An­droid, iOS, PC, Switch

Pub­lisher Raw Fury De­vel­oper Long Hat House For­mat iOS, PC, PS4, Switch (tested), Xbox One

Re­lease Out now

This is, con­cep­tu­ally at least, the mod­ern in­die game at its worst: Game X meets Game Y, with a twist. Dan­dara bor­rows its gear-gated 2D struc­ture from

the Castl­e­va­nia and Metroid games of yore. It over­lays Dark Souls’ pro­gres­sion and check­point­ing sys­tem, sparsely dot­ting the map with camp­sites at which your health, abil­i­ties and restora­tive items are recharged. Do­ing so respawns all the en­e­mies you’ve dis­patched – and you’ll never guess, but when you die you drop your ac­crued cur­rency on your corpse, and have one life to get it back. And the twist? The tit­u­lar hero­ine can’t run, or jump; she can only zip be­tween two fixed points, the ana­logue stick lin­ing up her des­ti­na­tion, and a but­ton press ping­ing her over there at speed.

As you might ex­pect, it’s the lat­ter el­e­ment that el­e­vates Dan­dara from be­ing a run-of-the-mill hy­brid of es­tab­lished game styles to, well, a Blink-of-the-mill one. That you can only move be­tween points of safe ground within a cer­tain range gives the de­vel­op­ers a de­gree of cre­ative li­cence with Dan­dara’s level de­sign; a low wall that even a tod­dler could man­tle over can be, in ef­fect, a cliff when you have no means of get­ting past it. It’s an ef­fec­tive idea, and of­fers a novel way to tra­verse a world of oth­er­wise fa­mil­iar de­sign. Early on, it el­e­vates While the pixel-art biomes can be beau­ti­ful, the map cer­tainly isn’t. It’s an ab­so­lute stinker, made even harder to read by a screen that of­ten ro­tates when you en­ter a room, leav­ing you un­sure which door you came in through com­bat, too: the rank-and-file en­e­mies would, in any other game, pose no threat, but the need to man­age space, move­ment and di­rect your gun­fire means that even easy bat­tles can make for com­plex puz­zles to solve.

Sadly things rather fall apart as the dif­fi­culty ramps up. Dan­dara is playable with touch or tra­di­tional con­trols, and to com­pen­sate for the lat­ter’s rel­a­tive lack of speedy pre­ci­sion, the game gives you a wide mar­gin of er­ror, in­ter­pret­ing (or try­ing to) your in­tent and au­to­mat­i­cally pick­ing the near­est avail­able plat­form. When things get hec­tic and you’re try­ing to man­age your own move­ment be­tween land­ing points that only seem to get smaller, some­thing will have to give and you’ll play by in­stinct – an in­stinct that can be mis­in­ter­preted, and prove fa­tal. It’s es­pe­cially irk­some dur­ing boss bat­tles, when the level around you starts to warp and shift and you’ve sud­denly got no idea where to look. With touch con­trols, mean­while, what you gain in speed is lost to the need to briefly oc­clude the ac­tion with your own hand.

It’s dur­ing such mo­ments that Dan­dara un­der­mines its own in­spi­ra­tions, and the promis­ing gen­tle thrill of its cen­tral idea. When you respawn miles away af­ter a death in a Souls game, you feel a cer­tain re­solve to re­coup your earn­ings. Here, you’ll ask if it’s re­ally worth the bother. Miyazaki, Sakamoto and Igarashi, you sus­pect, would be res­o­lutely unim­pressed.

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