Not liking a cute puzzler like Dandy Dungeon: Legend Of Brave Yamada is a bit like observing a pet with chilly indifference. Puppies are nice, conceptually. There isn’t any different manner to purchase unconditional love. But puppies are flawed. Liking them means wanting previous their annoyances, discovering their embarrassments endearing, and placing in a whole lot of arduous work.
I discover DD’s dungeons extra dreary than dandy, however maybe they’re constructed for folks with extra persistence. Or a minimum of individuals who just like the jokes extra.
Meet Yamada-kun, a person of irrepressible enthusiasm and kooky life decisions. He spends all day programming in his pants, coding a recreation with himself as its hero. You play Yamada’s recreation as he builds it, regularly including ranges, complexity, and faff. The plot progresses as you degree up Yamada’s improvement expertise, typically by working by outdated dungeons. It’s not lengthy earlier than you’re fired out of your job at an evil and colossal online game studio, and instantly they set about stealing your work.
It’s neat framing, and never with out allure. I like how Yamada’s garments disintegrate as he transitions from heroic videogame Yamada into lonely bed room Yamada, who’s pining after the subsequent door neighbour he’s fallen in love with. He has additionally, considerably creepily, programmed her into his recreation as a Mario-esque princess in misery. That’s performed as satire, with Yamada convincing himself that the trail to his neighbour’s coronary heart lies in defeating fake monsters as he invents them. The display screen will get swamped in flowers every time she pops by. It’s an entire factor, and comes throughout as foolish and self-conscious, somewhat than as abuse of a trope.
I couldn’t bear to say this to his face, however Yamada’s recreation is a lot worse than it might be. You traipse by small dungeons, break up up into ranges that every take lower than a minute. The purpose is to attract a path from begin to end, bashing down monsters whereas popping well being potions and spells. You get a bonus in the event you handle to stroll over each tile, which is difficult by how they fall away when you tread on them. Figuring out how to do that varieties the brunt of the sport. Maybe 90% of my brainpower went into plotting out excellent routes, ignoring the monsters and specializing in the actual constraints: partitions.
That’s the large downside. The monsters ought to matter, however they don’t. You’re speculated to manoeuvre round their capabilities, avoiding ranged assaults, prioritising totally different threats. For essentially the most half, although, I merely didn’t must. I survived by utilizing objects, timing well being potions round well being-granting mid-stage degree ups, and popping the odd magic scroll when I wanted to. This doesn’t demand a lot thought. It’s unhealthy at making you are feeling intelligent, and if a puzzle recreation doesn’t make me really feel intelligent when I succeed (or a minimum of silly when I don’t), then it has failed as a puzzle recreation.
There is a possible model of this that works. One that isn’t structured round these excellent routes by every degree, and as an alternative calls for you take note of their occupants. It wouldn’t even want any new concepts! There are already enemies that assault from afar, enemies that summon buddies, enemies that heal or, um, oil their mates. They might be woven into an intricate net that you want to fastidiously choose your well past, somewhat than a cobweb you may storm by.
Yamada additionally has entry to a spread of skills, gained by equipping objects between runs, however they principally really feel as redundant because the monsters. And as frustratingly near working. I can placed on a chef’s outfit and get a knockback assault, for instance, and it’s crying out for me to assemble paths round its use, letting me kick powerful enemies into the void. But there’s merely no want. I’d prefer to see each degree by the lens of skills like that, as I would with Into The Breach or Desktop Dungeons, however I’m six hours in to DD and it’s but to occur.
If DD pressured me ahead, giving me new threats to reckon with every time I cleared a dungeon, I would nonetheless discover it repetitive. The undeniable fact that I actually need to repeat outdated ranges makes me wish to tear my hair out. The grind comes baked in: not solely do you want to repeat outdated dungeons to unlock new ones, there are additionally recurring mini-bosses with highly effective objects you’ll need. Those are on the finish of significantly lengthy dungeons, and solely have an opportunity of dropping mentioned objects. If you’re unfortunate within the digital coin toss, you’re in for but extra repetition. They don’t care about your time. It’s infuriating.
This all sucks, as a result of that unsatisfying core is wrapped up in offbeat, typically shocking presentation. You by no means see exterior of Yamada’s condominium, for instance, however he will get a cavalcade of tourists. There are bosses from the evil and colossal online game studio that fires you at first of the sport, who even have their very own evil music, sung to the tune of Frère Jacques. Your mum posts you bonus ranges, someway. I as soon as opened the door to a pig.
It’s amusing, but in addition counter-intuitively tame. There’s a bent to lean on repeated codecs, propping up jokes with formulation that give diminishing returns. I chuckled the primary time Yamada flat out ignored a ravenous adventurer who’d simply given him a brand new improvement concept, smiled the second time, and was nonplussed by the third.
Ultimately, even when extra of the jokes had landed, they wouldn’t have been sufficient to hold the sport they’re crushed beneath. I’m conscious that repetition in video games will get rubbed in by enjoying lengthy stints for overview. Perhaps all of it would have been much less tiresome if I’d skilled it within the small bursts the unique cellular model of DD was designed for. But repetition usually isn’t good recreation design. It must be spiced up with novelty or thought, and the precise dungeons of Dandy Dungeon don’t pack sufficient of both.
It’s bought coronary heart, that pet, but it surely wants extra brains.