Last year Onion Games decided to end service for Dandy Dungeon: Legend of Brave Yamada on mobiles, taking the game offline with a farewell event, but this summer our hero has re-emerged once more in the Nintendo Switch version of the RPG. We missed the boat the first time around, but we got the chance to experience the rather unique adventure for ourselves on Nintendo's console, and we're very sad we didn't get to experience it the first time around.
There's a lot to explain here because Dandy Dungeon is one of the most bizarre RPGs we've played on the Switch. The premise is that you play as Yamada, a game developer at a major company who chooses to focus all his time on his own game instead, one which places him in the role of a hero trying to prove himself worthy of his neighbour's love. So in this sense there are two facets to Dandy Dungeon - your time spent in the dungeons of Yamada's game, and the time in the real world in your apartment.
Each dungeon is roguelike in format, which means that if you die in the several floors offered to you, you leave without any of the loot or treasure, losing almost all of your XP too (levels are also randomly generated). Each dungeon is a grid and you must trace a line from the start to the end door, covering every clear tile in a circuit, which sometimes proves easier said than done when there are walls blocking your path. The catch is that as soon as you start tracing this path (which plays out automatically when confirmed) a timer starts, and when that counts down to zero you start taking damage until you press confirm. If you leave any clear tiles untrodden, however, you also take damage at the end for all those you've missed. It's simpler than it sounds, but it's a puzzle game in the sense that you have to work out how to cover all the squares in one flowing movement.
Once you hit 'confirm', Yamada's cute little sprite sets out on that path through the dungeon, attacking enemies as he goes and collecting loot. You can hold X to speed this up, but in the later levels especially it's worth keeping a close eye on what's going on, as various elements like traps and enemies with magic and ranged attacks can cause issues as you make your way through. The good thing though is that you can make use of a limited range of five items at the bottom as you go through, but bear in mind these have limited uses before they break, so use them sparingly to get to the final level of the dungeon, beat the boss, and run away with all the swag.
Once you leave each level - whether that be from victory, defeat, or by escaping - you're back in your room and the RPG element really sets in. Here you can equip items, upgrade weapons and armour, purchase things, send other heroes on proxy missions to get you loot, and take on 'special' dungeons with their own rewards. There's a lot to do and play around with when you're not in a dungeon, and it's all very much in the old-school style you'd expect from RPGs of times gone by.
Your room is where the story will unfold, and Onion Games does a good job of layering the various elements on gradually. The game starts with Yamada creating this hero's journey, but soon we're adding more levels, getting discovered by our bosses at the game company, and having others add elements to our game as well, all of which either burst into our apartment or knock on the door in little snippets of narrative.
It's not a deep game in terms of the story, but the core charm of Dandy Dungeon is the cute little bits of humorous dialogue and comic relief that are injected in between the at times intense dungeon levels you wade through. Yamada likes to work in his underwear, and often he's interrupted by huge personalities, both good and evil, who are there to help or hinder him. It's safe to say that you never know what to expect when there's a knock at the door, and that's part of the reason the story keeps pushing you on.
Of course, there's another big reason to keep ploughing on with the various dungeons, and that's the tantalising loot. Every completed dungeon throws forth a slew of goodies to either sell or equip, and getting new weapons and armour is rare enough that it's satisfying while not being so rare that it feels like you're wasting your time. Progression feels fast and fair, although there were odd moments in the later stages of the game where we could feel the grind seeping in as we needed to reach the next level for a new dungeon to explore or a story note to trigger.
With its retro style and easy to digest gameplay Dandy Dungeon is a perfect fit on the Switch, and we found ourselves squeezing as many sessions as we could into our day, especially since you can easily blast through a three-level dungeon in mere minutes if you know what you're doing and hit fast-forward. It's just like Crypt of the Necrodancer in the sense that it's wonderfully cute in terms of its pixelated art style, but also simple and moreish to play, with music that reminds us of old-school Pokémon.
The more we played Dandy Dungeon and the more layers were introduced, the more captivated we became by its simple yet effective mix of RPG progession and roguelike dungeons. There was always something fun to do without being intimidating, even to the point where we enjoyed the puzzle of working out the best route to clear a dungeon and get a good ranking. It's an underlooked RPG that is made for playing on the go, making it a great fit for the Switch, and anyone who wants something different should look no further.
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