Review – Dandy Dungeon: Legend of Brave Yamada

For his part in creating my beloved Chulip, Yoshiro Kimura has earned a lot of goodwill from me. As such, I’ve been happily lapping up the games produced by his new studio, Onion games. However, I missed my chance to play Dandy Dungeon: Legend of Brave Yamada on mobile, and I don’t remember why. The game is now defunct on the mobile platform, and it looked like there was going to be a big hole left in my heart where another game from my hero would have gone. Luckily, it’s out now on the Switch, newly balanced to remove all microtransactions, and I’m absolutely thrilled.

Have a seat. We’ve got a weird one to look at.

ONE KILLER DILLER

You can absolutely smell the mobile game on this one, but I’m not completely convinced that’s a bad thing. Dandy Dungeon is a game about Yamada, a 36-year-old man who has given up on his stable job to enter the realm of indie video games. Clad in only his underwear, he seats himself atop his wooden steed and gets to work programming his magnum opus. Of course, he designs himself as the hero of the game and the girl next door — whom he’s fallen in love with at first sight — as the princess in need of saving.

Yamada then rationalizes that if he completes his game, the girl will fall in love with him. So, yeah, there’s some difficulty separating fantasy from reality, but by the end of the game, you’ll have that same problem, I assure you.

The game itself is closer to a puzzle game than a dungeon crawler. You’re presented with a simple maze on a 5×5 grid and have to try to reach the end while touching every exposed tile of the board exactly once. You can complete a given level without touching every tile, but doing so will both cause you some extra damage, and prevent you from receiving the floor’s bonus.

Along the way, you encounter enemies that populate the dungeons, but simply crashing into one of them along your route begins an automated battle process. Largely, Yamada just smacks them until they die or he does, but you can intervene by using spell scrolls. Along the way, you grab treasure and gold that allows you to upgrade Yamada. It’s a simple gameplay loop, but an extremely addicting one.

LOOTLE LOOT LOOT

Murdering enemies brings experience points which level you up, as it often does, but your hero’s level is not persistent. Dandy Dungeon borrows a lot of Rogue-like design, providing randomized loot, dungeons, and enemies. Despite this, the sense of progression is brisk. Loot gets showered on you continuously, constantly giving you the supplies and money to upgrade your equipment and build sets of armor.

The dungeons are broken into two distinct columns. The first is the typical story dungeons that have varying numbers of floors. The second is dungeons from mom. She constantly sends you new dungeons to try out, and while most of them are a mere three floors, the variety between them keeps them pretty significant. It also helps that you get some awesome loot from some of them. I probably spent way too much time plumbing mom’s dungeons and neglected the main story for long swaths of time.

I used to greet my neighbours this way, but now they lock their door.

THE SIDEQUEST SWINDLE

Really, that’s the mobile part coming in. You’re constantly filling bars and accumulating loot. It’s hard not to get kind of addicted when things are dinging at you after every success and you’re always one more grind away from getting the next big thing. Loot drops are random, as previously mentioned, which means you may be diving back into the same dungeon over and over again seeking that one perfect MacGuffin. Even worse is that there are some excellent rewards for finding all the types of treasure in the dungeon. I’ve seen the inside of some dungeons more times than I care to admit.

I’m a bit resentful about it, honestly. It’s a love/hate thing when someone goes into my brain and starts poking at the switches that make me feel good. On one hand, I know exactly what they’re doing and don’t like being manipulated, and on the other hand, I’m enjoying it too much to care most of the time. What softens the blow is that the microtransactions have been removed. I know that the game isn’t trying to sell me anything else, so why not sit back and just enjoy having my buttons pressed?

PRESSING BUTTONS

It helps that the game is wrapped in such a charming exterior. It contains all the weirdness I expect from Yoshiro Kimura. Yamada is a lovable loser; extremely passionate, incredibly shameless, and admirably weird. He’s flanked by a number of other weirdos who show up at his door, often to abuse him mercilessly. This frequently inspires him to add them to his game, rounding out the side-mechanics.

The music is a weird mix of generic background tunes and bizarre acapella singing. It feels almost like a soundtrack made by someone with no background with music like Yamada would make. It was done by Keiichi Sugiyama, and is wonderfully surreal and memorable. It adds heavily to the weird loner fever dream that the game’s story represents.

I honestly can’t describe how much I love the whole aesthetic. The pixel art grinds me at times, as it carelessly mixes resolution in a way that is just deeply ugly, but it’s otherwise well done. The sheer number of costumes and enemies is dizzying, and while many of the enemies are just your typical RPG fair, the costumes run through all sorts of parody and cliches. The bizarre characters that visit you are all memorable and speak in the typical Love-de-Lic gibberish.

Yo-ho-hoi!

DUNGEON DIVING

I absolutely love Dandy Dungeon, and while some of that love is because it got its mobile design hooks into me, it’s more than that. It’s because it’s a weird and unique product. Something that’s simple enough to suck you in, but presents a wonderful aesthetic to make it worth its time.

The lighthearted story that presents itself as a fusion of fantasy and reality is just so weirdly charming. Perhaps more so than watching bars fill and your loot pile up, it’s fun to just watch who shows up at Yamada’s door, and what strange gem of advice they’re going to drop on the half-naked hero. Charmingly weird is generally what I look for in Yoshiro Kimura’s games — something that provides an off-the-wall peek into the human condition. When it comes to Dandy Dungeon: Legend of Brave Yamada it certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard.

8/10

This review was based on a digital copy of the game purchased from the Switch eShop. It was paid for by the author.

About Adzuken 160 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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