The isometric perspective is back in fashion and roguelikes continue to be de rigeur, so of course a dapper do-well like Dandy Ace is going to be right in the thick of it, juggling these game styles as deftly as he speed-shuffles a pack of cards.
See, Dandy Ace, who you get the privilege of controlling in this new roguelite dungeon crawler, is a much-loved magician who’s been trapped in an alternative dimension of demonic clocks, jesters and murderous bunnies. It’s like the hit roguelite Hades tumbled down the burrow into Alice in Wonderland, smashing together the art styles of Disney and anime along the way . In other words, it’s super-weird, and totally wonderful.
Set in a vibrant underworld of grand casino halls and carnival-esque squares, Dandy Ace goes all out on eccentricity. But beyond the surreal stylings it’s a tough fast-paced roguelike with the perfect mix of long-term character progression and short-term unpredictability that forces you to play the figurative (and literal) hands that you’re dealt.
At the start of each run of Dandy Ace, you’re assigned three random cards - one for support moves, one for attacks and one for evasive dashes. That means that each time you play, you can expect to have a very different loadout from your previous run.
As you progress, you’ll unlock more and more cards, which you’ll then be able to swap out for existing ones in each of the categories. On each run you’ll also find additional cards that can replace your given skills, or act as modifiers for your loadout. A big part of the fun here is tinkering with them to find those complementary combos that help you blast through this deadly procession of enemies and the strange stages they inhabit.
It all makes for a glorious spectacle, as you fling cards and glowing purple projectiles at your crazed foes while evading them using perfectly-timed dash attacks (before leaping right back in again). It’s that heady mix of flamboyant style with raw mechanical substance that has typified the best examples of this addictive ‘just one more run’ genre in recent years.
Of course, a great roguelike would be nothing without well-executed procedural generation, which takes you along branching paths that keep surprising you with new things after fifty, 100, 500 runs. These paths will inevitably lead you to spectacular bosses, like Scissorella the Royal Gardener and Axolangelo, Master of Arts - a giant axolotl with a penchant for high culture.
Throughout the game you’ll have to suffer the constant taunts of Lele, the embittered magician who trapped you in this world in the first place, and who you’ll ultimately have to face if you’re going to get back to the mortal realm. His dialogue doesn’t grate though, thanks to the game’s all-round excellent voice-acting and his charming videogame references like “I wonder, what is a magician? A miserable little pile of tricks!” In fact, we can’t help but kind of love the guy.
There’s a lot of competition in this genre, but Dandy Ace is a bold, charismatic performer that’s ready for the big stage. It’s available to buy now on Steam, and you can follow Dandy Ace, its developer Mad Mimic and publisher NEOWIZ on Twitter.