As someone who has dumped hours upon hours into roguelikes, like The Binding of Isaac and Risk of Rain (1 & 2), I’m always happy to see new entries into the genre. Being among the newest, Dandy Ace doesn’t disappoint, managing to remain fun and engaging even after 30+ runs. It’s far from being “the next big thing,” but it is undoubtedly a worthwhile experience.
Dandy Ace can be wishlisted on Steam now, and releases in February of this year.
Story: Pride, Jealousy, and Magic Mirrors
Competition is healthy, that is, until someone comes around and makes it unhealthy. In Mad Mimic’s Dandy Ace, this theme is the basis of the protagonist’s troubles. Lele, the Green-Eyed Illusionist envied his fame and glory. In a retaliatory strike, he gives his soul to a seemingly-sentient magic mirror, trapping Ace and his assistants in an unknown world in the process. Here, Lele sends hordes of his minions to attack Ace and stop him from escaping the magical prison. Naturally, the only way to escape this prison is defeating the green guy in a magical duel.
Throughout the game, Lele taunts the player (Ace) and provides dynamic commentary on the player’s actions and the world. This dialogue gives insight on the villain’s true character, world lore, and makes the game feel more alive. In fact, I once left the game open for a few minutes without interacting with it and came back to Lele yelling, demanding that Dandy Ace do something. Frustratingly, it does get stale rather quickly. I memorized most of the villain’s lines after my first few runs. Notably, many of the green magician’s jokes are completely unoriginal. This does fit in well with his character, but it just didn’t sit right with me.
Gameplay: Pick a Card, Any Card!
Dandy Ace‘s take on combat is fresh and unique, revolving around magic cards from Ace’s magic deck. These come in three colors, each with their primary functions. Blue cards give abilities that improve mobility, yellow cards provide defensive skills, and pink cards grant offense. At any given point, the player can equip and make use of 8 cards simultaneously. Four of these cards are equipped in “main” slots, and are the source of the used abilities; the others were placed in “upgrade” slots, where they improve the effectiveness of the main cards.
At first, this didn’t really impress me. Then, I figured out that all of the cards can be moved around at will, allowing for some sweet, satisfying combos. Early on, my favorite card combination involved a yellow card with a pink upgrade, with which I could stun enemies to make a quick getaway while also poisoning them. As I unlocked new cards, more and more combos became available, making for a fun and flexible gameplay experience. Needless to say, this game really rewards experimentation. Jenny Jenny, one of the protagonist’s stage assistants, also provides a variety of trinkets granting passive abilities.
One thing I really appreciated was the developer’s good communication. I was originally playing with keyboard and mouse, which felt clunky and awkward. Remembering a pop up that recommended playing with a controller, I tried plugging in my Dualshock 4. This action was rewarded with significantly smoother and much more satisfying gameplay. Thanks, Mad Mimic!
In terms of progression, Dandy Ace does everything it needs to to keep players engaged. As I defeated enemies, I noticed that some of them dropped shards, which can be invested at Jolly Jolly’s tent into various permanent upgrades. The possible upgrades included additional uses of Dandy’s tea cup (basically a health potion), unlocking new trinkets, and new cards for use in combat. These did a decent job at keeping gameplay fresh, inciting me to keep going to try out the unlockables. Notably, the shards disappear permanently if the player dies before making it to Jolly Jolly.
Even better than the unlockables though, were the “hidden” keys. After playing for a while, I managed to find a special key, which opened up some previously inaccessible areas. There, the path led to an optional alternative course toward the final boss, with completely new environments, enemies, and bosses. This greatly improved the ‘lifespan” of the game.
Audio and Visuals: Flashy, Dynamic, and VERY Flashy
Audio can make or break an experience; in this game’s case, it did neither of these things. I appreciated the music shifts when entering and leaving combat, which set the tone of the current gameplay very well. Hearing the combat music kick in, I instinctually became more alert and got ready to dodge, attack, and fight for my life. Cool sound effects for enemies and abilities complemented this well. Besides these things, the rest of the audio consisted of Lele’s dialogue, which often drowned out every other sound. As much as it made the game feel more alive, Lele’s screeching eventually became irritating.
In the visuals department, Dandy Ace features an undoubtedly unique art style: everything is very pink and bright. If nothing else, this is a nice change when seen in the context of most other roguelikes, which tend to lean toward darker, more mysterious designs. There is great thematic variation, though. In every level, enemies and environments fit a unique theme; enemies in the art gallery wield paint brushes, and those in the courtyard are slimy, seemingly wild critters.
My only grievance towards the art is that it is hard to look at, and no, not in the “this is ugly” kind of way. Simply, I was unable to play for periods longer than 20 minutes without my eyes becoming tired. The last game to give me this effect was Wasteland 2, though the horrendous graphics are easy to blame in that one. In Dandy Ace, I’m not sure if it’s a result of bright flashes of light, the large amount of enemies and projectiles the game forced me to keep up with, or if I’m just getting old and forgetting to blink. Nonetheless, this is something worth noting if you have any form of eye problem.
This Dandy Ace PC preview was possible with a key provided by NEOWIZ.