We hold these truths to be self-evident that licensed games will always suck. Ever since the Film/TV industry got the big idea to bank on video games' success - gamers have suffered. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: Early LucasArts Star Wars games, the Mad Max adaptation of 2015, etc. Still, even with these great (or at least passable) attempts, we are still left with a large dumpster fire of content.
Luckily, things are changing. Mobile devices are allowing for more fun, simple pieces of licensed content to grow and flourish. Grumpyface Studios, an indie developer that has created mobile content exclusively for Cartoon Network, released Steven Universe: Attack the Light, a surprisingly fun enjoyable RPG based on the popular hit cartoon series Steven Universe, to universal acclaim. And it's well deserved, the Paper Mario-styled combat, mixed with the astounding visuals are nothing short of brilliant. Its fun story felt like an actual episode of the show - likely due to series creator, Rebecca Sugar's, involvement.
As it grew in popularity, a sequel was bound to be made, and it was. Grumpyface announced that Attack the Light's sequel, Save the Light, would release in 2017. And it would be for console - a huge change of pace for the mobile game dev. Cut to now, it's been two weeks since Save the Light's unfortunately buggy release. And the question lingers: Does it live up to it's predecessor?
I heard about Save the Light's trouble the day after it's release. It's Polygon review disappointed me - I had expected more, but not a lot. After all, this was Grumpface's first attempt at a console game after exclusively working on mobile. Still, for its bugs to be that bad definitely made my zest for it dwindle. I waited until it fixed itself up before I attempted to play. A week after it's PlayStation 4 release, I finally picked up the game - and sighed with relief as I dove into this fun, only-slightly-buggy world.
The game is a direct sequel to Grumpface's Attack the Light, released in 2015. A mysterious Homeworld Gem, Hessonite, has invaded Beach City and stolen the Prism - a sentient gem weapon, turned fun light boy. Steven and the Crystal Gems, along with Greg and Connie (his dad and best friend, respectively) must travel the world to figure out what this Hessonite is up to and what she wants with the Prism. During the game, you can take control of all of your party members and use their various powers to fight Prism-generated light monsters across a variety of striking (if not a little weird looking) Steven Universe locales. It's a simple premise, but it's executed with great fun and precision in most areas.
The world doesn't feel as alive as I'd like. It's 3D graphics almost bring Beach City to life, but there's something about the lack of little details that make me feel weird as traverse it. It's not bad, it just felt uncomfortable. Still, the other environments are beautiful. The Strawberry Battlefield will always hold the crown as being one of the best places in both the show and the games. The only environment that could have used a little more work was Beach City. Again, the visuals aren't bad, just jarring.
The in-depth puzzle mechanics did wonders for the game's enjoyability factor - it brought an extra layer of fun and complexity without getting too difficult. I particularly love the Greg-centric music puzzles, where Greg would play a tune based around different directional commands. It's also nice to use different party members in the environment, you can use Connie and Garnet to break things, and Pearl to destroy things from a distance. The world is much more malleable, despite it's sometimes-funky style.
The battle mechanics improved beautifully from Attack the Light. There's so much more variety in how you can approach the battle. Not only do you have the opportunity to customize your party, but the range of abilities have changed. Steven's ability to actually attack - which he couldn't do in the previous game - made it far more fun to play with. Then there's the bond system - where if you heal, encourage, or assist another party member, a bond gauge fills up. When the bond gauge fills, you are able to do a special attack and/or special buff. There's opportunity to strategize, while in the last game you could win the whole game with just Pearl and Steven.
On the negative side, there are still some bugs. The game does not crash, and it's very playable, but can get annoying at times. In the first couple of minutes, I to walk from the Lighthouse to Beach City, and suddenly, I fell all the way down to the beach. I had no idea where I was, and I had to take the long way to my destination. Then, there were moments when characters could get stuck or they would lag behind. These are all pretty standard in games - especially in recent releases. So, I don't hold it against Grumpyface. As far as I can tell, it's improved greatly from it's buggy beginning.
So, this begs the question, is Save the Light as good as the original? Yes. I would say it's even better - but it's hindered by a poor release. It's unfortunate, because everything else about this game works. The storyline feels like it got ripped out of a season of the show. The updated controls gave variety without sacrificing the simplicity that made it universally enjoyable. Are there still bugs? Yes, but they aren't a hindrance to experience anymore.
Steven Universe: Save the Light is a fun, simple game that improves on it's predecessor and doesn't deserve to be written off because of a buggy start.
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played RPGs since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any RPGs you'd like him to unpack, hit him up!
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