Play this game because I DON’T KNOW!
Someone who has never spent time in the Candy Kingdom will likely wonder what the hell is going on in the animated series Adventure Time. The show has an almost cult following, able to straddle that thin line which is appealing to both adults and children, whilst also pandering to gamers with its many videogame references and soundtrack.
So a decent videogame tie-in with the series not only makes sense, but is almost essential. Adventure Time: Explore The Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! from WayForward may not be the first videogame based on the animated series, that was Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!, but it is the first game on the big consoles. Unfortunately, despite the mass of fan service paid in the game, it is just not very good.
The 16 bit presentation may throw any gamer who hadn’t been previously warned, causing concern that their beloved console had somehow regressed through time. It is jagged and unappealing to look at, but strangely fits with the subject matter. You can get used to it over time, even if it does look like it could have been a Megadrive game.
But the real question is “do you want to get used to it?”. Adventure Time: Explore The Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is a dungeon crawler, and not a very interesting dungeon crawler at that.
The story is that Princess Bubblegum, ruler of the Candy Kingdom, has a bit of a problem. The dungeons beneath here castle, where she locks up anyone who displeases here, don’t seem as secure as they should be and she is worried that prisoners may be escaping. She would sort it out herself, but she is far too busy, so the job turns to our heroes Jake and Finn, along with other characters to make the game playable by up to four players.
After a short tutorial in which Princess Bubblegum explains the basics of the game, such as the charged main attack, deflecting projectiles and using items as weapons, the player is left to start roaming the 100 levels of the dungeon, collecting treasure and defeating enemies.
The game is reminiscent of the original Gauntlet in that the levels themselves don’t change their themes very often, and the enemies are not all that varied either. The player will run around the given level collecting treasures, opening treasure chests and fighting the bad guys until they find the stairs to the next level, then rinse and repeat.
Every five levels, the player has the chance to head to the surface and spend any of their hard earned treasure on upgrades. However, these upgrades are expensive and any treasure left when the player ventures back into the dungeon is taken as “Candy Tax”, leaving the player with nothing, making saving up quite difficult. Exploring the dungeons is an exercise in grinding, and just not that much fun.
What is more fun though, is the sense of humour in the game. The different playable characters have little mannerisms from the show, each with different moves specific to their character, and are faithfully recreated. There are plenty of other moments of humour, such as the kitten-launching gun that is available early in the game, but it is just not enough to keep the player entertained.
Many games improve when they are not played alone and with Adventure Time: Explore The Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! supporting up to four players, you would hope that the multiplayer game raises the laughs or the enjoyment. Sadly, the monotony of the unvaried dungeons and the constantly repeated enemies, who occasionally have a skin change but that is all, means that even with four players, the game loses steam really quickly.
Although the game tries to encourage continued playing through new characters to unlock and upgrades to be bought, Adventure Time: Explore The Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! simply fails to offer any interesting gameplay. The source material is there, but somewhere along the way the developers forgot that videogames are supposed to be fun. While fans of the TV show will get some thrills from the characters and setting, even they will soon turn off the game in favour of watching the show instead. A wasted opportunity…