Snack World - The Dungeon Crawl review: sugary sweet flashback to the 3DS' heyday
When the 3DS died - and despite an impressive few years clinging on, I think it's now safe to say the beautifully eccentric handheld's time is finally up - alongside it died a certain type of game. Not exactly double-A so much as mid-budget and high concept, the 3DS was home to so many offbeat treats: things like Attack of the Friday Monsters, Crimson Shroud or Fantasy Life - all with lashings of charm and just as often spotty in execution, and all which came, one way or another, via Level-5.
Snack World is Level-5's latest, a multimedia assault akin to its hugely successful Yo-Kai Watch series that's also a manga, an anime and now this, a sizable action RPG that's finally made it westwards with The Dungeon Crawl - Gold. It places you in a sugar-sweet high fantasy world where you're joined by Chup, Mayonna, Béarnaise and several others in a series of bite-sized adventures as you level up and unearth new gear to equip and new togs to wear.
It's a world that's dizzyingly dense, the hub town of Tutti Frutti full of quest-givers and shops to peruse, the list of activities beyond the town's borders soon growing staggeringly long. You certainly can't fault Snack World when it comes to serving up content, nor can you find fault with the level of energy it puts into it all; this has all the noise, pizazz and high-pitched histrionics of the most upbeat anime, with an accompanying storm of weak jokes and puns that never quite land. Endearing? Maybe, though that depends entirely on your mindset and age. Snack World more often than not left me feeling like I was suffering through a hangover even though I'd not touched a drop the night before.
You can't really blame a game spun off from a kid's TV show for having the unkempt energy of a toddler who's just necked a crate of Sunny D, though unlike Yo-Kai Watch which has always had a certain human warmth at its core I'm not entirely sure what The Snack World is getting at. Maybe the message is lost amidst the noise - and this is a noisy game, in both sound and vision - but Snack World can end up seeming like a whole load of screaming.
Of course I'm not the target audience, but given how Snack World's humour lunges in so many different directions - there's a princess who smears herself in shit, an unsavoury obsession held for her by one of the lead characters that goes well beyond creepy and a mess of references aimed at older players - I'm not exactly sure who is. Still, the tangle of influences you'll find in the mechanics makes for a more savoury mess.
There's a dash of Diablo in the action and the acquisition of loot, a little Pokemon as you recruit creatures to fight by your side. There are nice crinkles added to the formula, too, such as how you can set companions - or Snacks, in the game's parlance - as part of your party or place them in your pocket to be called upon during battle, at which point you morph into them and have a whole new moveset to draw upon. Then there's the way you can select the most effective weapon in your arsenal before any given encounter by simply answering an on-screen prompt.
And, of course, it's all delivered with the same heavy splash of colour that's you'll find elsewhere, plus there's a generous side helping of jank. Snack World began life on the 3DS, and that's evident in several design decisions that have remained intact for this Switch port. The camera's limited in movement, and the move to a higher resolution screen hasn't been entirely complimentary to many of the character models. For all the colour and exuberance this is not a pretty game - so it's even more of a shame that the performance isn't super smooth despite the more primitive visuals.
Still, that 3DS heritage also points towards one of Snack World's more positive points. This is a flashback to the kind of off-beat, inventive and characterful adventures that were so bountiful on the handheld, and in its exuberance and colour Snack World is faithful to all of that. It's a bit too gauche, and too clumsy, to really reach the heights of something as wonderful as Fantasy Life or Level-5's more polished works, but while you can stomach its excesses it's a fun throwback all the same.