Developed by Mad Mimic, Dandy Ace is the latest rogue-like to find its way in my queue. Available (as of this writing) for Xbox GamePass, it was a no-brainer that I would eventually dip my toes in and see what was instore.
Like Hades and Curse of the Dead Gods before it (before it, both in terms of release and being played by yours truly), Dandy Ace offers an isometric perspective and a lot of challenge. In a refreshing change of pace, however, Dandy Ace is neither dark nor gloomy, and is, in-fact, upbeat, over-the-top, and outright giddy in its presentation.
Personally, although I loved the aesthetic of Hades, Curse of the Dead Gods’ dark, grimy aesthetic made me long for the clarity and clean visuals that Dandy Ace has in mind.
The gameplay is similar to both of them, which means if you’ve accompanied me on this journey, or, at the very least, are familiar with either, you’ll be right at home with Dandy Ace. Each playthrough you progress through a series of dungeons, familiarizing yourself with your assortment of abilities, forming a deck that affirms your progression, and every time you die, you’ll find yourself smackdab at the beginning of your journey.
Of course, death isn’t the end. Although certain gamers will have you believe these videogames don’t become dramatically easier in-game, and, instead, it is that you yourself get good, that isn’t at all the truth. Each level in Dandy Ace, you will collect Shards that can be used to equipped added Trinkets / abilities that’ll help you a great deal on your playthrough.
In Dandy Ace, basically, you play a rather cocky magician who is targeted by a jealous magician named Lele, the Green Eyed Illusionist. Out of spite, Lele traps you inside a Cursed Mirror, leaving you no other choice than to fight through and reclaim your freedom.
The storyline is basic (and yet, all it needs to be for a rogue-like) and its characters are both likable enough and goofy enough to be serviceable. I will admit that I could’ve went for a wider range of dialogue during playthroughs as Lele will often spout the same soundbites over and over again. Thankfully, his commentary can be turned off in the pause menu / or lessened, but I found I actually felt his absence when he wasn’t chiming in (my wife and I loved doing impressions of him throughout our 17 hour plus playthrough).
Like most rogue-likes, the meat and potatoes of it all comes from the gameplay and how it approaches assembling ones’ deck. For that, I think Dandy Ace does very well. I had a lot of fun with it, and, in many ways, I found its array of different abilities and how those abilities can compliment each other, to be largely preferable to either Hades or Curse of the Dead Gods. It asks you to implement strategy, decide when it’s worth it to risk exploration and when you should call-it and move forward.
It isn’t as full a package as Hades is, by any means. Hades had interesting characters and an overarching story that oftentimes is called the “highlight” of Hades overall. It was one of the most significant aspects that made Hades standout and seem so special. Likewise, its graphics were fuller, more expansive, and more diverse, whereas Dandy Ace opts for a simpler, more block-based layout.
So, ultimately I’m not saying small development Mad Mimic has upstaged Supergiant’s critically-acclaimed breakthrough, I’m saying that what they did do is nothing to shake a stick at. In terms of gameplay, it’s close, but I may have actually preferred running around as Dandy best of all. His array of zippy, fast-paced attacks, projectiles, and dashing allowed me to implement strategy whereas other roguelikes would sometimes reward button-mashing instead.
I completed my first playthrough of Dandy Ace after forty runs, with my first successful run lasting just shy of an hour. After your first run’s completion, a Hard difficulty is unlocked. As of this writing, I have not yet completed said difficulty, although I have reached the very last stage on a single occasion, and I can tell you I fully intend on completing its Hard difficulty. This is, thankfully, because the difference between the Normal and Hard difficulty aren’t as earthshattering as we’ve experienced in other rogue-likes. I appreciated this as it allows more opportunity to master the gameplay before hitting a dreaded roadblock I’ll never get beyond (like the fourth Stem in Dead Cells).
Overall, although it may not be in the cards for Dandy Ace to claim itself at the very top of the deck, it’s more than a valuable card. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel from we’ve seen, but it does remind us why rogue-likes can be so much fun. I would recommend it, and I look forward to what may be instore for Dandy Ace (such as new downloadable content / future updates) and Mad Mimic‘s future hereafter.