It’s an animated phenomenon that’s swept through the land, claiming the interest of young and old alike with its insanely entertaining and obnoxiously near the mark humor. This can only be a reference to Adventure Time: the cartoon series that’s making the toddlers giggle and the adults rethink their attitudes on life. This could also be a referral to the recent console adventure (sorry) the show has undertaken with Explore The Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW (which for the purpose of this review and its author’s fingertips will be referred to simply as Explore The Dungeon). Whilst hugely popular going about its business on Cartoon Network, how does Adventure Time stack up when it’s getting mathematical with your precious console?
First and foremost, this is a dungeon crawler, something you probably deduced yourself thanks to its aptly chosen yet rather lengthy title. You can take control of your favorite heroes, Finn the Human or Jake the Dog to explore the many floors of Princess Bubblegum’s prison where the nasty captives have conveniently escaped. You’re also given the option of playing as other familiar characters from the show like Marceline, Cinnamon Bun and Lumpy Space Princess, all of whom have their own unique abilities. Thankfully the abilities aren’t crucial and mean you can pick your favorite character to explore the dungeons with little consequence but you should obviously pick Jake every time though.
The game is presented in a heartwarmingly arcade format, from the tacky synth soundtrack to the pixilated graphics. This does take some getting used to, especially when it feels like you’re playing Pokémon on a console, but it is oddly fitting with the tone of the game. The dungeons themselves possess a little more fidelity, as does much of the scenery, but it’s nothing to make your retinas moisten with excitement. The dungeons follow a disappointingly repetitive format with very, very little variety, the only differences being the placements of certain walls. This leads to boredom and an inability to play for more than an hour at a time without praying for the yellow light of death. Thankfully playing in small bites works in your favour. You’re also able to save every 5 floors of the seemingly massive dungeon and face a boss battle every 10, which helps to spice things up a tiny bit.
The boss fights are no different to the combat in the rest of the game, thwack it until it flickers and disappears, only bosses take far more thwacks than average foes found in the catacombs, as you’d expect. Combat is sweetened slightly by the array of ludicrous weapons you’re able to use, a particular favorite being the deceptively brutal Kitten Gun. Alongside the weaponry you’re also able to upgrade your chosen adventurer with the hard-gathered cash you find on your gloomy travels but unfortunately you can’t stockpile this cash in between dungeon adventures due to Bubblegum’s Candy Tax, which robs you of all your money upon re-entry to the dungeon. This helps to balance the game by forcing you to explore every nook and cranny of each floor to gather as much cash as possible to splurge on upgrades when you resurface, very clever WayForward.
Adventuring alone, as aforementioned, can become a brain numbing experience relatively quickly and sadly adventuring with other players doesn’t help the situation. The difficulty doesn’t noticeably spike with added players and the screen clutters up quicker than Finn and Jakes tree house. Playing co-operatively merely enables to you to traverse dungeons more quickly but does little to add challenge or depth to the repetitive onslaught of undead candy people and angry kookaburras. It’s this lack of depth that’s the real killjoy of this game. The show is, well… deep. Whilst being aimed at children and connecting with them through pretty colors and slapstick it also connects with the adult viewers through serious moral questions, sexual references and very tongue in cheek replacements of profanities.
The game has done little to mimic this, delivering very little that resonates amongst the different audiences leaving us with a game that only really resembles Adventure Time on the surface. That being said, it’s a charming game with a lot of merit to be found in the presentation and accessibility of the title. It will undoubtedly fare well with younger audiences who’ll enjoy the familiarity of the voice acting and the simplicity of the gameplay, it’s just unfortunate that older gamers are simply unaccounted for when it’s obvious that the creators are aware of the adult interest in the show.
Tediousness is the biggest pitfall of any dungeon crawler and Explore The Dungeon has face planted its way to the proverbial bottom without an apparent care in the world. With such rich source material it’s unbelievable that so few of the shows characteristics were utilized in the game, a blatant disregard for the fans astonishingly apparent. Explore The Dungeon is un-inventive, unimaginative and largely boring, everything the TV show isn’t, leaving this somewhere in the Ice Kingdom under a pile of Ice King’s toenail clippings, hopefully to never be spoken of again. What time is it? Time to play something else.
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