Long Hat House’s new platformer is a fascinating video game with great art, great music, and a mysterious protagonist. So, why didn’t I like it?
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When Dandara first released in February, I remember the excitement building within me as I watched the launch trailer. It looked to be a frenetic, platforming adventure. Mega Man cranked up to 11, if you will. As I began playing, something felt off. It wasn’t necessarily the religious aspects of the game (those were actually very interesting). Something literally didn’t feel right. This sensation only increased the more time I put into the game. Eventually, the weight began to be too much thus leading me to quitting Dandara. Here’s why.
One of my favorite genres of gaming are the platformers, specifically the retro themed ones. Shovel Knight, Owlboy, Metroid are some of my favorites in recent memory. Dandara looked to be a future title I would add to that list. But something that immediately struck as odd were the controls. For clarity, I’m the kind of gamer who, if even just one part of the control scheme is off, I will notice every single time I play the game. What specifically made the controls off-putting? The attack.
See, in Dandara, you zip through the levels/areas via the use of a dart mechanic. It’s fast, it’s snappy, and it looks downright awesome. I often found myself getting into a rhythmic groove of speeding around the areas. That is, until I encountered enemies. This was when the game came to a screeching halt. At the beginning of the game, Dandara only has one attack: a yellow energy blast shot from her hand. Seeing this attack gave me nostalgic flashbacks to Mega Man. I thought I’d feel right at home as I began spamming the attack command. My face contorted with confusion as I noticed Dandara wasn’t letting loose a barrage of blasts at the enemies on the screen. In my confusion, I watched, stunned, as the enemy ran up to me and jabbed me with a spear. I took aim again, holding down the fire button this time, to see Dandara begin charging the blast. As if in sync, we both let go at the same time, letting an energy blast fly to destroy the enemy. “I have to seriously sit here and hold down the blast button in order to attack”, I thought to myself.
For me, this was a major break in the game. The game initially gave off the impression of this fast, frenetic platformer; something I thought would be mirrored in the combat. But in Dandara, you have to stop, take aim, charge, and then attack. This is incredibly jarring when in juxtaposition to the actual movement. Upon encountering the first boss, the game immediately stopped being fun because of this break in game design. It didn’t look, or feel, cohesive. And, honestly, it just wasn’t fun. After multiple deaths, I put Dandara down for a few days. Perhaps, I thought, I just needed to get used to it. Unfortunately, I haven’t returned to the game since. After almost 2 hours of interacting with the game, I was ready to move on.
Which is a shame because the visuals and world of Dandara are fascinating. I loved everything about the game and it’s style. But with how awkward the controls felt, I found little desire to return. Understandably, perhaps the fast combat didn’t work in the game and that’s why the developers, Long Hat House, made combat a more methodical approach. With a 92% on Steam, there’s clearly an audience for the game, which is great. But as for me? I’m not counted in that group.
Have you played Dandara? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.