Review

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know

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Adventure Time, the popular cartoon series starring Jake the transforming dog and Finn the adventure seeking human set in the magical Land of Ooo, is filled with humorous characters, bizarre stories and incredibly imaginative events, brought to life by the stellar voice acting and wonderful animation – I’m a big fan.

I was excited when I heard that Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know would involve the original voice actors and the game would be stewarded by series creator Pendleton Ward, but while the characters and ideas from the TV show are here, the spark that makes Adventure Time special isn’t.

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What You Need to Know

Inspired by the visuals of classic 8-bit videogames, and the Game Boy era specifically, Adventure Time is a four-player dungeon crawling action RPG where you have been tasked by Princess Bubblegum to venture deep into the Royal Dungeon to explore mysteries including why the prisoners are on the loose. The main reason to take up the quest, however, is because (to quote Bubblegum): “I don’t know.”

Starting out on a limited overworld where you can upgrade your abilities and buy items, you’ll have an initial set of playable characters to choose from (Finn, Jake, Marceline the vampire and Cinnamon Bun), which expands to include other series favourites (like Lumpy Space Princess and the Ice King), each with their own weapons, statistics and special attacks that, when unleashed, do damage to every enemy on the screen.

Before beginning a new dungeon crawl session you can choose whichever character to play as, equip ability enhancing tokens that you find in the dungeon (or buy) that increase your speed, health, strength, resistance and more, and then select which level of the dungeon you want to start out at depending on if you’ve already reached that level – the game saves your dungeon progress every five levels, but not before, so if you have to quit before then or you die, you’re going to be replaying those areas again.

Each level of the dungeon is randomly generated, though, so while you won’t recognise areas when playing them again you’ll definitely remember the themes and colour palettes that are used and over-used as you work your way down to the depths picking up treasure, food to fill up your health and items to temporarily give you an advantage in combat against lumbering skeletons, darting fairies, projectile shooting tentacles and other peculiar creatures.

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What’s New?

The main draw to Adventure Time as a game is the flavour inherited from the TV show, with standard naming conventions for well known RPG statistics being replaced by ‘Rowdiness’ (strength), ‘Imagination’ (your special screen clearing ability) and weapons including a gun that shoots kitten and a whip made of ice-cream.

You’re also asked to pay a tax whenever entering the dungeon which clears your treasure reserves, so you need to think carefully about when to exit and enter depending on how much loot you’ve accumulated and if you know you have something to spend it on so as not to waste all your collecting work.

What’s the Same?

If you’ve played an RPG before, either of the action, turn-based or otherwise varieties, you’ll recognise the systems at play in Adventure Time with loot to pick up, abilities to upgrade, randomly generated dungeons to explore, items to buy and abilities to augment with special equipment.

Characters in the overworld will also give you side quests to complete on your next dungeon run with rewards to collect, while using your character’s specific strengths, weaknesses and abilities to your advantage will be beneficial when hacking and slashing enemies, dodging out of the way of their attacks and even absorbing projectile attacks to fuel your special ability meter.

You’ll Enjoy Adventure Time If You Liked…

- co-operative action RPGs like Torchlight 2, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance or Hunter: The Reckoning

- recent side-scrolling brawlers with light RPG systems, including Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim VS. The World

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What I Liked

- 4.) The use of the TV series’ official voice actors.

- 3.) While limited, the humour and general zaniness of the Adventure Time universe manages to shine through on occasion.

- 2.) The chance to play as many of the different characters from Adventure Time.

- 1.) Even though the on-screen action can get a little confusing at times, the game works well as a co-op experience.

Favourite Moments

It was fun speaking with key characters from the TV show and encountering enemies featured in specific episodes (like the Hug Wolf).

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What I Didn’t Like

- 5.) There isn’t a lot of variety in the actions I was performing and the enemies I was fighting, made more noticeable by simple palette swaps for the creatures – the things I was doing in the first hour were the same hours down the line.

- 4.) The visuals may be an homage to a previous generation of consoles, but it only comes across as a low budget effort with certain 2D art assets mismatched with the 3D environments. Cut-scenes, special attack animations and the menu art are especially poor.

- 3.) Paying the ‘dungeon tax’ is a clever risk/reward mechanic, but it seems unbalanced at times as I found myself losing lots of hard-earned treasure when there wasn’t much to spend it on, or when upgrade prices were far too high.

- 2.) Certain special items, like one that slows down time, are usually useless as their lifespan is far too short to take advantage of them, which is made worse by random item placement far from enemies.

- 1.) My biggest problem with Adventure Time is that the core progression of the game is simply boring with not a lot to mix up the gameplay or add variety to levels further down the line – the first hour of play will show you mostly everything there is to see.

Least Favourite Moment

With only one level to go until my progress was saved and I could take a break from the game, it crashed, meaning I had to replay the four previous levels again. It wouldn’t have been so bad if this didn’t happen again ten levels further into the dungeon.


Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know – Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

The chance to try a wide selection of different characters, unlocked as you play, will add replay value for Adventure Time super fans while a collection of unlocked BMO mini-games will provide a small distraction from the main quest.

The Bottom Line

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know sounds like an excellent idea on paper and with stronger involvement from the TV show’s key creators could have been something very special for fans, but the plodding dungeon progression combined with the weak art style and limited scope makes the game rather dull.


Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know was reviewed on the PlayStation 3


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