Metroidvanias are a pain. The genre leads to obligatory repetition, often making things unnecessarily cumbersome. A few titles in recent years, such as Shadow Complex and Axiom Verge, have proved that precise execution – in addition to original ideas – are the way to convince naysayers like me. Dandara is a game that belongs in the same company.
Released earlier this year on basically every platform (even iOS), Dandara’s the work of the Brazilian developer Long Hat House. The story is pretty barebones: you control a fearsome warrior named Dandara and have to rid the subdued world of a profound evil that’s taken over, represented by an array of strange, quick and powerful enemies. The twist is that the protagonist doesn’t walk or run like a character from most other games. Instead, they slingshot back and forth between the ground and the ceiling in each room.
In addition, weird and wonderful colours decorate the whole world, making the game much more inviting to play than other titles in this retro-style renaissance we seem to be going through. It helps that Thommaz Kauffmann’s soundtrack is just as rich, and “Once in a Beautiful Horizon” is something I kept returning to during and after playing sessions.
There are some things that will stick out. To attack enemies, you have to charge up your weapon by holding a button down, making combat more difficult than it could otherwise be. And sometimes rooms you enter twist and turn, making map-reading a secondary necessity. These quirks might stir the interest of some hardcore players looking for a greater challenge. But what’s odd is they might also be welcomed by casual gamers on iOS devices too, a platform often ignored for these ambitious yet resource-light games.
Regardless of which crowd you belong to, Dandara is a keeper. It’s a shame the story’s so vague, as I think greater detail would have added to the game’s mystique, something that still surrounds the real-life Dandara, an Afro-Brazilian warrior who battled against slavery in the 17th century. I can’t wait to see what Long Hat House could do in the future, maybe even with this brilliant character in another game. The team’s taste in sound and style is refreshing, and the gravity-bending mechanism never feels disorienting. Guiding this eponymous character or another original creation seems enticing, so long as we’re up for another challenge.
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