Having released over two years ago on Switch. Dandara has received a huge free update that makes it well worth rediscovering and being in the media once again. The game will also become physical this year thanks to the minds of Super Rare Games, making it a limited release. Dandara is a metroidvania title that has been on many platforms before, and it has received many good reviews, here’s why.
Dandara is made by a Brazilian development team, while that doesn’t say much at first. It is nice to know that Dandara is actually an Afro-Brazilian warrior, celebrated for her mastery of capoeira. She was also the wife of Zumbi dos Palmares, also a symbol of resistance to slavery. A story from the 17th century on the other side of the world that most of us probably never heard of. Dandara is a tribute to this female warrior and it is a nice touch to know this when you are playing through the game.
After a short introduction, you will enter the pixelated world of Dandara to fight evil. Floating and shooting you make your way through the numerous rooms that are interconnected. Regular backtracking, an iconic pivot in the Metroidvania genre, is a big part of the exploration. The controls are explained by means of a small tutorial. Instead of walking around freely, you have to give the joystick a direction to select a platform, then jump to it with the press of the A button. Despite the fact that it brings something new, this way of moving might be frustrating to some people. For example, at many times, the game placed me on a different platform than I originally envisioned. Timing and precision are essential, especially during boss fights. The inaccuracy is less of a problem while exploring the worlds and fighting the enemies, where you have a little more time to respond. During these moments I experienced the unique controls as an interesting twist on the genre. You can use the touchscreen of the Nintendo Switch as an alternative, although in my experience that works less accurately than the regular controls.
Outside of roaming around, you slowly but surely also unlock an arsenal of objects and weapons to assist you. Some items are necessary to unlock a new area, in typical Metroidvania style, while others provide a new way to fight enemies or avoid dangers. Along the way you will find Salt, a kind of experience, hidden in crates, boxes or from defeated enemies. Salt can be spent in tents all over the world. Based on your playing style you can choose more life points, drinks to supplement your life meter or more offensive possibilities. These tents act as checkpoints at the same time, where you will appear when you die to continue your quest.
Despite all kinds of tools, Dandara is anything but an easy ride. Enemies and obstacles can be challenging and boss fights are tough, thanks in part to the imprecision of Dandara’s movements. When your life bar becomes empty, you lose all experience points, which can greatly hinder your progress. Fortunately, you have the opportunity to pick up the lost points again so that it does not stagnate continuously. You can consult a map at any time, although it can sometimes be confusing. The camera will rotate with Dandara as it moves around the world, while the map always maintains the same perspective. Sometimes I got hopelessly lost or took the wrong door and lost a lot of time.
With a pixel art style, Dandara pays tribute to the classic Metroid games, which certainly does not look out of place. The pleasant visual style makes every subsequent step clear, never to be confused despite the pixelated style. Together with the subtle music, it manages to create an immersive atmosphere with a nod to Brazilian culture here and there. Enemies and characters are clearly designed and the design of the different bosses surprised me positively every time.
With the release of Trials of Fear the game received a substantial FREE update that easily makes the game even more enjoyable then it already was. With included soundtracks, a new chapter called ‘The Hidden Realms’ containing three new bosses, new items and weapons and an extra secret ending. Add this with a new features to rotate the map, bug fixes and increased stability and it makes Dandara an absolute steal for the low price it is currently at!
Dandara Trials of Fear is an incredible package for it’s price that should be played by any metroidvania fan.