Title: Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition
Developer: Long Hat House
Publisher: Raw Fury
Genre: Adventure, Action, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 06/02/2018
Price: £13.49 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
In the two years that have passed since the initial release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS and Android the developers, Long Hat House, have had a lot of time to re-think certain elements and build upon the blueprints they already had. This updated version comes with three extra boss battles, an entirely new world known as the Hidden Realms, an updated soundtrack, new combat abilities and a whole host of quality of life improvements to the game. The best part – the update is entirely free to those who already have purchased and to those who haven’t it’ll just be included as standard upon purchase.
Set in a world where salt is your currency, you have to traverse and navigate a Metroidvania-style labyrinth to liberate the citizens. Once free spirits, they’re now oppressed by the evil Alderian Army who roams the corridors trying to send everyone and everything into oblivion. A unique element in Dandara is the way you control her movements. You’re only able to move along the salt paths. This means you have to think ahead as to which way you want to leap as one wrong jump could be the difference between life and death. Additionally, Dandara doesn’t move in the traditional sense; There’s no walking involved throughout the entire game, sort of like a spring-loaded cannon you have to zip and dart your way across the salt paths to reach new doors and destination points.
You use the left analogue stick to aim where you want to go and press A to zip across and after half an hour or so you’ll be darting around with ease in no time – it’s easy to master. Then you’ve got your weapon which you can fire with the X button and once you’ve unlocked certain other elements, you can change and cycle through your weapons with the tap of the R button. You unlock a map pretty early on, which definitely comes in handy given the style of the game and you can view that by pressing the – button. One thing that took a little bit of getting used to is when you go into some rooms, the perspective changes, so an exit you may have thought is directly ahead of you could be on the right instead. Fortunately, the developers did acknowledge it can feel a little confusing at first and with the new updates they’ve added the ability to view the map both ways.
You’ll meet lots of different characters during your adventure, each unlocking new parts of the map to explore. You get a real sense of achievement when you figure out how to get around to an unexplored area and figuring out all the different pathways you’re able to explore will certainly keep you going for around 7-8 hours. If you want to achieve 100% on obtaining all the chests and exploring the whole map you’re looking at between 10-14 hours as there’s now the Hidden Realm. You can venture here during your main playthrough, and you can also defeat the final boss before exploring all the game has to offer, it’s entirely up to you how you want to experience it. You’ll find different doorways to enter throughout the main overworld, and essentially it’s an entirely new second map with further collectables, characters and enemies.
When you die, you’re transported back to your last save point which takes the form of campsites dotted across the map. This is where you’ll also upgrade Dandara’s abilities, increase your health and fast travel later on. To upgrade, you need to pay with salt which you collect by defeating enemies and finding treasure chests, but if you die all of that salt is left behind as a death stamp if you will. If you want it all back, you have to return and collect your ethereal body from your death place. It’s an effective risk/reward mechanic – very similar to Hollow Knight in that sense. I’d also say the challenge is more forgiving but certainly not minimal – there are plenty of boss battles and fierce enemies to conquer, it feels like the perfect balance.
There are a few creases I feel could have been ironed out with this update though. When you view the map the game doesn’t actually pause so enemies can still attack you while you’re looking at it, which makes you feel like you need to plan when to view it simply. It can often feel unfair with the game giving the player an unnecessary disadvantage. The soundtrack was given a complete overhaul for this update as well, but it did feel quite minimal and not very memorable, unfortunately. With a game like this, the music makes the atmosphere, and it did fall a little flat and lacking on that front.
I did some research myself and found out some interesting facts behind the origins of Dandara; she’s based upon a 17th-century Brazilian warrior who was part of an enslaved war camp, she fought to free her people and abolish the racial injustice across Brazil. I found this particularly interesting to read as you can see the influences and similarities between the fictional Dandara and the 17th-century warrior. If you’re not a fan of the Metroidvania style that’s on offer, then it might not be your sort of thing. But with heaps of content in this new update, a unique gameplay mechanic in the form of Dandara’s movements and some beautiful set pieces, it’s well worth the £13.49 price tag even more so if you pick it up between now and April 24th as it’s on sale for £5.39!