Nobody Saves the World (Switch) Review

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Nobody Saves the World (Switch) Review
Nobody Saves the World
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Played On: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action RPG
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
MSRP: $29.99
Release Date: 18/01/2022
| May 27, 2022

Nobody Saves the World was a game I enjoyed one minute, and then a couple of minutes later I became frustrated by some of its mechanics, which is somewhat appropriate given the transforming nature of its hero.

Nobody Saves the World is the latest from Drinkbox Studios is a fun but uneven top-down-action RPG that has you somewhat clumsily swapping between 15 different unlockable forms, mixing and matching their abilities to overcome tough boss battles and the dungeons that keep them. Nobody Saves the World presents a clever premise that’s bolstered by a fantastic amount of customization options and all the charm and humour one can expect from the developers of Guacamelee. After a slow start, it’s good fun for a bit until the campaign loses steam and the chase of unlocking all the forms comes to an end.

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Nobody Saves the World’s straightforward story opens with the onset of a horrible calamity where everything has been covered in gross fungus, monsters are everywhere, for no apparent reason, and the world’s most powerful wizard, Nostramagus, has gone missing. So, it’s up to you, a pale amnesiac named Nobody armed with Nostramagus’ magic wand, to well – as the title suggests – save the world. It’s enough to get you going on your quest around the overworld, clearing out dungeons and collecting shards of a magical gem as you go. The one real highlight here is Randy the Rad, Nostramagus’s annoying apprentice who becomes increasingly unhinged as his plots to stop you and steal the glory backfire on him in lots of amusing ways.

It’s the magic wand that steals the show, allowing you to transform into a total of 15 drastically different forms, from a lowly rat to a muscle-bound bodybuilder, or even an undead necromancer. Each of them has their own traits and abilities, such as the horse’s hind leg kick, my personal favourite, the Ranger’s chargeable bow and arrow, and the Bodybuilder’s barbell push, which makes them feel remarkably different from another to play.

Nobody Saves the World presents a clever premise that’s bolstered by a fantastic amount of customization options and all the charm and humour one can expect from the developers of Guacamelee.”

No matter which form you’re in, combat starts out simple to a fault, and eventually becomes exciting thanks to the expansive customization options that grow with every new form you unlock and then upgrade. For example, my favourite, the horse. When you first get the loveable kicker all he can do is kick, quite well in fact. Then you get a gallop which can burst through enemies at the cost of 30% mana per second, this may seem like not much because it’s only one upgrade, but the simplicity and the way these upgrades are executed is done very well.

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There’s even more forms which have much more complicated upgrade paths which I won’t spoil here, but needless to say, the amount of playable characters and upgrades Drinkbox has packed in Nobody Saves the World will keep you playing for hours on end, if you want to fully complete the game.

However, on their own, the number of abilities still isn’t very impressive, as lots of games have more, and if your only character was the Horse, things might get boring very quickly. What’s unique about Nobody Saves the World is that you can take those unlockable abilities and mix-and-match them with any other character. So you could equip the Knight with the horse’s gallop ability to make him run super-fast and crash through enemies, or you could put the Knight’s shield block on the slug to give it a way to defend against enemies who get close while it shoots its tear projectiles at them. Every form has their own stats, movement speed, and signature attack that can’t be changed and gives them an identity, everything else is completely mutable though.

“…the amount of playable characters and upgrades Drinkbox has packed in Nobody Saves the World will keep you playing for hours on end…”

In that way, you’re not just unlocking a new form, you’re unlocking all the potential tools that the form’s abilities provide for use in your combat and exploration adventures. There are some really fun synergies to discover as well – I won’t spoil many, but try the Ranger’s passive ability in tandem with the horse’s kick back to add poison to every attack for a kick with extra spice. If that’s not enough, you could even top it all off with the Rat’s ability to detonate any enemies affected by poison. There are some really satisfying and powerful combos that you can eventually pull off, and the difficulty curves rises in a nice enough way to make sure you have to use them in order to get through some of the tougher battles.

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My only issue with this mix-and-match mechanic is that your transformation is way, way, more difficult than it should be. Quick swapping between so many different transformations on the fly gets old quickly, most notably due to the fact time doesn’t slow down when you bring up the radial menu. You can’t register any favourite forms on to single button shortcuts, there’s no way to easily place transformation into specific slots on the radial menu. Worst of all, there’s no way to quickly revert to a previous form.

