Apr 29, 2015

[Games] Steven Universe: Attack the Light (iOS)


Right around the time that my Steven Universe mania was reaching peak, several things seemed to happen. First, there was the "Steven Bomb" of episodes released in quick succession to wrap up the first season and quickly transition into the next. And just as we were getting over all the revelations related to that season-ender, Steven Universe: Attack the Light was released was released for mobile devices.

I don't keep very good tabs of games related to franchises, but it's sort of part of my partner's professional sphere of interest. So I was pretty surprised when he handed me his iPad to reveal that he had already purchased this game. Not one to say no to a Steven Universe experience, I quickly dove into the game and fell in love.

A lot of franchise games tend to be reskins of other popular games with little narrative value. This game felt different because it felt so tied into the franchise universe to a degree that few games achieve - look at great games like Doctor Who: Legacy that really embrace the fandom.


Steven Universe: Attack the Light is RPG-style video game released for iOS and Android devices. The game was developed by Grumpyface Studios for Cartoon Network.

The game actually has a story of sorts that's setup in what can only be described as a Chibi art style cut scene that reflects the overall art style of the game. Steven is busy playing an RPG on his phone (since we're getting all meta here) when the Crystal Gems return with a Light Prism, said to contain the potential for an army. Steven asks to take a closer look and the Gems figure he's too weak to trigger the device, but of course they're wrong and several lights escape from the prism. Now the Gems together with Steven need to chase down the light creatures and return the to the prism.

The game is a dungeon crawl RPG that draws a lot of inspiration from Paper Mario. Gameplay centers around turn-based combat given a set number of action points known as Star Points. The three gems can perform a variety of attacks with different Star Point costs while Steven is a support character who can use one item per turn or can use his own abilities also using Star Points. By default you have 5 Star Points at the start of each turn with a maximum of 9 Star Points with the help of items and such.

Each Crystal Gem has a different fighting style that provides for a variety of play options. For example, Amethyst's default attack affects all enemies for a modest amount of damage. Garnet's starting attack is pretty strong but only affects one enemy. Lastly Pearl's starting attack does a modest amount of damage, but only costs 1 Star Point, making it the cheapest attack in the game.

There are a wide variety of enemies that attack in different ways. Some cause various status effects like poison or paralysis. Others reduce attack power or defense ratings. Some kidnap Gems and remove them from play. The list goes on and on. As you progress, you'll find that certain Gem abilities are better suited for certain monsters. You can tailor this further with Badges that you can pick up that give bonuses to the Gem equipped with the badge.

The game mostly involves fighting monsters, navigating map mazes and solving puzzles here and there. Most of them involve finding secret areas and having the right keys to open locked doors. It's just enough variety of gameplay to keep things interesting and yet without becoming too complex that the game stops being a casual experience. The only trick is the fact that you need to finish a whole level in order for the game to save - if you leave mid-way, then your progress will be lost and the game will reset. But given this is an RPG and grinding is important, this isn't too much of a bad thing.

The game's story is light but pretty involving and I genuinely enjoyed how things wrapped up at the end. But if anything, the end of the narrative really marks the end of the story unless you squeeze out a little more fun by trying to get the game to 100%. Given you also have a level cap for the characters (Level 20 for Steven and Level 30 for the rest of the Crystal Gems), the game does feel like it has a definite end. Plus some of the "secrets" are had to manage since they involve timing your arrival at item stores just right to get the gem you need.

Steven Universe: Attack the Light is a pretty fun game and a pretty solid narrative experience presented in a game. My main complaint is that it doesn't run longer and I couldn't get it to 100% on the first pass, but that doesn't mean I'll have a problem starting from the very beginning once more. Thus the game gets 5 light monsters you have to face out of a possible 5.

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