It is rare for a video game adaptation to be as good as what is being adapted. It is even rarer to find a game that captures the atmosphere of a series, while still being fun. Steven Universe: Save the Light is a game that I was very skeptical of. I had only seen a few episodes of the series, and the idea of an RPG set in its’ world was both exciting and far-fetched. Surprisingly, I was not disappointed by my time in Save the Light.
Steven Universe: Save the Light is a sequel to the 2015 mobile game Steven Universe: Attack the Light. Like its predecessor, the story for Save the Light was written by series creator Rebecca Sugar. The premise is simple. After the events of the first game, the light prism is stolen by an evil Gem named Hessonite, who seeks to use its power for its’ own nefarious purposes.
The cool thing about the game is that it feels exactly like an episode (or story arc) of Steven Universe. You travel around Beach City and other environments, fighting enemies, undergoing quests, and solving puzzles. In many ways, Save the Light takes inspiration from games like Paper Mario, through the unique skills each party member offers for puzzle solving, as well as its’ approach to combat.
Each of the seven playable characters in Save the Light has a unique ability outside of battle. These abilities can be used to access various areas, solve puzzles, and navigate platforming sections. Garnet can break large boulders, Connie can cut grass, Steven can double jump and roll, and the list goes on and on.
You can only carry 4 characters (including Steven who cannot be removed from the party) at a time, so you sometimes need to rework your party so that you can solve puzzles and reach new areas. A lot of areas require you to revisit them, either to accomplish objectives for side-quests or just to reach areas you couldn’t before.
Battles play out in real time, in what I would consider semi-turn-based combat. However, when you are issuing commands to your party members, the time is paused so you can strategically issue orders or use items. Like in Paper Mario, both attacks and defensive actions have a timed action associated with them, that allows you to do more damage (or defend more) if you achieve a perfect on that action.
It is important to note that each character has actions only they can perform, and each character serves a different purpose. Steven is the only one that can use items but also is the most well-rounded character. Connie is more of a damage dealer and can protect other characters. Amethyst can do area of effect skills, and the list goes on.
In order to perform attacks, you have to have a certain number of star points. Star points build up over time via the star meter, which means as it builds up, your enemies can attack you. If you are near a cliff, or other terrain, you can use it to your advantage by knocking enemies off and killing them instantly. Save the Light’s combat requires strategy and careful planning.
Save the Light also has a friendship system that allows characters to build up a friendship level, and then perform a powerful action. Some characters can fuse into stronger characters, such as Steven and Connie becoming Stevonnie. Other characters just synergize their abilities, like Steven and Greg, who have a jam session with their instruments.
For a kid’s game, Steven Universe: Save the Light is pretty complex. It is challenging, but also age appropriate for kids and parents to play together. If your kid is a fan of Steven Universe, this is a natural way of giving them something fun to play with characters they love.
The progression system in Save the Light is surprisingly complex. Each character levels up, and you can allocate points into a variety of stats, acquiring new skills and enhancements along the way. Additionally, you can pick up schematics to improve each character’s weapon, though improving the weapon requires colored “Chroma” which you find throughout the environments. Each character can also equip badges that serve a variety of purposes. These purposes can be as simple as increasing stats, or as complex as adding status effects to attacks.
The main problem that I have with the game is that some of the platforming sections have very weird depth perception. The controls are smooth and easy to understand, but the visuals sometimes make you think you are jumping correctly, only to realize you’ve missed it by a small margin. The timing for perfect blocks and attacks is somewhat tricky as well, so younger kids may have a difficult time with some of the more difficult areas.
Loading screens can sometimes be long, and I did have the game freeze once or twice during a loading screen. Additionally, transitioning between two areas can be annoying, because the game will force you into the next area, even if you don’t cross over all the way, and decide to turn back.
Despite these issues, I greatly applaud Cartoon Network Games and Grumpyface for their work on this game. As someone who has “aged out” of the target demographic, I was surprised at how much I love this game. It works as both a piece of Steven Universe content and as a stand-alone RPG. There is easily 50 hours of content in the game, and even more, if you want to maximize your time with Steven and his friends.
Steven Universe: Save the Light has tons of side quests, puzzles, and enjoyable things to do. If you like games like Paper Mario or challenging RPG’s, Save the Light is for you. If you are a parent that wants to have a game their kid will enjoy (that won’t bore you to death) then give this one a look.
A Nintendo Switch review copy of Steven Universe: Save the Light was provided by Cartoon Network Games for the purpose of this review.