oprainfall@GDC IMPRESSIONS: Dandy Ace

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

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Editor’s Note: Due to the postponement of GDC, oprainfall has taken it upon themselves to help provide coverage to developers who were going to showcase their games there. Dandy Ace is one of those games.

Dandy Ace is a rogue-lite developed and published by Mad Mimic. You play as a magician, presumably the eponymous “Dandy Ace” who finds himself trapped in a cursed mirror and has to fight his way out. That’s about as far as the story goes right now.

Its a 2D, isometric game where, in rogue-lite tradition, you trek through levels to find where the stairs are to the next level. You fight enemies and hopefully collect some goodies along the way. Superficially, the feel of the game is pretty similar to Transistor, even down to a similar HUD, but this is a pure action game. Your abilities are tied to pick ups, and unfortunately, this is where my issues with the game start. There is no default method of attacking or even defending, it’s all luck of the draw. The game seems somewhat aware of this, as one of the starting abilities is always a dodge, but seeing as how the number of abilities you have are limited, it feels silly that one will be occupied by something that feels necessary.

Dandy Ace | Gameplay

I tried plenty of times playing the game without the ability, and while it might be theoretically possible, it for sure makes the game a lot more tedious. Attack abilities are also not created equally either. Sometimes you can get really strong abilities at the start, other times you’re left feeling incredibly weak and just hoping to find something better quickly.

That said, when you have decent abilities, the game feels pretty fine. However, it doesn’t take long for another issue to crop up. The game is a slog. The very first area of the game can take 15+ minutes to clear through, and most of that time is spent dealing with combat rooms that lock you into a specific zone. Combat rooms in rogue-lites are typically not great together. rogue-lites are all about resourcefulness and clever thinking, and sometimes strategic retreats are part of that. Being able to fight enemies on your own terms. To make things worse, you sometimes have to deal with multiple waves of enemies. Its just a very slow game, from your movement speed to your progression.

Dandy Ace | Gameplay

Rogue-lites should generally try to have pretty speedy first areas. You’re going to see that area more than anywhere else in the game, so forcing players to trudge through it just makes the game more tedious. The actual combat itself is serviceable, nothing about it is particularly egregious. I do wish your movement speed was faster, but that’s about it. Give the game enough time and you might find some abilities that make the game a lot of fun, but I personally think it takes far too much time to get to that point. Standout games in this genre are instantly fun, and it’s something this game unfortunately lacks.

Your combat abilities range from some simple projectiles, laying down cards that act as mines, teleports that do damage around you, manifesting giant fists, and who knows what else. There’s plenty of creative stuff here, but the game can kinda hang you out to dry at times. There’s an ability you sometimes get at the start that’s like a spread shot, and its easily the strongest ability you have at that point. Even then, it can feel rather weak against certain enemies. I’d reset if I couldn’t get this ability for the sole reason that there are enemies that can spawn outside of the area you can actually walk in, and you need ranged attacks in order to hit them.

Dandy Ace | Boss fight

The aesthetic is one of the game’s strong points. There’s a sort of stage play / cabaret / casino vibe to it that’s really fun and vibrant. Enemies are all manner of wild creatures. The music suits the style its going for well enough. I just wish the game was as fun to play as it is to look at.

The build of Dandy Ace I played is a very early one, and there’s not even a release date planned, so I don’t know how much of this might be smoothed over when it’s complete. If they make abilities a bit stronger, increase your movement speed, and maybe tone down how much damage enemy attacks can do, it might be worthwhile. Something I feel very strongly about with rogue-lites is that being successful shouldn’t really be down to finding good drops. You should be able to clear the game with just about anything, so long as you’re good enough. I do hope there is polish yet to come, as I think this could turn into something really fun with the right tweaks.

About Jason Quinn

Been playing video games since before I could form coherent sentences. I love a wide variety of games, from fast, technical action games to slow RPGs. Aside from video games, I have a love of music, film, and anime.