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Dandara Review

A game with old-school visuals about a dystopian world, in which its citizens are oppressed by its rulers, and lone protagonist Dandara must take the fight to them.

Dandara herself is based on real life Brazillian figure of the same name. She was a warrior in real life and fought wars alongside men, and the developers used her as inspiration for the character, including athletic abilities and her fighting prowess.

There have been quite a few Metroidvania games in this generation of gaming. I’m a fan of pretty much all of them, I love the genre and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of them. So what sets Dandara apart from the rest?

Dandara’s Unique Movement

In your typical side-scrolling platformer, you run, jump, and jump some more. Dandara does things differently. Rather than your usual conventional movement, here you can only grapple to walls, specifically to certain white sections.

You’ll be aiming which direction you want to go (within range) and launch off to the next section of wall to attach to. This is literally the only way you can get around! You might be thinking it’s a little bit strange and wonder why bother having this kind of movement system.

But let me tell you, it actually feels like a breath of fresh air. I’ll admit it took a little bit of time to get used to. Not only do you need to aim to get to where you want to go, you still have to dodge enemy attacks, all the while trying to shoot them down.

Dandara
Dandara’s unique movements system allows you to grapple to walls and bounce around the area with ease.

Once you do get the hang of it, it’s such a joy to zip through each section of the map. I wish more games would take on this idea, or at least something similar to it. It’s so great seeing what would have been a standard platformer, now become something that felt so different to play, but highly enjoyable all the way through.

Throughout my whole playthrough of the game, I never once got bored, and that’s thanks to the Dandara’s unique take on the genre. It really tests your skills and reflexes like no other platformer has had the chance to.

A Directionless World

From the beginning of Dandara, you’re placed in the world with basically no objectives. The opening cutscene gives you an idea of the backstory, but after that, you’re not really left with any specific goals. You don’t really know what Dandara herself is doing, you know that she wants to stop her oppressors, but in terms of goals to achieve that, you’re very much in the dark.

The only thing you can do is move forward and keep going until you unlock the next weapon/ability that will help you progress. Dandara doesn’t seem to focus on story-telling, and the game would have benefited just that little bit more if at least we were given objectives so we know where the story is heading.

On the bright side of that though, because there’s no objectives, it relies solely on exploration. You have to work out where to go next, as the game doesn’t give you anything!

Dandara
Levels change perspectives which can lead to confusion when trying to get around.

Normally I’d have a problem with this much lack of direction given to you, but it just didn’t worry me that much, as the game itself was just so fun to play!

If I’m to give any real criticism though, I’d say the game’s lack of information on the world map was a little frustrating. While it does flash on which section of the map you’re in, it doesn’t actually show you where you are specifically.

It’s annoying not knowing where you are in the room, but the fact that the rooms sometimes rotate around, it makes it even harder to know where you are. I had to stop what I was doing multiple times to keep looking at the map to work out whether I was going in the direction I wanted.

Another thing that was missing on the map were the locations of treasure chests. Normally in these type of games, the rooms that contain treasure chests (in the ones you’ve visited), are shown clearly on the map.

Regardless of whether you’ve opened the chest or not, it still shows on the map so you can go back to it later once you’ve obtained the correct ability. Because they’re not shown here, you would literally have to go through every single room again to try and find them all, if you wanted to, that is.

Dandara
Some scenes can be quite impressive.

With these games, I love going back to fully complete the map and find all treasures. But in Dandara, I had no motivation because it felt like more of a drag having to search in every single room all over again. A shame, really.

Also because of the movement system, it does take that extra bit of time to get around the whole map. You can’t just rush right through as you’ll have to replay sections of platforming all over again. It wasn’t a massive map though, and since it was so fun to control Dandara around, it wasn’t such a big deal.

While the vast majority of the game was fun to play through, one particular area- The Dreamlands, was the only place I didn’t like. It was just confusing and a bit messy, and I was glad to be done with that area. It did look good though at least!

Dandara’s Guns

Like any good Metroidvania game, you’ll have a range of weapons to blast enemies away. Well there may not be the kind of range seen in other games like the Metroid series, Axiom Verge, etc. but the combat is still fun and satisfying.

Another unique change to this game is firing the weapon itself. There’s no tapping furiously to blast your enemies, this time you’ll need to charge every shot, and then let go while aiming at the enemy. So in other words you’ll need precision. As you aim, there’s no laser sights, so you’ll have to be sure you’re aiming right them.

It’s just another way the game doesn’t try to make things too easy, and it’s very satisfying charging a shot and blowing your enemy to smithereens. Because you have to wait that extra time to charge and shoot, you’ll also need to be keeping an eye on any attacks coming your way. This means you’ll have to stop charging your weapon, jump to another wall, and try again.

Dandara
Boss fights require quick reflexes and adapting to new attack patterns.

It’s a great feeling when you’re facing multiple enemies and you finally have those precious seconds to pull off a shot and whittle your enemies down one by one.

Enemies also vary in attack patterns, so you’ll have to learn how to avoid their projectiles. It also just adds to the thrill of the battle! Combining that with constantly finding a wall to jump to, and waiting for the right moment to attack, just lifts this game to another level.

Dandara’s Character Progression

Once you’ve destroyed your fair share of enemies, you’ll gain enough XP to level up Dandara. At every camp fire, you be able to allocate your XP to increase Dandara’s health, energy, and more. You’ll need to upgrade her as it can get pretty difficult at times.

I love it when any game adds an RPG upgrade element to it, and while Dandara does it simply, it still does it well. When you die though, your XP gets left behind in the same location, and you’ll have to go back to retrieve them. Obviously we’ve seen this system implemented before, but it never gets old.

As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock items and weapons that allow you to progress to previously unreachable areas. That’s the Metroidvania formula in a nutshell. But again, you won’t really know where to use these abilities because of the lacking of information on the map.

You’ll either have to use your memory, or just go to the places you haven’t been before and hope your new ability will help you get through. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem though as it’s not a terribly long game.

Dandara
The action can be thrilling, but also overwhelming if you’re not paying attention.

Summary

Dandara is a game that takes a familiar formula and twists it enough to give us something that feels unique and fresh. I honestly had a great time almost the whole way, and didn’t want it to end.

The controls will take time getting used to, but when you do, you’ll be glad the game plays the way it does. That combination of flying around the room, and picking off enemies with careful timing, is something I’d love to do again (in hopefully a sequel).

If we ever do see another Dandara game, I’d like the map to be more informative, to make the game that little less annoying. Also a little more emphasis on objectives and where you’re supposed to go would be nice, but it wasn’t 100% necessary anyway.

Some gamers might find these criticisms off-putting, but it wasn’t enough to prevent me from simply having fun. Who would have thought changing the movement system would completely change how a game can be played, and how much it can help improve it?

Score: 9/10

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