There are multiple different types of weapons, and each individual weapon has a “bane” on it, something that makes the weapon stronger against a particular kind of enemy. For example, a sword you find in a dungeon might be particularly strong against skeletons, while the same sword from another runthrough of the very same dungeon might instead be strong against enemies that are purple.
At the start of the game, you can have six weapons equipped at a time, and the auto-equip does its best to ensure those six weapons cover all (or at least most) of the creatures you’re likely to encounter. You can fine-tune this manually if you like for each mission, but that can become quite tedious, especially given that you’re more or less encouraged to keep every weapon you find, just in case. By the end of the game’s 30-hour runtime, I had well over 100 weapons in my inventory, and there was no way I was going to manually and tediously pick each and every weapon for every mission I embarked on — even if it was technically a better idea than letting the auto-equip sort it out for me.
The primary issue with this system is that it rarely allows you to settle in to a particular play style. I found myself really enjoying daggers, as the idea of dashing in, getting in a few quick hits, and then dashing back out is a play style that massively appeals to me. But because I couldn’t possibly gather enough daggers to cover every single enemy weakness, and because I was relying a little too heavily on the auto-equip, I was somewhat forced into using other weapon types that I didn’t find quite as fun. That’s not to say any particular weapon type is inherently bad, but standing back and taking potshots with a magic staff just wasn’t quite as engaging as getting up close and personal.
And then we come to the Snacks, because this game is called Snack World after all. Snacks are the helper allies that accompany you on quests and assist you in battle, and to begin with, all you’ll have is a little pixie who heals you every now and then. However, once you take down a bunch of the same enemy over and over again, you may get the chance to take a Snack Shot. This allows you to “capture” the enemy Snack, and add them to your party, a little like Pokemon but also not really. You can also earn special Snacks by completing optional side missions, who are usually actual people and not random monsters scattered throughout the wilderness.
Each Snack has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they’re generally divided up into four categories: attacker, defender, trapper, and supporter. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, trappers tend to lay traps for enemies to walk into and get damaged, and supporters usually heal or buff the party. I’m sure there’s an optimal snack layout for each mission, but for most of my run I stuck with a tried and true party of two attackers and a healer. It’s a bit of a brute force approach, but it got the job done 90% of the time. It’s a fine enough system, really, and there’s little to complain about.
In addition to everything mentioned above, there’s also a fashion system. Clothes can be found, crafted, or purchased, and each item of clothing has a physical and magical defense stat, as well as unique abilities like preventing certain status conditions, increasing attack speed, or even increasing the gold you earn in the field. But that’s not all! Each piece of clothing has a brand, a colour, and style, and it’s these things you’ll want to pay attention to the most.
Every day, you’ll get a notice on your Pix-E-Pad, telling you what the trends of the day are. Match up your clothing with the trends as best you can, and you can get a sizeable boost to your rare drop rate, drastically reducing the need to grind out rare rewards. Thankfully, you don’t even have to choose between having good stats and being fashionable — there’s separate sets of equippable clothing, one for the utility, and one for the fashion. Some later missions even have a dress code, requiring all clothes to be of a particular brand, style, or colour, which is an interesting idea in theory, but ultimately just makes those missions frustrating to partake in.
I mentioned earlier that online integration was quick and smooth, and even that might be a bit of an understatement. While I was unable to take much of an in-depth look at the multiplayer aspects during the review period, for obvious reasons, I was able to set up an online play session with another reviewer. We played for about 3 hours together, and it was surprisingly just an incredibly smooth, some might even say flawless, experience. Once a friend has opened up their game, you can drop in and out at will, and you’re essentially just playing in the same world together, just like that.
The missions you’re able to play together are limited — there’s no chance to play story missions together, only side missions — but they work exactly as they would if you were playing solo, and seem to be scaled up a teensy bit to account for the extra players. While there is also local multiplayer, it’s limited only to multi-system communication; there’s no single-console multiplayer here, as much as that would’ve been welcome. All in all though, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to the online experience, in three hours of play there wasn’t a single disconnect, a single stutter, or a single moment of lag the entire time.
Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold is better than the sum of its parts. Some of those parts are frustrating, and some of them are a bit messy, but somehow, all of those parts come together to create a surprisingly pleasant and refreshing experience. Despite being laden with constant, unnecessary sexual innuendo, and despite being filled with systems upon systems of complicated menus and stats, Snack World manages to be fun above all else. And ultimately, that’s all you could really ask for.
+ Addictive and enjoyable gameplay loop
+ Rock solid online multiplayer
+ Slick and streamlined
- Grinding can be a bit of a drag
- Some weapons aren't as fun to use
- First half of the game goes nowhere