Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition

I came away after completing Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition with a sense of relief. Not just because I finally beat the final boss which I'd spent the previous hour trying to do so but because I'd bested a game I found particularly challenging and frustrating, yet I felt compelled to finish it. It looks like only 1.2% of people have beaten this boss at the time of writing which seems extremely low. There's an achievement for completing the game in under one hour and seventeen minutes which after my ten hours with the game I cannot even begin to comprehend.

Dandara's unique movement is its stand out feature. You cannot freely move left or right along a surface. You can zip from specific points to specific points, defying gravity in the process. You have a guiding line for your aim and a fainter line for where you will land. It does take some getting used to but soon enough you'll be zooming between points and going the breadth of rooms in no time at all. I grew to enjoy the movement and it became second nature. There were some moments, especially those with a lot of enemies, where I lost my head then had to recompose myself to move efficiently again.

Dandara

I wish I could tell you about the story in Dandara but apart from the overall story I was left a little baffled. There is a character that communicates with you remotely but usually only when you enter an area for the first time. There are notes that you can pick up along the way and flavour text. While I am usually all in for searching out a narrative I didn't feel compelled to pay much attention here.

The main strength here is the metroidvania aspects. The map is huge and sprawling – probably twice as big as you're expecting – and the abilities you unlock along the way are creative and fun to use. They are used more to get around a certain obstacle to a new area rather than shaking up/adding to the gameplay. In the early stages of my adventure I noted several areas where I could not even begin to guess how I was going to access them. It was a good touch that the abilities weren't over the top but still allowed to pass these which seemed impossible upon their first discovery.

I would say I spent at least two hours of my ten-hour play through trying to figure out where I was required to go and how to get there. Also, once you get an ability you then have to backtrack to all the examples of the obstacle you can now circumvent you can see on the map. Each type of obstacle that requires a specific ability is colour coded though these aren't the clearest. You also then have to check each one until you find the path into a new area. The number of times I found one only to find a chest with more salt in or an extra heal; useful things but a little frustrating when you feel like you've been stuck without any progress for quite some time.

Dandara

Fighting enemies is another focus of the game and for the most part it's a succinct mechanic. Like with many things with Dandara, it takes some time to get used to how to fight. Firstly, you always have to charge before you can fire. This caught me out numerous times in the early stages of the game. You also have to grapple with being upside down or whatever angle you land at. Time and time again I would get hit which leaves you floating in mid-air until you decide on where to perch only to then launch myself into another enemy.

Dandara

There is a Dark Souls inspired system with Salt. Like souls, you acquire them from defeating enemies, destroying boxes, and opening chests. These allow you to upgrade one of four abilities as a camp-site (read bonfire). I was surprised at the beginning that I would be able to increase my health by about 500% but boy did I need it as I progressed through the game! You also lose all salt on your person when you die and have to return to this point to regain it.

I found parts of the game frustrating but I'm really glad I persevered and finished it. It's surprisingly challenging but defeating everything is satisfying as is finding all the abilities being able to navigate the large map with ease. While not quite hitting the highs of Hollow Knight or Ori, if you've found yourself enjoying metroidvanias in the last few years as I have this is one I would recommend.

4

In Short

  • + Unique movement mechanic works very well
    + Excellent range of abilities to discover
    + Challenging, compelling and satisfying to finish

  • - The large map with few indicators may intimidate
    - Can be frustrating when you spend a lot of time with no progress
    - Did not care for the story

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