There may be a ton of indie 2D action games but they keep managing to innovate on established gameplay formulas. Dandara is a mix of Gravity Rush and Metroidvania but is that blend a little too salty?
Dandara has you control the titular character who's on a mission to bring hope back to the world of Salt which is on the brink of extinction. I could describe the story in more detail but it's so strange that you'll have to experience it for yourself in order to fully understand. The gameplay is equally as unconventional as you play by aiming then tapping a button to leap between surfaces seeing as there is no gravity to worry about. You also can't run which is odd but you get used to it after a short while of learning the intricacies of its gameplay. In addition to jumping around the twisted environments, you'll also hold and release a button to charge and unleash a shot attack in order to take out the enemies that lurk around. It can get brutally challenging, too, so you really have to hone your skills to work through this strange tale. Once you do, it's incredibly rewarding.
The world of Dandara is undeniably trippy and its atmosphere does a perfect job of portraying that. As you advance, you'll hear plenty of subtle yet almost sinister melodies that help establish an eerie vibe while the sound effects do a fantastic job of making the onscreen action come to life. The visuals are well done although the world is rather small with only a handful of environments so there definitely isn't much variety. For example, you'll only encounter a few NPCs and bosses throughout the entire adventure which makes the world come across as confined and unvaried. Also, whether you're working through a house, forest, or technologically advanced fortress; it all looks very similar with primarily just different colour schemes and backgrounds that don't do enough to stand out.
While you progress through Dandara's journey, you'll unlock additional weapons, abilities, and upgrades. The weapons are the coolest thing to experiment with. Basically, you can swap between them on the fly and use part of your energy gauge to unleash powerful missiles, balls of energy, laser turrets, and more. I wish the abilities were as exciting but unfortunately, they mostly just push you along your quest. For example, being able to jump far from certain points or activate skulls feels more like you're using a key than performing a nifty new action. Finally, the upgrades are very satisfying to uncover. You'll unlock health power-ups that act very similarly to Dark Souls' Estus Flasks and purchase life meter extensions and such with earned salt which is, again, a lot like Dark Souls.
My entire playthrough of Dandara took 5 hours which is pretty short for such an ambitious Metroidvania game. By the time it was over and I watched the brief ending, I was pretty disappointed. Not to give anything away, but the ending didn't provide a very satisfying conclusion. I was also disappointed by the fact that there's very little reason to keep playing after you finish the campaign besides exploring the entire map and finding all of the chests. Keep in mind; it's a very small map so doing that likely won't take very long. There are a few tricky things to uncover that may involve breakable walls but getting everything still isn't a very tall order.
Dandara's unique gameplay and trippy atmosphere make it a worthwhile gravity-defying Metroidvania but don't expect to enjoy it for very long because it'll be over much sooner than you'd hope.
- + Unique gravity-defying gameplay that's both rewarding and challenging
- + Trippy atmosphere and music
- + Cool upgrades that reward exploration
- - Small and unvaried game world
- - Abilities could have added more variety
- - Somewhat short with little replay value