An envious illusionist has imprisoned you in a monster-filled labyrinth. Escape involving mastering a collection of magic cards in the lively action-driven roguelike.
Developer: Mad Mimic
Release date: March 25th, 2021
Price: $19.99 via digital download
Early gaming didn’t offer sophisticated storytelling. As Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog demonstrated, imaginations can be stirred by exposition as simple as an occupation (plumber) or a trait (loves running). Although rich narratives can be occupying, they aren’t always necessary. The recent PC release of Dandy Ace gets along just fine with only the briefest of backstory.
The antagonist is a former renowned magician whose is referred to as “Lele, the Green-Eyed Illusionist”. He’s been displaced by handsome young upstart, Dandy Ace. Seeking revenge, Lele consults a magic mirror imprisoning Dandy in a labyrinthine lair filled with odd beasts and environmental threats. You play as the gallant young conjurer, seeking a way out of the procedurally generated ensnarement. A long succession of monster-filled rooms and four bosses ensure that you won’t enjoy returning to normal life as an entertainer.
Nothing Up My Sleeve…
As Dandy Ace is an action rogue-like, you’ll receive a randomized, preliminary distribution of three playing cards at the start of each run. Each becomes mapped to a controller’s face buttons, providing players with defensive and offensive abilities. Initially, you’ll probably begin with a dash maneuver, fireworks that can damage foes, and a skill that does things like laying down mine-like cards or stunning monsters with a flashbulb. All of your skills are constrained by a cooldown period. Smartly, the game lets you know when they’ve recharged by flashing an icon near your character, permitting you to keep eyes on the action.
But even on the lowest of four skill levels, Dandy Ace’s battles can be daunting. Not only do opponents doggedly pursue you around walled-in areas, but they’ll also fire projectiles and charge toward you, potentially removing a significant portion of your health bar. You’ll quickly learn to keep Dandy in constant motion. Later, you’ll master aggressive combos tend to reward Dandy with additional cards. You’ll undoubtedly uncover a few blemishes. Foremost, explosive dashes don’t end with enough frames of invincibility, undermining their usefulness. Meanwhile, the isometric perspective can make it a bit difficult to evade storms of projectiles. Occasionally, Dandy Ace will stumble on a piece of the environment, often constraining your evasive maneuvering.
A Winning Hand?
While some of these cards will restore your health, others can add a fourth ability, or even upgrade your existing loadout. Find or purchase one of these and you’ll harness abilities like laying traps that deliver persistent poison damage or receive a dash that delivers explosive punishment if you dart into foes. But since Dandy Ace is a rogue-like, you’re forfeit your deck when your life meter runs out. Two end of stage assistance extend trinkets that offer temporary and long-term perks, which can be purchased with the two in-game currencies.
While Dandy Ace’s fundamentals make for involving play, there’s not enough variety across his trek. Sure, you’ll find and equip new cards. But each is colored coded with an associated upgrade, so when combined you’ll be able to summon some mighty magic. Ideally, the game would have allowed players to experiment more, creating eccentric combinations. Likewise, the game’s subsequent stages offer a bit of visual and adversarial variety but aren’t quite divergent enough to offset fatigue.
No Visual Illusions
Visually, the game’s modest visuals permit Dandy Ace to run on lower end machines. The developer’s minimum technical specifications call for at least an i5 equipped with a Nvidia 450 GTS or Radeon HD 5750, so even older laptops with a discrete GPU should be able to handle the action. For those with more monstrous machines, you won’t be able to ramp up the resolution past 1080p, at least at launch but you’ll enjoy triple-digit framerates without an indication of studder. Aurally, the title opts for enlivening synth beats that underscore the game’s cheerful demeanor. As Dandy Ace progresses or stumbles, the Green-Eyed Illusionist delivers quips and put-down. It’s a great feature with talented voice work, but like many aspects of the game, it could use a bit more variety.
Dandy Ace succeeds with charming characters and a succinct storyline that lets players jump right into the action. While play is fundamentally solid, it offers only slight distinction from a multitude of other roguelikes. Undoubtedly, Dandy Ace has a few solid tricks up his sleeve, but his repertoire could have benefited from a few more secrets.
Dandy Ace was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.