Steven Universe Attack the Light is a turn-based RPG (just ask Steven, he’ll tell you) based off of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe property. It’s available for iOS, Android, Apple Tv, and Kindle devices for $3 and it’s absolutely worth your money. Here’s why.
Story & Adaption, or Rebecca Sugar
The game starts with the crystal Gems– Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst– returning from a mission with a new, powerful artifact in their possession: a light prism. In the hands of a powerful gem it could unleash powerful creatures of light, but since Steven is so young they figure there’s no harm in letting him see it. And they were right. Game over… just kidding. They were wrong (Apparently, Steven is more powerful than they thought. Who would have ever thought that they’d underestimate Steven’s power? Pfft.) causing these creatures of light to be released. And so your epic journey begins.
Series creator Rebecca Sugar helped co-create this game; henceforth, one of the real strengths of the game is as an adaption. It does a great job of using mechanics or other little quirks to communicate the world of Steven Universe. One of the biggest mechanical aspects is that Steven does not directly participate in combat. He doesn’t have HP (Harmony Points, also a nod to the series) like everyone else and he doesn’t attack enemies. Instead, he supports the team. He carries around the items, heals the Gems by cheering them on, buffs them by playing songs on his ukulele, and uses his gem to create a bubble shield around them to protect them against hits. All of which are consistent with what he could do at that point in the show. One of my favorite small details is that Steven starts at level 1 while all of the other gems start at level 9001, which shows how much more experienced the other gems are from their hundreds of years worth of living.
Gameplay, or Combat & Exploration
The turn-based combat spices things up by requiring extra inputs for most actions (I’ve heard this is similar to the Mario RPGs, but I am unfamiliar with them so I can not speak on their behalf.). For instance, basic attacks require you to tap the screen when a star pops up in order to get a second hit. You do the same to block enemy attacks. Many other attacks also require timing in one form or another. A couple of Pearl’s attacks even require you to aim the skills. I really struggled with the timing at first, leading to a difficulty spike, but later on I got really good at blocking and the game became a lot easier, thankfully there is a hard mode which makes enemies more difficult while also removing the star (Think of hard mode in the Batman Arkham games removing the reaction prompts.).
Pro tip: A sound effect plays right before the star pops up and I found it easier to time my attacks and blocks using this rather than the star. I even practiced by closing my eyes when it was the enemy turn.
You execute attacks using the 5 points you get at the start of each turn. You can have one character attack 5 times, or each character uses a different skill. Some skills even cost more than 5 and force you to let some points rollover into the next turn (the max # of points you can store is 9). At its best, this helps add a lot of strategy to the game as waiting an extra turn can often be a better strategy than attacking from the start. At its worst, some skills feel overpowered resulting in that character attacking most of the time. For instance, Garnet’s Rocket Punch allowed you to set off 2 AoE’s that did high damage to the person that they directly hit and moderate damage to everyone else. No other characters had skills that could compete with having a similar amount of coverage/damage. The skill was so powerful that it was even the best choice for bosses on numerous occasions. This is offset by the fact that the AI is pretty damned brutal. They will quickly realize that one gem is doing most of the damage and they will attack that gem relentlessly, unlike many turn based RPGs where enemies seemingly randomly attack your units. I found the standard difficulty to usually be sufficiently challenging– possibly too challenging for some of the younger Steven Universe fans playing the game.
The game is split into 5 different stages themed after 5 of the 7 colors that white light splits into when it passes through a prism (the 2 other colors of light are just captured sort of randomly). The first 4 stages feature their own unique enemy types and varied the gameplay up nicely. The last stage featured enemies from the first 4 stages mixed and matched with one another. On paper mixing enemies from the various other worlds together sounds like it might add in new dynamics, but sadly none of the enemies really played off of one another all that much.
The game even has some hidden extra levels present in each stage that can only be explored once you find certain items within other levels and bring them back. It’s nothing crazy but it gives you a reason to thoroughly explore each level, which was appreciated. Lastly, after you beat a stage a new level unlocks in that stage which doesn’t allow you to use any of the items you brought in, although you do find items within that level itself which you can use during the challenge. These are often particularly challenging gauntlets which make you perform at your best and use the limited items wisely.
Complaints, or don’t sweat the small stuff
I’m honestly only left with a few minor complaints. For instance, the game often crashes when you lock your phone, especially for long periods of time. Thankfully the game saves often, even mid-level, so I never really lost any progress this way. Certain tracks do not loop well. The story could have had a little more meat on its bones but worked well as is. Characters that faint don’t earn EXP at the end of combat, making the fact that enemies love to focus on one gem a huge pain at times (My Amethyst fainted a lot early on and had to play catch-up for the rest of the game.). Money really had no point because you were usually awash with items anyhow, which was fine since stores had preset inventory and were placed sparingly. Many, but not all, of the badges (i.e. accessories) were useless and super specific (for instance, doing extra damage to a particular enemy color that only appears in one of the 5 stages, thus making it worthless once you were past that area was a common badge). Burn/poison damage did not scale, so it was OP early on and worthless by the end. But none of this stops the game from being good.
In short, I’d recommend this game to anyone that enjoys turn-based RPGs, or Steven Universe; you don’t need to have any prior familiarity with the show to play this game. And if you love both, like me, then this is basically a must play. It packs ~10 hours of fun content into a $3 package, so basically it’s a steal.