We have no shortage of beautiful pixel-art games on PC and consoles, and you can add Dandara to that list. This Metroid-style adventure from developer Long Hat House is alluring with a stylish hero and retro-Brazilian color scheme. But while I tried it because of its looks, I keep playing because of its kinetic movement, deliberate combat, and steady progression
Dandara is out now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and iOS for $15. It is another example of a recent trend where indie developers build something for mobile first, but then release it on other devices at the same time. That’s something we saw with the one-touch controls in Never Stop Sneakin’, and now it’s in Dandara in the form of its point-to-point walljumping movement.
You don’t run and jump in Long Hat House’s legendary tale; instead, you point in a direction and then hit the jump button to leap to an opposing surface. This may sound limiting, and it is, but this is good. Dandara can usually predict where you want to go, so you only need to shoot out in a general direction. You can also jump fast from one surface to another to get through areas in a couple of seconds.
That movement plays into one of my favorite aspects of Dandara: the combat. You cannot spam attacks. Your weapon doesn’t work when you are jumping, and you have to charge it up to get a shot off. Charging only takes a second or two, but that’s enough to force you to think about when you have to evade and when you have time to attack. In a room with multiple enemies, this means you have to stick and move. You can jump to a surface, charge up and get a shot off, and then you will have to jump almost immediately because another projectile is incoming at any moment. This creates battles that are simultaneously frantic and slow-paced.
It’s such an interesting departure from other Metorid-style combat systems, that it is one of the main reasons I continue to play. I’m seeking out encounters because they feel so cool.
The other big reason that I can’t put Dandara down is that it has done a fine job with the progression inherent to these games. I’m starting to piece how the map fits together in my head, and I kinda always have an idea of where I need to go next. And I want to get to those unexplored rooms because they contain powerups and currency that will enable me to upgrade and unlock new powers. Then I can unlock even more areas of the map to find even more powerups.
While that loop isn’t as tight as it is in the exquisitely crafted SteamWorld Dig 2, it’s still satisfying and worth your time.