Adventure Time has seen quite a number of browser games via the Cartoon Network website and two console/handheld titles since the cartoon has come out in 2010. We reviewed the first one, Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!, when it was released late 2012. It proved that the cartoon setting could work with gameplay akin to Zelda II. Developed by WayForward and published by D3 Publisher, Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is the second title to make its way to consoles. Discarding the gameplay that made the previous entry worth playing, Adventure Time: EtDBIDK tries its luck with the top-down dungeon slasher genre.
In Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW, you start off as one of four playable characters tasked by Princess Bubblegum to explore the secret Royal Dungeon. As you traverse deeper into the dungeon, you will face different bosses and find plenty of items for healing and attacking. New characters to control are also unlocked the further you go through it. Fans of the show should recognize the bosses and playable characters as well as the enemies used.
When you first load up Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW, you are greeted by 16-bit graphics and vibrant cartoonish background. I enjoyed the direction they went with the graphics and background. However, I did feel that variety of enemies used and different stages were a bit lacking and repetitive. Those who watch the show will know that there is quite a number of enemies that could be used within the game. Instead we get to see the same few enemy types as we delve deeper through the dungeon. Going retro with the character sprites was a novel idea though it does conflict with the occasional scenes of characters drawn as they are in the show. The soundtrack wasn’t too memorable for me. It’s not distracting but if it wasn’t there, I don’t really think I would notice it being gone. One thing that I do think was done right is the use of the official voice cast for the characters.
Those worried about Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW being too difficult for the younger fans might not need to do so. Each character has unique attacks and abilities that can hope to help spice up the repetitive gameplay you will experience. An example would be how Marceline can just float across the pits and traps that are scattered throughout the floors while Finn would have to forego any treasures he could attain that way. Attacking is as simple as getting close to the enemy (or lining up for a projectile attack) and pressing a button. Some items you can find act as sub-weapons that can allow you to hit enemies from a distance which can be helpful, especially during some boss fights and some of the harder enemies you’ll find. Even with the characters having unique attacks, you will likely find that they control in the same fashion.
When it comes to exploring the dungeon, you will get the chance to rescue the occasional character trapped inside it as well as pick up gold and items that heal you or grant abilities that you can equip once you return to the outerworld hub. Every ten floors you are able to return to the surface to spend the gold on items and upgrades. The costs for these can seem steep, especially when you consider the fact that you cannot store the gold you brought out of the dungeon. Yep, that’s right. Princess Bubblegum collects whatever gold you haven’t spent as a ‘candy tax’ when you head back into the dungeon. Oh, and if you die before getting the chance to make it to the outerworld? Kiss all that gold and items you picked up good-bye. While the mechanic isn’t something that I would have an issue with, I did think that with the fact that it will be the younger audience wanting to play this that it is a bit harsh. At least, there should have been the option of turning that off so that it would be slightly easier for the younger players.
One thing that I was really hoping to keep me interested in this game was the story and the humor you could expect to find. I found it to be a bit of a hit-and-miss. The premise is a bit silly and something you’d have in a regular episode. I just don’t think they put enough into it to really make the game more enticing for those who might pick this up for the ‘Adventure Time’ branding. The bosses you face are all of the worst Candy Kingdom criminals who have made a run for it. It’s up to everyone’s favorite heroic duo (and pals!) to find out just how that was possible.
The title isn’t very long. Average playtime runs anywhere from ten to eleven hours depending on how much trouble you might have with certain floors and bosses. I should note that due to my trouble with keeping interest in the game, I only made it so far into it. I wanted to play until the end but considering how tedious it could get and that very likely chance of losing your save data (a bug that plagued many, I hear), I was happy to get roughly a third of the way through it. Multiple players can team up for some co-operative fun on all ports except for the 3DS version which makes sense, I suppose. Just be prepared for the possibility of having each player going off on their own and occasionally getting stuck due to certain characters not being able to travel across the same pits that others can. Having four characters starting out with others unlocked as you progress would seem to boost the amount of time you spend with the game but they don’t really add to it. Nor do they seem to warrant a second playthrough.
As much as I enjoyed WayForward’s first attempt with Adventure Time, I could not get the same satisfaction from Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW. The idea of combining the popular cartoon with the mechanics of a roguelike dungeon crawler is one that I could see working. It’s just a shame that Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW falls very short of delivering a promising game. If possible, I recommend renting it only to see if you can look past the flaws. Otherwise, it might be best to just pass over this one.