On March 26th a small developer named Mad Mimic Interactive quietly released a silly-theme rogue-lite on steam. On the heels of successful rogue-lite games like Hades and Dead Cells, Dandy Ace joins the ranks of games that enjoy a die-hard fanbase of those of us that seek out and enjoy a punishing gameplay experience. But how do you set yourself apart in a genre that’s typically marked by serious and dark stories and aesthetics? Mad Mimic decided the answer to that question lies in a rather silly, over-the-top aesthetic and world, the likes of which you’d expect to find on Cartoon Network or Adult Swim. But can a game in this vein really be a title worth playing? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks playing this indie title and am pleased to bring you my thoughts and experiences on this face-paced roguelike action game.
So who is the titular Dandy Ace and why is he fighting? Why Dandy Ace is a magician, of course! Enjoying a fierce rivalry with the evil Green-Eyed Illusionist, Lele, Dandy finds himself trapped in an ever-changing cursed mirror. Separated from his magical deck of playing cards, Dandy must traverse the cursed mirror, finding cards along the way, and use those cards to defeat the creatures and bosses that call the cursed mirror home. And while Dandy never really dies if he fails in his mission to escape he will find himself back where he started facing an entirely new experience.
In Dandy Ace, the playing cards you collect and find as you traverse the palace of the cursed mirror serve as your abilities. At any point while playing you can change out your cards for new ones that you find, similar to trading out weapons in Dead Cells when you find new ones. A twist on this system is the ability of a player to use the cards not only as primary skills but as passive augments to their active skills. It is in this way you can give yourself abilities that poison an enemy, or detonate into damaging bubbles. While on the surface the card system is very straight forward it is also surprisingly deep, offering hundreds of different unique combinations for an action bar that only sports four active slots.
The maps of Dandy Ace are also brimming with complexity. Similar to other roguelikes, such as Hades, in Dandy Ace, you’ll move between sections of a large “floor” with the way forward and back gated until you defeat all the enemies that will spawn in the area. There are ranged enemies, melee enemies, charging enemies, and more. As you move further in without dying the enemies get harder to defeat and their movements become more complex and hard to dodge. In addition to enemies, you’ll find gated areas that will require keys to enter, promoting map exploration as these areas usually contain a chest rewarding a new card or currency.
As with games of this genre, death will come frequently and without much fanfare. However, as you progress, you will spend currencies to give permanent unlocks to the game save, many of which will make subsequent playthroughs feel slightly easier. From more starting gold and HP potions to unlocking more cards to be available in the starting pool, each loss serves as an incremental step towards victory and is executed in a way that keeps you coming back for more. No death felt cheap nor the result of bad or unfair mechanics – Dandy Ace is as polished as the most popular roguelike games we know today.
All said and done I found Dandy Ace to be quite the diamond in the rough. It’s not a game on nearly anyone’s radar thought in my opinion it 100% should be as it is currently enjoying a Very Positive rating on Steam with less than 400 total reviews.