At first glance, it might be easy to assume that Darkest Hunters is some sort of Puzzle Quest knockoff. Instead, this indie Nintendo Switch eShop download treats players with a unique mix of roguelike gameplay mixed with match-3 puzzle elements.
In a roguelike, enemies react to every player movement, one button press at a time. The same thing is happening here but instead of walking on tiles, the player strings together chains of icons of the same color just like matching tiles in your favorite mobile game. It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around this unique gameplay style but once I did, I was hooked. Since there is no timer and enemies only respond to your movement, the player is free to take as much time in-between moves without penalty or stress. It is also satisfying when swiping through a chain of multiple icons to create a super piece that instantly knocks out anything nearby. Upon release, the only way to interact with this title is through the Switch’s touch screen but JoyCon and Pro Controller support are on the way and will probably be active by the time you are reading this article.
Along the way, the player will level up like any RPG but also constantly upgrade weapons and armor. The continuous enhancing keeps the pacing high and only ran into the need to grind when encountering level ending bosses. In time, players will collect a ton of items and weapons but all are used for upgrading. For example, to increase the defensive capabilities of those fire boots, the player will need to collect multiple types of the same type of boot, then spend a little gold to upgrade. Eventually, the inventory screen will be encumbered, making inventory management a little tedious, but the upgrading technique is more balanced and easy to use than you might think. Visually, the game keeps things simple. Even with very little animation and a generic ambient soundtrack, this title still keeps its high entertainment value despite the budget production values. The giant character sprites in the castle, like the Doctor Strange wizard that sells magic, are composed of a charming 8-bit style.
Since Darkest Hunters is a unique title, it is difficult to explain and players are better off playing it for themselves. The rogue gameplay mixed with the matching puzzle game hook is a combination that works exceedingly well. The Switch, with its portability and touch screen control, is a perfect home for this title. For a $5 download, there is a ton of quality gameplay and shouldn’t be missed.