Genre: Isometric roguelike dungeon crawler with magicians
You have to hand it to last year’s GOTY material Hades, a monumental feat of indie achievement that not only entertains and delight, but also will inspire many, MANY indie devs to create their own breakout isometric action game with roguelike mechanics.
This isn’t an issue; in fact, I find these kinds of roguelike games really fun as long as they deliver on the action and stand out in some way. Dandy Ace is thankfully one of them. By and large, it’s good arcade twitch-ey fun that sets itself apart courtesy of developer Mad Mimic and publisher Neowiz.
Lord of Illusion
In this clearly anime-stylized title, You play as the title character Dandy Ace, a cocksure pretty boy who is good with magic and card tricks. Since this sort of person can piss off other notable magicians, you just happen to catch the ire of one short rotund green magician named Lele who makes a Faustian bargain with a magical entity to trap Dandy Ace in a magical maze of wonder and danger.
Said maze is basically your roguelike action-adventure setup: you go from start to finish escaping the labyrinth while fending off foes with your magic attacks which are mapped on individual keys. You can’t save your progress mid-game, and if you die, you start all over from the beginning.
So how does Dandy Ace protects himself? Simple: he uses magic cards & tricks to defeat his foes. You get up to four magic skills to use, with each of them ranging from standard projectile attacks like the spread shot Five of A Kind spell to evasive maneuvers like the Blink spell.
The best part with these card tricks, some of them being literal, is that you can buff them up with cards you find along the way. You can also swap them around if you feel like your previous card spell isn’t jiving with your playstyle. For instance, I always make sure to buff up my Five of A Kind spread shot with either a Bubble spell that makes it summon multi-hitting bubbles upon hit. Or equip my Blink move with a Push AoE effect that knocks back anything standing around my Blink end spot. If you equip your Blink spell with another Blink card, you have a way powerful teleport spell with bigger dimension burst damage & radius.
This experimentation with toolsets & skills is where Dandy Ace differs from its contemporaries like Hades.
The game requires you to play as a caster who lays out buffs and traps while dealing with enemies at a safe distance. Sure, there are melee attack cards, but when you’re starting out, it’s best to stick to long-ranged and mid-ranged attack cards & yellow support spells that complement that keep-away playstyle. Dandy Ace isn’t exactly a constitutional powerhouse and can die pretty quick if you’re careless.
Luckily, you can acquire permanent power-ups and bonuses to even the odds. Your hot anime assistants Jolly Jolly and Jenny Jenny will be at each stage’s checkpoint to give you power-ups and items to help you on your next dungeon crawl. Jolly Jolly can give you permanent upgrades like tea potion satchels and new cards in exchange for shards you get in-game, while Jenny Jenny can pass you up to three trinkets you can equip for passive buffs.
Branching paths in the game will also make your one-way trip all the more interesting and varied, with teleporters making backtracking instantaneous in case you want to explore another beaten path, or collect that cupcake health upgrade you couldn’t acquire because your health was full at the time. All these additions are very handy and welcome, making each dungeon run more fun and challenging than the last.
Dandy Ace requires you to experience its tougher challenge modes & difficulties once you’re done with the initial game, which should take you less than an hour once you go through the initial 5 to 6 hours figuring out its mechanics and layout.
That’s where the game gets really fun; suddenly your dungeon run gives you less health and more aggressive enemies. Boss arenas too come with a multitude of traps and additional goons in higher difficulties, to the point where upgrading your magic tiers and creating that winning card combination is paramount to success.
The animations and art style are pretty colourful and fluid. The devs went for simple movement and graphics in favour of spot-on controls and twitch combat gameplay. However, the backdrops and stages do get repetitive over time. This is apparent when you keep playing more and more loops; there’s only so many starry backgrounds and purple/pink tilesets you can take before you get a bit nauseous seeing it for the 30th time.
I’m also glad you can turn off the frequency of the VOs because the narrator is pretty annoying. I guess he’s purposely cast that way since he’s clearly the bad guy whom you want to punch in the face repeatedly at the end of your dungeon run. And there’s really nothing much to say about the game’s music and sound effects; they aren’t doing it for me.
Dandy Ace is thankfully more than just parlour tricks. Underneath its smokes and mirrors is a pretty action-packed dungeon romp full of delights. Perhaps it’s my being spoiled by Hades’ production values and enriching roguelike qualities that raised my bar for such facsimiles and clones that make me critical of the title on an aesthetic level. But on its own merit, this magic act is a blast that is worth multiple repeat performances.
- Action-packed twitch-savvy gameplay that favours ranged over melee.
- Four-card system and useful power-ups for you to experiment with.
- Various difficulty levels let you tweak the challenge to your liking.
- Tight controls.
- Subpar & mediocre sound effects & feedback.
- Narrator is annoying.
- Art and graphics for later stages feel repetitive after a while.