Rating : 8/10
If there is one universal truth about Domiverse, it’s that I’m not very good at it. In some ways, that’s to be expected. The game is by design a punishing and chaotic thrill ride that makes great use of its overpowered cast of characters to engage in some of the craziest battles I have fought in a fighting game not called Super Smash Bros. The tight presentation and goofy tone contribute to making my time with Domiverse a memorable one, even if the lack of some vital features limited that experience to being on the shorter side.
Domiverse will be familiar to PC gamers, who have been enjoying its frantic fights since March last year. Now that it has been ported to Switch, Nintendo fans can also take part in the action. At its core, the game models itself off fighting games like Super Smash Bros. and Towerfall Ascension with an emphasis on being played in a local multiplayer party setting. There are eight characters to choose from at the beginning, each with a whacky design and name. My favourite for its pure adorable and absurdist nature is “Snakity”: the half snake, half kitten warrior whose motivation behind fighting is to find a planet made of wool.
The anarchy begins when a battle commences. Each character has a basic attack as well as a special ability that ranges from teleporting around the arena to setting proximity mines. All it takes to be killed is a single hit, meaning that planning, positioning and attacking all must be considered without a safety net to absorb mistakes. The arenas are single screen affairs with environmental factors like buoyancy physics and laser beams adding to the fun. It sounds like a lot to take in, but the simplistic controls and engaging abilities ensured that I never entered a match feeling disadvantaged or confused. It’s true that mastering the nuances and appropriate strategies for the different characters may take some time, but the entry level is so inclusive that me and my friends could pick up a Joy-Con and get right into the heat of battle.
And multiplayer is the beating heart of Domiverse. I made some euphoric, as well as frustrating, memories playing the game with my group of friends. The three modes and a myriad of different character combinations kept the fights interesting and the calls of “one more match” constantly flowing. I’d recommend keeping games of three or four players to a television screen as the action can become muddled when everyone is gathered around a single Switch. More dire is the absence of any online multiplayer which would have helped bridge the gaps between getting my friends over to play the game. The developers clearly intended Domiverse to ignite competitions on the couch, but I would have at least liked to have the option of challenging players around the world.
The single-player options are appreciated, but not as fleshed out as they could have been. Arcade mode takes the characters through a gauntlet of challenges that crescendos with some genuinely tough fights. I enjoyed this mode for its clever use of the fighter’s abilities and the steep difficulty curve, but each journey progresses identically from character to character. I found the design of Challenge mode to be more creative. It takes the ability-focused challenges of Arcade mode and expands on them to create tasks that feel more like puzzles with how they implement the unique mechanics.
The compact pixel art visuals of Domiverse give the game plenty of charm and keeps the action-focused. The character designs are simple, yet distinct, and manage to infuse some personality into these little pixelated warriors. Better yet, I love how the developers went above and beyond fleshing out this ridiculous world with a gorgeous animated intro and unlockable comics that offer some backstory and lore. Turns out Snakity has a Sphinx-style monument made of itself next to the Pyramids.
Overall, the local multiplayer of Domiverse achieves everything it should, with chaotic matches leading to laughs and arguments echoing around the living room. And the singleplayer is a solid way to learn each character’s unique attributes with some creative challenges to conquer. The lack of online multiplayer is disappointing, but the charming tone and engaging fights of Domiverse will keep it installed on my Switch for whenever I have a willing group of friends wanting to feel the wrath of Snakity.
Although it is barebones in some departments, the meat of Domiverse is so tasty and satisfying that I’m likely to keep coming back for more.
Spends most of his time micromanaging stats in JRPGs, but inevitably just goes with the “optimal” choice anyway