Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl — Gold, the latest Switch release from Level-5, loves its tasty treats. Candy, meat, coffee… if you want it but shouldn’t consume too much, Snack World is wild about it.
It’s strange, then, that as a game, Snack World is less of an addictive substance and more of a nicotine patch.
From a lot of the team behind 3DS gem Fantasy Life, Snack World may be familiar at times to that game’s players, but feels much more focused on one element. It’s a quest-based, loot-happy dungeon crawler designed around multiplayer action. It’s structured a lot like Monster Hunter, but its combat is a much simpler, mostly top-down affair that puts emphasis on using the right weapon for a given monster’s weaknesses.
The surrounding story is there, but it’s treated so carelessly that it’d be difficult to approach without discounting the lore completely. It’s certainly not the first game to do that, but it’s brazen enough to constantly break the fourth wall to admit it.
Each quest is bite-sized, outside of larger boss encounters, and this likely stems from the game’s roots as a Japan-exclusive 3DS game. It wants you to be able to stop at any time if you really need to, or chain together lots of missions in succession for longer play. The systems are built nicely to get you in and out of quests as fast as possible, mapping all the buildings and menus to button presses so you don’t even need to walk around and pretend the geography of the town is a thing that matters.
The appeal of Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl Gold largely hinges on how much you love the addictive grinding trickery of mobile games, and it’s through this that its nicotine patch appeal is made clear. If you love raising weapon stats and equipping different gear daily for loot bonuses, but you’d rather not have subscription fees or microtransactions overwhelm your life, Snack World is right there for you. There’s an in-world Japanese kuji, or prize lottery! You can grind quests repeatedly to get duplicate weapons and merge them together for extra stats! There are daily shops with new items! If you feel the compulsion to accomplish simple tasks and don’t want to get sucked into a gacha game, these could be appealing ways to do that. At one point, a character tells you “all good things come to an end, but this game is endless!” Snack World knows what it’s doing, and it knows that its game design is not delivering high art.
Like many bright, youthful Japanese games, Snack World is often too excited for its own good, but most of the time it delivers a bright, crisp aesthetic that keeps things upbeat. The transition from 3DS to Switch was handled well; the character models don’t exactly push the polygon count, but it feels like the elements that needed upscaling got that attention and the sometimes-sparse combat sequences do help add clarity to a game that sometimes won’t chill long enough to do that on its own.
One element of Snack World that could really use a deep breath and second try is the localization, which throws in enough weird jokes and already-dated pop culture references to make Victor Ireland blush. Most egregious is the “Covfefe Cafe,” a main game location named after a meme years past its shelf life and way over the head of what would seemingly be Snack World’s target demographic. Or maybe not? The game makes some really strange tonal turns that may have more of a teen-adjacent appeal, but then it makes so many choices that suggest it wants to appeal to the Yo-kai Watch crowd.
Snack World could be better if it had more focus. It could be better if it had more variety. It could be better if it had more, well, Fantasy Life. But even in the inconsistent sugar rush of its existing form, there’s some definite value in what it delivers to players who just need a regular source of loot-happy grinding.
Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl — Gold is available now on Nintendo Switch. Fantasy Life 2 is still a Japan-only mobile game.