Game Review #385: Dandara (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Long Hat House
Publisher: Raw Fury
Category: Action, Platformer, Adventure
Release Date: 2.6.2018
Price (at time of review): $14.99
Buy Dandara from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Trippy-vania With a Dash of Salt
I’m late to the party on Dandara. Though I’ve seen it and knew zero about it, the one thing I admired was the art—that, and the badass heroine, Dandara. Now that I’ve played it, to my delight, it’s been updated, and many of the issues it had at launch have been tweaked and worked out. Dandara is a 2-D platformer and Metroidvania game, developed by Long Hat House and published by Raw Fury, and though there are a lot of Metroidvania-type games, this one has a gameplay that sets it apart—and a built-in fan base! So, let’s jump in so I can tell you what I thought.
Smother Oppression & Let Freedom Reign
The world of Salt hangs on the brink of collapse. The citizens, once free spirits, now stand oppressed and isolated; but not all is lost, for out of this aether of fear arises a heroine, a ray of hope. Her name is Dandara. What is fascinating is that Dandara draws inspiration from real-life Afro-Brazilian freedom fighter, Dandara dos Palmares. On February 6th, 1694 rather than be enslaved, Dandara took her own life.
Dandara is a symbol of freedom, of anti-slavery, and of anti-colonial resistance. Rather than deal in a direct storyline, Dandara tells a story which is ultimately linked to the ongoing battle against oppressive power structures in our world. The fact that Long Hat House took a real history and has woven it into their game is remarkable, and shows the pride they have, and also shines a light on their rich history.
Why Walk or Run, When You Can WARP?
What sets this game apart from every other Metroidvania is the gameplay. Dandara doesn’t walk or run, she instead jumps from wall to wall, like Nightcrawler. By simply aiming Dandara with the left analog stick and then pushing the jump button, it allows her to launch herself on to any white-layered surface that’s close to you. Dandara also has a special ability, in the form of a charged attack, that you will have to acquire along the way—as it normally goes with Metroidvanias.
Jumping from area to area was fun and felt very liberating, I didn’t feel as restricted as I thought I would originally. Being able to warp-jump this way made her feel as though no area was off limits, and anywhere that was undiscovered wouldn’t be for long. Once discovered, I’d usually earn a new ability, and the abilities you earn are great. I found myself switching often between the different power-ups to overcome the various enemy types. As you defeat enemies and break objects, you earn salt, which is the game’s currency to level up and upgrade your health, energy, and items.
You also unlock new aspects of the world along the way. These aspects act equally as both a hazard and a new way to access previously closed-off areas, which is an interesting mechanic. All of the abilities will be needed, and you’ll need to work to master the controls, because once the game picks up, it can be relentless. Sometimes the amount of hazards and enemies I was facing felt overwhelming, and would mentally knock me on my butt; and be careful, because if you die, not only do you start over from the start (unless you’ve found a checkpoint) but you also lose all of your salt—like in Dark Souls, though, if you go to the area where you died, you will see a ghost of yourself, and if you grab it, you’ll reacquire your lost salt. Sometimes, if you died in a tough spot, it can be a catch 22 going back for it.
Though very unique, the way Dandara moves, and the controls, can sometimes be a little much to handle when tackling these harder areas. This would usually lead to me dying a lot—over and over, in fact—and having to repeat things. My hands-down favorite part of Dandara is the hard-as-hell boss fights. These were equally as hard as some areas, but it felt so rewarding and worth it, as I couldn’t wait to get to the next boss, because I knew I was in for a hell of an intense fight!
Audio & Visuals
The soundtrack for Dandara is AMAZING, and is hands down a favorite soundtrack for me. I’d probably go as far as to say it’s in my top ten soundtracks for the Switch at this time. The other sound effects were professionally done and fit the ambience.
The visuals are another stand-out, and as I play more games that use pixel art, I get a little burnt out, but I always say, “If it’s done right, pixel art can be beautiful.” Said simply, the art here is done right, and works to pull you in with the cool trippy-looking characters.
It’s A Wrap!
Dandara is fun, and very unique in the way it mixes its brand of gameplay and controls. I can truly say I’ve never played a Metroidvania like this, with abilities that I loved gathering to gain access to new areas, but the other side of this is the fact that the game became rather hard at times, and I almost felt the controls were holding me back, but after the updates and playing it further, I’ve overcame most issues. Dandara is an adventure you won’t regret taking. Though it’s held back from being truly great, this Is still a very solid entry in the Metroidvania genre, and I can recommend picking it up for your collection, just be warned of the learning curve with controls, and the sometimes-intense difficulty.
Buy Dandara from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Raw Fury