Dandy Ace Quick View
Release Date: March 25, 2021
Rating: E for Everyone
Platform: Steam (Coming to consoles later this year)
A game key for Dandy Ace was provided by Neowiz.
Dandy Ace is an isometric action rogue-lite from Mad Mimic Interactive, with a stage magician theme baked into every aspect. You play as the beloved magician, Dandy Ace. Your jealous rival, the Green-Eyed Illusionist, Lele, has trapped you inside a magic mirror. Each run through the game you try to escape the mirror by battling through several stages of enemies. As you go, you build a set of abilities based on magic cards. Sounds a lot like one of our 2020 Game Award winners.
Yes, It Sounds a Lot Like Hades
Trying to tell you more about Dandy Ace without dealing with the obvious comparison would be ridiculous. Honestly, the similarities to Hades are what caught my eye when I first saw screenshots for this game. The most basic gameplay elements are very similar, but Dandy Ace feels very different.
I adore the boon system in Hades, but I’m glad that Dandy Ace does something different. Throughout a run, you’ll unlock cards randomly that you can assign to one of your four face buttons. Pink cards are generally attacks, yellow cards are traps or status effects to impede your enemies, and blue cards are some sort of dash. There are two twists that makes this system really work for me. Each face button actually has a main and sub-slot and you can rearrange your cards at any time. This allows for a lot of fun combos and experimentation.
One of the most basic cards you’ll find over and over again is “Five of a Kind”. This is a primary attack that throws out 5 cards to damage enemies in a spread. This works well, but pretty early on I realized it is a lot more fun in the “upgarde effect” slot. I love using the “Titan Punch”, which throws a series of giant fists, with the “Five of a Kind” upgrade. With that set up, 5 cards shoot out in all directions every time your punches hit.
Since the game is constantly spawning enemies encircling your character, having abilities set up to deal damage all around you is super fun and a lot of help.
The makers of the game claim that there are “more than a thousand possibilities” in this building mechanic. Doing the math to figure out how many cards that means there are is beyond me, but I'm loving playing around with this system!
It’s Also Got a Bit of Dead Cells
Along with new cards, you’ll also collect money, magical shards, and blueprints. Each time you finish a stage you get a chance to spend the shards you’ve unlocked on permanent upgrades. You can also heal and pick up run-based upgrades between levels.
Unlike the upgrades feeling different from Hades, the long-term progression feels exactly like Dead Cells. Honestly, I'm pretty okay with that. Knowing that you get incremental for clearing each of the stages in the game makes things tense and interesting. Even if you've got a build you know won't have any hope of taking you all the way through the game, you still feel like your making progress.
One of the things that helped Hades stand out in the world of rogue-lites was its expansive cast of characters, all brimming with personality. Dandy Ace isn't nearly as ambitious in its story or characters. The few folks you do meet are all well written, well voice acted, and each has their own little charm. Your rival and jailor, Lele, looms the largest in this game. He mocks you and encourages his minions in voiceovers throughout the levels. Then, he also talks to Ace between levels as a mysterious stranger, claiming to be hanging around to help the Magician escape.
One of the ways that Dandy Ace angles for popularity is through built-in integrations with Twitch. While I stream from time to time, this is the first game I've ever tried out Twitch Integrations for, and it was a ton of fun. There are several options to tweak, but with everything turned on viewers vote on which cards Ace gets, which levels he goes to, and extra healing items that can drop, plus one viewer at a time gets a special role. They take over Lele, which effectively means they have an arsenal of several different hazards they can throw at the player. The ones that made things the toughest for me were the disabling of a random card and an option that stacked extra enemies on top of my current encounter.
Playing with the Twitch integrations turned on made Dandy Ace a lot harder, but it was also a lot of fun. The different things viewers can participate in pop up pretty regularly, so as a viewer there's always something to be doing. As a player, the extra layer of chaos made the game feel silly and had me laughing, even if it made progressing a lot tougher.
I’ve still got a long way to go in Dandy Ace, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s a shame that it invokes so many comparisons to Hades because it falls just a bit short of that game in almost every way. The combat is a little slower, the storytelling is a little bit simpler, and the aesthetics are a little blander. On the other hand, I like the card system at least as much as the boon system in Hades, if not a tiny bit more.
If you have never played an isometric rogue-lite action game, Dandy Ace is a fine place to start. My stronger recommendation for this game, though, is for folks who have played Hades to death and are looking for a fresh way to scratch that itch. This game is fun, charming, and well worth your time!