Review by SneakTheSnake
"I don't see much of an adventure here."
I've heard heaps of praise for the show on which this dungeon crawler is based but, if the level of creativity put into the show is equivalent to what was put into the gameplay design of this game, I wouldn't know where the praise is coming from. Even if Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know is a Diablo wolf in Adventure Time clothing, I think a lot of gamers and fans of the show will leave this game a bit crestfallen because of the lost potential here.
The idea, I suppose, is that the plucky adventurers Finn and Jake are tasked by Princess Bubblegum with exploring a 100-floor dungeon. Why? Well, as the title of the game implies, the reasons for exploring aren't entirely clear, but Finn and Jake decide to go anyway. They run into various characters from the show, including Cinnamon Bun, Choose Goose, the Ice King and so on; some of them are hypnotized and are in the dungeon as boss encounters every ten floors, after which they're knocked back to their senses and become playable characters.
This multiplayer action-adventure title sees your character of choice, along with up to three of your friends, running and slashing through floor after floor of baddies, traps and treasures. You can whack enemies with your basic attack, a charged-up basic attack or your secondary attack, which is usually a weapon lying around someplace in the dungeon. Beating up enemies increases your special attack meter, and these screen-clearing attacks come in handy for areas teeming with enemies.
It's a pretty textbook hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, sans any gameplay nuance. The 8-bit-style graphics and approachable gameplay go together all right, which makes it easy for younger players, inexperienced players and fans of the show to get the game more easily. However, I expect a bit more complexity.
What about experience points to boost my stats a little? Perhaps some combo attacks to help spice up the combat? What about a better parry / block system? It all feels so hollow. One just has to continuously press the square button to wail on these enemies, of which there are only a few different types, and collect the money, ammo and badges (which provide temporary stat boosts like extra HP, faster character movement and immunity to curses). Wash, rinse, repeat.
That, and money is very hard to manage in this game. Loot helps you level up your characters' HP, attack stat, special attack stat and focus stat (which I don't entirely understand the purpose of, since the in-game explanation is in Korean), as well as to buy items and weapons at the shop.
After every five floors, you have the option of leaving the dungeon to save and recoup. Only after you leave the dungeon can you stock up on items or boost your stats with the money you collected. Going back into the dungeon makes you lose any money you didn't spend.
Boosting your stats can be prohibitively expensive, so you'll have to grind and stick around in the dungeon for a lot longer than you want. You risk losing half your loot if you're knocked out in the dungeon, so your progress, whether you stay in the dungeon or decide to leave, could potentially go wasted. Why can't I put some money in a bank or something the same way I can store a secondary weapon outside the dungeon? If a stat boost you want costs 100 treasures but you only have 96 (individually or combined among your party), tough luck. You'll have to use the money on items you don't want or need, or else your money's lost.
Explore the Dungeon feels incomplete as a result. I suppose it's a nice game to veg out to; once I got into the swing of things, I found myself continuing to play with a sense of detachment from the overall product. If you just want to go into a dungeon and beat up some rock-slinging tentacles and so on, this could indeed be your game. I lost my sense of accomplishment and enticement to continue playing fairly early on in the quest.
I can say that the music and graphics of Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon are quite charming. I like the sprite-based graphics and the game's soundtrack, even if the backgrounds and level maps come off as a bit bland and repetitive. I especially like the 8-bit interface, the kooky and pixelated shop menu and the delightfully-animated sprites of Finn, Jake and the rest. They exude the characters' unique personalities with every pixel.
I'm kind of glad I rented this title as opposed to having bought it; I think I would be much more disappointed in this game if I were a hardcore fan of the show and / or decided to buy the game outright. I'm afraid there isn't much here to keep players' attention despite the charming, NES-inspired graphics, fun cutscenes and presentation, voice work from the cast of the show and pick-up-and-play nature of the game. The game lacks the gameplay substance for an extended stay in the land of Ooo.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 12/09/13
Game Release: Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! (US, 11/19/13)
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