Roguelikes nowadays are a bit like martial arts a lot of the time. They’ve all built upon the foundation laid out by other roguelikes, and it means that you can easily refer to a lot of them as having mechanics or gameplay akin to another one out there.
It also means that it’s hard to stand out amongst a field filled to the brim with increasingly polished and well-thought-out games. It also means that to do so, it helps to have a little something special in both visual and mechanical design, and thankfully, Dandy Ace manages that.
Dandy Ace has you playing as the titular character, who is an incredible magician who earned some eye from the Green-Eye Illusionist. As a result of this, you end up getting trapped in a cursed mirror filled to the brim with monsters in a dungeon that changes every time you die.
Thankfully, Dandy Ace isn’t your run-of-the-mill magician, and he’s actually more than capable of using his cards to fight back against the strange creatures you’ll be facing off against. Different cards allow for different attacks or movements.
Your starting loadout will have one movement ability and one basic attack. Your movement ability will nearly always allow you to dodge, but your attacks can be anything from punching with a gigantic fist to throwing out multiple cards at once like a shotgun. You’ve only got four buttons to assign cards to, but things get more interesting once you’ve picked up your fifth card.
You see, along with having a main ability, each card also has a sub-ability that allows it to modify other cards. That means that the card that normally throws out five cards can be added onto another attack to make it spit five cards out on impact. Or, you can turn your one-hit poison orb into twenty doses of poison by combining it with a card that explodes into bubbles. Better yet, you can swap these around with ease, which means you can constantly experiment whenever you find something new.
It’s an axolotl
Aside from the cool combat system, there are some fun enemy designs in the game too. YOu’ve got standard things like lamps that shoot fire at you, but you’ll also come up against ghostly figures, sentient plants trying to cut you down, and even a very sad axolotl boss. It means you’ll occasionally end up feeling bad for beating up your enemies, but only until they decimate you in one hit because, after all, this is a roguelike.
The combat itself feels good most of the time. Enemy attacks are generally well-telegraphed. There are enough variations to keep things interesting, but not so many that you’ll be overwhelmed. If you’ve got a good enough movement ability, you should have no issue not getting hit, but some of the later enemies will definitely test your reflexes.
You also get a healing tea set eventually, which you can use once per level unless you find a charge for it. Also, enemies drop cakes occasionally, which you can use to heal yourself, which is nice. At the end of each level, you’ll get a chance to upgrade yourself and choose a buff for the remainder of the run, which is very reminiscent of Dead Cells.
It’s an illusion
Dandy Ace is quite a nice looking game as well, with a cool style that fits the story of the game well, and also feels a little bit Persona 5 in certain places, which is obviously not a bad thing. There’s fairly good music too, which helps tie everything together and the general tone of the game is kept quite light throughout, which is a nice change of pace if you’re still recovering from the emotional gut punches of Hades.