Adventure Time is one of the most creative, ingenious, and completely awesome cartoons to ever grace television. Considering that, it may come as a shock to hear that this video game adaptation, Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW, is anything but. All of the charm and crazy, random humor from the cartoon is absent, and instead gamers are delivered a repetitive, boring dungeon crawler with so little charm that you wonder if the title was meant to be ironic. Why the hell does this game have me exploring dungeon after dungeon, completing inane quests and doing the same thing over and over again? Honestly, I don’t know.
Basing its gameplay on classics like Gauntlet, the game has players explore dungeons, kill monsters, pick up gold, and search for staircases in order to advance to the next floor. On its face this isn’t a bad idea; I love dungeon crawlers. But somehow Explore the Dungeon gets everything wrong, borrowing from an 8-bit era game without giving players the modern luxuries we’ve come to expect.
For starters, there is no level-up progression system of any kind, meaning slaying monsters is little more than an exercise in futility. They seemingly exist just to slow your progress down, and you will receive absolutely no XP for killing them. Second, there’s a severe lack of item variation. There are several secondary items you can pick up and find, but although they are goofy (kitten gun, anyone?), they just aren’t practical to play with. And since you can carry only a single secondary weapon at any one time, I would find the one or two I didn’t hate, like the Ice Sword, and never change again. Worse than the limited variety of quality weapons is that absolutely none of them are upgradeable, including your standard weapon, of which you’re assigned only one and it never changes.
The only upgrade system comes in the form of passive stat boosts, which can be purchased in town for a ridiculously high price. Since I did my best to run directly to the staircase in each dungeon as fast as I could, I rarely could afford any upgrades. But if you want to search every crevice of each dungeon and kill every last Hug Wolf, I guess you may be able to pick up enough gold to afford a stat boost. But again, this will require you to spend more time dungeon crawling, and I have no idea why you’d want to do that.
Aside from passive upgrades, players can use tokens to get extra abilities. But none of them is interesting enough to care about, and if you exit the game or die before you reach the next checkpoint, all of your tokens will vanish. Some tokens may stop you from slipping on ice; others may make you immune to some enemy attacks, while other still may boost your max life. But few are more interesting than that, and none changes up the monotony of the gameplay in any significant way.
Part of the problem is that the enemies themselves are so generic. Some will fly at you and dodge attacks; other will simply walk straight at you, allowing you to kill them; a rare few may shoot fire in your direction. But they’re all killed in exactly the same manner: You walk up to them, and you beat them to death. That’s it. With a single button press, you slowly hammer at each monster until it is dead.
The dungeons themselves also lack variety. Each stage sports a cool 16-bit look combined with modern polish. But aside from the scenery, the dungeons themselves are all laid out exactly the same: a locked door here, a few pitfalls, a few treasure chests, and one damn staircase. Each feels the same as the last in terms of basic layout, despite an attempt to randomize each new floor.
After every five dungeon floors, you’re allowed to emerge and head back to town to switch characters or spend your loot on useless crap. Any gold you don’t spend is forfeited before you re-enter the dungeon-crawling tedium, and it’s nearly impossible to spend all of it, making saving up for the expensive upgrades even more difficult. Every 20 stages will earn you a boss battle, which are the only moments I ever found myself having fun. One boss had me smashing penguins into a floating, magical cat. It was super goofy and simple to complete, but it was actually enjoyable. For a brief moment, I felt a little bit like I was playing a game based on Adventure Time.
Fans of the show will be happy to hear that there are 11 playable characters, including some favorites such as the Ice King, Finn, Jake, and Cinnamon Bun. Each character also has a unique ability, allowing for some variation in how you traverse the dungeon. But at the end of the day, each character plays primarily the same; you just roam around slowly killing monsters, picking up gold, and seeking the sweet relief of stage-ending staircases. Somehow despite having the ability to unlock so many different playable characters, the gameplay never seems to change, regardless of which you choose to play.
If you aren’t satisfied being bored alone, you can have a friend join you in order to become both bored and frustrated. Up to four players can play at any one time. With each character having unique abilities, like Jake’s ability to stretch over pitfalls, the potential was there for a fun, competitive atmosphere of gold hoarding. But since there is no XP system to accommodate that, multiplayer is a complete bust. The only thing it does is make the experience of plodding through dungeons even slower, since now you have to wait for a friend to catch up.
It’s absolutely astonishing to me that something based off Adventure Time could be this unimaginative and unoriginal. Aside from the cool 16-bit art style and the occasional fun boss fight, there’s absolutely nothing about this game worth experiencing. Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW is so painfully boring that you wonder how the developers even enjoyed playing it. If you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers, stay away from this game. And if you’re a fan of Adventure Time like I am, don’t even give this game a glance. Despite the game’s having the same characters and voice actors as the cartoon, nothing about the brilliant cartoon seeps its way into these unhallowed halls.
GameXYZ is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo 3DS.