Steven Universe: Save the Light Switch Review

Developed by Grumpy Face Studios
Published by Cartoon Network Games
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One)


Steven Universe: Save the Light is a follow up to the positively reviewed 2015 mobile game, Steven Universe: Attack the Light. The Steven Universe TV series’ ideas and sense of humor lend themselves well to video game adaptations and specifically the RPG genre. Unfortunately, the game is plagued by some persistent, glaring technical issues. Still, devoted fans will probably agree that developer Grumpy Face Studios accurately captured and recreated the energy which makes the show so amazing. A beautiful presentation, well-written humor, and varied and interesting combat system make up for the occasional bugginess.

Steven Universe: Save the Light is about the sweet and happy-go-lucky Steven, his group of friends, and their connection to The Crystal Gems: a group of women from outer space. The characters use positivity, love, and kindness to combat the evils within the universe. There’s also a lot of cookies, donuts, and ice cream. Save the Light begins with Steven and his friends embarking on a adventure to secure the Light Prism, newly transformed into something called Light Steven, by an unknown antagonist. There is very little time spent introducing the original characters or back story for the game. The assumption is that players already know the characters from watching the television series. The plot continues through voice over cutscenes and a large amount of NPC dialogue and interaction. Conversations are always cute and funny, but the next mission sometimes become a little too vague when not enough direction is given on the next task.

Most of the time spent in the game is running around with your friends and stumbling upon enemies. Anyone familiar with the gameplay of Paper Mario will recognize many of the elements including simple character pages and stats, badges to augment character abilities, and quick-time events to boost an attack or add defense to a block. Areas allow plenty of room to avoid simple enemies, so how much time a player spends grinding is largely up to them. Harder enemies will eventually be forced encounters, so leveling up, collecting items and bonuses eventually becomes worthwhile.

The environments are suitably varied and typical for the genre: a forest area, an ice area, a desert area, etc. Each area is labyrinthian almost up to the point of needing a map, but exploring and returning to an old area with new-found abilities rewards dedicated players. Each area also offers its own specific puzzles, so the game continues to offer fresh challenges.

The major gripe about Save the Light is a persistent pathfinding issue related to your AI companions. You are consistently in control of four party members. The player can swap between each one on the fly, and each has certain powers that can interact with the environment. Steven’s roll can turn up items buried under sand piles or dangling out of a tree, while Garnet’s punch can break open mysterious rocks. As the characters follow behind the character that the player controls, sometimes they become stuck on items in the environment or forget that they can jump out of a hole that they fell into. If combat is initiated when some of your teammates are missing, combat begins without them. They can occasionally become unstuck on their own but it’s also possible that they NEVER make it to the combat, which could easily lead to a wipe and having to restart from a save point. It’s a frustrating glitch but with patience and care, you can usually make sure the rest of the team stays with you.

Combat is based on a constantly filling Star Meter that is shared among the four team members, so it is not necessary that you wait for a particular character’s turn. Power ups and some characters’ abilities can make the Star Meter fill faster. Abilities can be simple attacks, shields of various types, buffs and debuffs, and some continued attacks that remain throughout battle until turned off or stopped by an enemy. In one battle, I made Mr. Universe attack continuously with his guitar, dealing damage every few seconds, buffed him with Steven playing his ukulele, taunted enemies to attack Garnet, and shielded her with Connie. The ability to pick and choose your party at will and combine their powers in any way you see fit is very fun and really makes you feel in control of the fight. If you’re consistently wiping on a fight, changing strategy is easy.

Save the Light also introduced the combat mechanic called Character Fusions. Each time a perfect attack or block is executed, another character is invited to cheer, at the players choice. This fills a bar that unlocks a special move that the two characters can execute together if there’s enough Star power. Steven and Mr. Universe’s Fusion power, for instance, is a jam session that heals the entire party to 125% health. There are Fusions that are massive attacks and even Fusions that literally fuse the two characters together for the rest of the battle.

This game will have a hard time converting anyone uninitiated with Steven Universe, largely due to the lack of exposition or character explanation, not to mention the troublesome path making glitch. But any Steven Universe fan willing to look past the glitches will find a tremendous amount of humor straight out of the show as well as a varied and rewarding combat system that is never boring.