If you’re not a fan of Pendleton Ward's Adventure Time series on Cartoon Network, but found this review because you love dungeon crawlers, we’ll save you the effort of reading on, this is a bad game we’d have a hard time recommending to anyone except for die-hard fans of the TV series. Even if you can’t live without Jake and Finn’s adventures in the Land of Ooo, you might want to read on before considering this as a purchase.
One thing we should make clear from the off though is this; Explore The Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! isn’t sub-par because of its license to use an IP, it’s because WayForward’s idea of good game design has taken a long drive off a short cliff.
With that said though, the games narrative setup isn’t stellar either. Princess Bubblegum, anxious over the sudden rise in escapes from the dungeon below the Candy Kingdom, has asked Jake and Finn to get their hands dirty in her name, and get to the bottom of the 100 floor dungeon to find out just what in tarnation is causing all the ruckus.
Whether you get to the bottom of the trouble or not though, is dependant on your ability to care about what happens when you do, because the dull gameplay alone won’t be enough to encourage you. Just hope that Pendleton Ward’s promise of a big reveal after the end credits is a large enough temptation.
Split into various types of stage, the majority of the 100 floors take the form of classic dungeon crawler games. As Finn, Jake, Marceline or Cinnamon Bun, you can tackle these stages however you want - they aren’t linear. However, there isn’t a whole lot you can actually do in each floor. Your main goal - apart from finding the trapdoor to the next stage - is to find treasure scattered around the area. This is used to upgrade whichever of the eight characters - four are unlocked as you progress - you prefer to play as when you return to the surface.
For every five floors that you conquer, Princess Bubblegum will offer you a handy teleport back to the tiny hub world above ground, where you can spend your booty. The only trouble is, any treasure you find is taken from you upon re-entering the dungeon if you don’t spend it. So if you don’t have the necessary funds to upgrade your character - too bad for you.
We can see why WayForward have implemented such a system, and if the games combat and exploration elements were actually entertaining, we would commend them for it, but as it stands, the time investment is just not worth it, especially as character upgrades are superficial at best.
So what makes combat such a bore? For starters, enemy AI is abysmal. There’s a large variety of enemies, ranging from werewolves to big gooey tentacles, but they either move at a snails pace or they sit, stationary, spewing 1mph projectiles at you. You have your basic attack with the X button and a Y attack that utilises weapons that can be found around the dungeons. These are often projectile weapons such as kitten launches, that are just a pain in the ass to use due to poor implementation.
You can also find tokens - which act as passive buffs to speed or damage - that can be applied to your avatar at the start of every batch of floors. We would suggest using the movement speed buff whenever possible, as the default speed would make a tortoise looks like the Roadrunner.
For every ten stages that you slog through, you’ll reach a boss floor. These are far better than the tedium you have to endure to get to them, with our favourite being the Ice King’s psychic pet cat, who has to be defeated by punting penguins into his telekinetic shield. Aside from these, you’ll encounter time trial stages, but these are a simple case of surviving in a floor long enough for the door to freedom to unlock itself.
If you can stomach the bland gameplay, there are some enjoyable facets to the game. The majority of the cast from the TV series have lent their voices to their respective characters, and the humour of the TV series has been captured, albeit in bizarre 8-bit inspired cutscenes; but even as a fan, we’re not sure if this is worth the price of a full retail title. Perhaps the main saving grace is the four player co-op. Exploring the dungeon with friends will stave off the boredom for longer than if you were to go it alone, but without any semblance of tactics needed, you’ll find that you’re just delaying the inevitable.
We’re not surprised Little Miss. Bubblegum didn’t want to explore the dungeon herself, she knew about the horrors of bland gameplay and uninspired design that lay below her kingdom, deciding to let her peons come to the horrific realisation themselves. Unless you’re an Adventure Time fanatic or merchandise collector, we suggest you steer clear of this disappointment.
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
If you’re looking for a new dungeon crawler to play, Adventure Time isn't what you’re looking for. Even fans of the TV series should be wary of dropping cash on this below average game.