Developer: WayForward Technologies.
Publisher: D3 Publisher / Namco Bandai Games.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Microsoft Windows.
There are very few franchises more suited to video game adaptation than Adventure Time. Pendleton Ward’s insane, brilliant cartoon has a very significant gaming influence present in many concepts and episodes, and the Land of Ooo is so filled with ridiculous creatures, ocean-slaying heroes, and demonic blood swords that one could probably make about four or five full-scale RPGs out of it (note to any developers who may be reading this: do so, and we will give you all of our money).
Adventure Time’s previous foray into the gaming world came in the form of 2012’s ‘Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!‘, also developed and published by WayForward/D3 Publisher. The game was an action-adventure side-scroller with a considerably-long quest that garnered it favourable reviews. Now, we have our second game from the developer, Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know!
At its most basic, the game is a dungeon-crawler by way of a hack-and-slash (playable by 1 – 4 players). Players can choose from one of four characters (Finn, Jake, Marceline, Cinnamon Bun) unlocking four more as they progress through the game (Lumpy Space Princess, Flame Princess, Ice King, Lemongrab). Each of these characters has certain traits and abilities that distinguishes them against the others (Finn can equip extra Tokens, which add a certain effect to the player such as increased block power/damage; Marceline can fly over pitfalls/traps and absorb projectiles; Cinnamon Bun has high health; etc). Stats are divided into four categories: Thumps (health), Rowdiness (damage dealt), Focus (decreases the time needed to execute a Charge Attack, which is what it sounds like) and Imagination (influences how many Special Attacks are available to the character, Special Attacks essentially being a powerful attack that has a screen-wide effect), and these stats can be upgraded in the game’s hub by paying a certain amount of treasures to certain characters.
Plot-wise, the game opens with a breakout of imprisoned villains from the Secret Royal Dungeon underneath the Candy Kingdom. Princess Bubblegum dispatches the player characters to investigate how this could be happening, as the dungeon is supposed to be impossible to escape from. It is worth mentioning at this stage that the plot of the game is fairly minimal throughout, the only real big story moment coming at the game’s ending (although it is a fairly enormous plot twist, one that I won’t spoil here, but it comes as a definite surprise!) and realistically, the plot has only minimal impact on the gameplay.
The gameplay in question is quite solid. Characters have two methods of attack, their regular slash-hit-slash-punch attacks and their Charge Attack, a more powerful version that requires holding the attack button for a brief while. In addition, every character has their Special Attack, the above-mentioned screen-wide special-effect move, which relies on a meter that can be charged by killing enemies/blocking attacks. The dungeon progresses in a typical roguelike fashion, with increasingly-powerful enemies and more hazards turning up as the player descends further. There are treasures aplenty to find, whether they be healing items, sub-weapons (which can be stored between levels, quite a task due to the sheer variety of them) or the items actually entitled Treasures, which serve as the money equivalent. The way money is handled in the game is a rather interesting one: Treasures can be spent in the hub level, but no treasure can be carried over when the dungeon is re-entered. It’s quite an awkward system, to be honest, making the matter of money management simultaneously less and more irksome, but it does add an incentive to explore the dungeon more, ensuring that you’ll have enough money to buy your essentials.
A big part of the game, and generally the reason that most people will be picking it up, is the Adventure Time universe itself and how the game relates to it, and on that front, it does not disappoint. Each of the main characters has new lines and clips recorded specifically for the game, there are a ton of cameos and less-known elements of the show making an appearance, whether they be as helper characters in the dungeon itself, as bosses, or just wandering around the game’s hub. The style of the game does the cartoon justice, it’s very bright and colourful, with nice sprite work and very retro cutscenes.
So all in all, that’s Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! It’s a fun game, nothing too out-there as games go but a definite solid effort. If you’re an Adventure Time fan, you’ll more than likely enjoy it, particularly the multiplayer aspect. If you’re not an Adventure Time fan, however, chances are you won’t be too enamoured with this game, as the Adventure Time universe is a big part of its charm.