When so much of Nobody Saves the World is about these forms and quickly swapping between them, this is simply unacceptable, especially over the games 15 hour playthrough. It seems like a big oversight, something that should’ve been focused on when it’s so integral to the game’s experience. So much of the challenge and fun of Nobody Saves the World is derived from finding the best synergies between your forms, so it’s a shame that the controls don’t make it easier to quickly switch between them.

“What’s unique about Nobody Saves the World is that you can take those unlockable abilities and mix-and-match them with any other character.”

When I wasn’t tackling the many dungeons and demi-dungeons, I was exploring the large overworld, searching for hidden flasks of mana juice for permanent mana pool upgrades and side-questing for its many residents. The side quests of Nobody Saves the World are shallow but still amusing nonetheless and offer some nice break from the constant fighting that happens throughout the overworld and within dungeons.

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One is as simple as talking to a horse while on horseback, so you can finally find horsey love. While another has you working for the thief’s guild and breaking the “one-per-customer” rule at a discount bargain store by transforming into four different humanoids. Others present challenging mini-games that really put your mastery of certain forms to the test.

My favourite of these was an archery mini-game that you do with the Ranger. You find it in the overworld, and I was initially hesitant to do it, but once I saw how much fun it was and how I really had to know how to use my bow, I had a really fun time. You have to shoot these targets in increasingly difficult stages with one ultimate stage right at the end. It’s great to see this way of challenging the player without obstructing their progress, as they can keep doing battles, but if they want to unlock more stuff, they will have the option to do so. It’s great for replay ability.

“The side quests of Nobody Saves the World are shallow but still amusing nonetheless…”

The middle of Nobody Saves the World is also great fun. Once I was about three or four hours in, I had enough forms and powers unlocked to make meaningful customization choices, enemies frequently spawned that would require me to switch up my damage in order to defeat them, and the dungeons introduced really clever modifiers that forced me to think about my loadout and consider equipping certain passive abilities that I might have never used. Like, for example, a dungeon that made it so that every hit dealt 9999 damage, both to me and to my enemies; or one that littered the floor with green goop that slowed me down; or one that made all my enemy corpses explode.

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Of course, getting to the point where you have that expensive set of tools and get to use them in creative ways to solve clever combat puzzles and encounters is, unfortunately… much less fun. The early hours of Nobody Saves the World expose how weak combat is when you are without that toolkit. There’s a significant lack of challenge and depth, both of which are filled later on – but during those first two or three hours it just feels like a bunch of grinding without much reward.

On the other end of that, the last 15-hour stretch of the adventure starts to suffer from a feeling that the well has run dry. I ran out of new forms to chase, I felt like I had seen and experimented with all the ability synergies that made sense, and I felt like I had easy answers for just about everything.

Nobody Saves the World’s online co-op works well but suffers from a few significant caveats, like much of the main game.”

Nobody Saves the World’s online co-op works well but suffers from a few significant caveats, like much of the main game. One player serves as the host, while the other person jumps in as a clone with all the same forms, upgrades, and abilities as the host. This means that there’s no way for the second player to have access to their own save file, and thus, there’s no way to actually make progress in their own game without creating their own co-op game as the host.

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The other frustration about co-op is that when one player pauses, it pauses for all the players as well. This is incredibly jarring when playing online, as you’ll be the only person watching your own screen, and then all of a sudden you’ll see the menu pop up as your partner navigates through a bunch of options just to swap to a new transformation.

Even with all these issues, though, Nobody Saves the World does benefit from the company of a second player. The host is able to level up two forms at a time, there are even more synergies to experiment with, and there’s appropriately balanced difficulty adjustments to account for the fact there’s twice as much damage hitting enemies at all times.

When Nobody Saves the World is at its best, which believe me it was for the majority of the 15-hour campaign, it’s a joy to play. However, its transformation menu needs a ton of work to make it useful on the fly, but there’s a wide variety of fun and humorous side quests, excelling customization options that encourage experimentation between your various forms and the abilities that come with them, and clever dungeons designs that really demand that you explore the full depth of their customization. That delicious centre is unfortunately bookended by a slow beginning and an ending that’s drawn-out more than I would like, but they’re worth pushing through and past to experience what is truly a unique and charming action-RPG.

A retail version of the game reviewed was provided by the publisher. You can read more about CGMagazine reivew policies here.
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