A unique gravity defying take of the Metroidvania genre
Developed by Brazilian indie developers Long Hat House and published by Raw Fury Dandara: Trails of Fear Edition is the free update to the previous Dandara, complete with an updated control scheme and beautiful pixel-art visuals created by Victor Leão with a haunting soundtrack by Thommaz Kauffmann is Dandara: Trials of Fear the unique indie experience players are searching for?
Enter the Salt: A once beautiful land of freedom and expression is under threat from the ever-encroaching evil empire, threatening to destroy the very spark of creation itself, when all seems grim a hero arises! Dandara! The hope of The Salt ventures on to do battle with the tyrannical Empire. Battling generals while traversing a uniquely crafted world of wonders with death defying gravity leaps and interesting residents, Dandara will have to collect the very essence of The Salt in order to gain enough power to combat the evils ahead.
Surviving the Salt:
The Salt is a very interesting land, almost uniquely crafted purely for Dandara to traverse. Unlike standard platform based Metroidvania games Dandara cannot jump or even move in the natural sense. In order to traverse the frankly insane world of the Salt Dandara must leap between platforms using the power of gravity to stick to each available area at hand. I’m unsure how the residents of Salt manage to get around themselves before the time of the evil empire as the world itself makes little sense for its inhabitants. The first main area appears to be some kind of city which doesn’t make any sense for people to traverse as the residents of the Salt you encounter are all uniquely shaped, some even appearing unable to move from their placed spot.
Through Dandara’s ventures in the Salt Dandara will discover camps/flags, these act as save points as well as recharge stations for the later energy-based weapons. Much like in Soulsborne games upon resting at a camp, the enemies in previous rooms will respawn save for enemies designed purely to block a route.
To combat the threats of Salt Dandara comes equipped with a blaster that requires charging to fire, this means that Dandara must stand still for an extended amount of time in order to vanquish enemies that can also blast you with orbs or dive towards you. This presents a very interesting combat dynamic of standing still just long enough to fire a blast before leaping away to a safer platform to avoid enemy fire, this can be quite taxing when multiple projectiles are flying around the screen, thankfully as Dandara defeats foes and for some reasons destroys vines and trees you’ll obtain “The Pleas of Salt” these pleas function as a method to upgrade Dandara, there are several options ranging from HP – Damage to energy all of which can be upgraded from the previously mentioned camps/flags that litter the Salt.
I’ll briefly touch on the multiple control schemes available in Dandara as these schemes can make or break the experience for some players. The developers of Dandara make it clear that for the best experience possible, it is recommended to use a standard controller. That being said I do want to touch on the standard configuration panel that pops up every time the game is booting up. While I’m extremely happy to see that you can map practically any button to any key possible as well as a dedicated windowed mode which works very well on laptops, I’m somewhat puzzled by the graphics quality option of just Dandara.
Controller – This is the recommended default way to play Dandara, you’ll be reminded several times that you really should be playing the game with this intended setup, while playing on controller Dandara movement is a far more controlled and precise which is extremely important throughout the game as several projectiles fly towards you almost at a constant, I could have done without the vibration function but thankfully that can be turned off which is something I also recommend when playing this game.
Mouse and keyboard – This is the method I ended up playing Dandara with, it is a healthy middle ground between all three of the control schemes but easily comes with several drawbacks, movement is no longer as precise as with the controller this is the big negative when it comes to any mouse and keyboard variation as the game adds in this mode what would best be said as an auto movement function, upon jumping every following jump will immediately follow the logical path on moving to the next platform. This means that the moment you jump you will need to be aware of this function as in the height of combat should you not be aware of the next point there is a high chance that you will hurl yourself into an enemy when your intended movement was to withdraw. This thankfully doesn’t ruin the game in anyway but is definitely an added difficulty setting that you shouldn’t push upon yourself unless you’re looking for some added challenge.
Legacy mouse and keyboard – If mouse and keyboard wasn’t already a challenge you have the option of legacy mouse and keyboard mode, this is essentially the mobile version control scheme complete with virtual joystick to control movement, easily the slowest version of all the control schemes which I would recommend you avoid at all costs when playing the PC version.
In conclusion Dandara: Trials of Fear is an interesting take on the Metroidvania genre and a breath of fresh air in the early 2020’s The visual style and music score are the main selling points for me, each new area and boss had the perfect accompaniment in terms of music and visual prowess that kept me invested all the way to the end. That being said, Dandara: Trials of Fear seems to have one innate flaw that in future versions I hope would be ironed out. The main issue I found while playing Dandara was that the game just doesn’t know what it wants to be, does it want to be a fast-paced gravity defying experience filled with enemies to blast down at a hyper speed? Or does it want to focus on the puzzles and a well told story?
An example of this would be within its combat, your standard method of attack is just too slow for the amount of movement and enemies that this game requires you to handle towards the latter half of the game. While you can expend some of your energy for a harder hitting attack you never know if you need that energy to clear a mandatory wall to progress forward, if you run into this kind of situation then you need to backtrack back to a flag just to recharge which just respawns the enemies on the path you took to get there in the first place. You could call this trial and error and I would agree completely but this really breaks the flow of the game and the overall speed that I feel Dandara really wants to show us.
With that negativity aside I did thoroughly enjoy Dandara, the visuals, the story and music are all well-crafted and interesting, while it can be somewhat nauseating I did enjoy the jumping/gravity aspect of the game as it gave Dandara a very unique feature that could be explored more in these Metroidvania game
I can heartily recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of Metroidvania games or anyone that is looking for a beautiful and different experience from the norm, as Dandara echos make sure to play this with a controller and you’ll have a much better time!
- Beautiful music
- Interesting Boss fights
- Excellent Visuals
- Extremely frustrating to play without a controller
- Combat can become quite a chore
- Extremely long boss fights if you fall out of the natural rhythm of the fight