Smoke and Sacrifice is one party Crashlands, one part Don’t Starve, and it’s all pretty great when played on the Nintendo Switch. Solar Sail Games does one thing vastly different: it puts storytelling first in their survival game. You take charge Sachi on her quest to find answers after sacrificing her first born child for a god that doesn’t seem to exist. Sachi lives on a small piece of fertile ground with her village which remains isolated from the wasteland that is the rest of the world. The Sun Tree (basically a giant electronic lamp) keeps the land lush and as a result, the villages entire religion revolves around worshiping and sacrificing their firstborn children… but trust me, it gets less brutal. Sort of… this is our Smoke and Sacrifice review for the Nintendo Switch.
Sachi does her duty, but never feels quite right about it. Years after the death of her child, the village’s Sun Tree goes dark and the world is invaded by the ice monsters once kept at bay. Soon Sachi finds herself underground in a place where, quite possibly, her firstborn child has lived all those years alone.
Top-down survival games like Don’t Starve and Crashlands will have taught you well here. You don’t have to eat and drink often, but that is how you keep your health up. You will also spend a lot of time gather materials to use to craft items for both combat and crafting the next phase of your survival in the harsh underworld. After talking to a Drear (a smoke-addled people that live in the underworld), you’re quickly set on course to craft, find the next clue to what happened both above grounds and to your child, while uncovering the mysteries your village elders kept so closed off. Always, always keep the lanterns on you down there, because if you don’t when “night” falls and the dark mist comes, you’ll basically die in seconds.
Smoke and Sacrifice makes no effort to hold your hand when it comes to the story. It may seem easy enough to just follow clues, but if your arsenal isn’t up to the task, you’ll find yourself dead and back to last save. That’s one thing I did dislike about Smoke and Sacrifice. The save system is a bit too archaic. I’d like to save as often as I like, but the game forces some of its difficulty by making you save only at special outposts. It’s hard, but sometimes just because it doesn’t let you save your game – and to me, that’s a false sense of difficulty.
Solar Snail Games brought fantastic art design to Smoke and Sacrifice – it’s cartoony, but like an Edward Gorey work – charming, lively, macabre and somehow lively. Stylistically, it’s right up there with all the great indies we’ve seen on Nintendo’s handheld. The sound effects are well-done, but repetitive in nature, and the music is forgettable. It’s all bolstered by the visual design.