Nostalgic graphics; full voice acting by original actors; faithfulness to creative direction
Lack of interesting gameplay; monotonous dungeons; not even co-op gives variety
Upon booting up, all signs point to Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! being an adorable Adventure Time-licensed game made with fans in mind. BMO’s face shows up on the Game Pad, grinning amicably, and pixelated portraits of Finn, Jake, Marceline, and a whole variety of other characters evoke sighs of nostalgia. But as soon as players get past the title screen, disappointment just might start to set in.
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is a top-down dungeon-crawler, a simplified form of games such as Gauntlet or Diablo. Up to four players control a variety of characters (including unlockable ones, such as perennial favorite Lumpy Space Princess), pummeling enemies with their bare hands. As players punch enemies, they fill up a gauge that can be used for up to three different special attacks, destroying all enemies on screen. Players can also pick up kooky items, from plain bamboo poles to kitten guns (they’re exactly what they sound like), and though they’re not very powerful, they’re often worth picking up just to see what BMO says (“time to shoot some kitties!”).
And that’s basically it. The plot’s threadbare– Princess Bubblegum wants Finn and Co. to clear out her dungeon because she’s too royal to do it– and considering the game’s a dungeon-crawler, that’s absolutely fine. But the game isn’t as deep as its 100-level dungeon. While the retro aesthetic and chiptune soundtrack are certainly charming, the lack of interesting character abilities or distinguishable traits definitely harms any replay value past the first ten levels.
The graphics are certainly charming, but the gameplay? Not so much.
What’s more, unlike in successful dungeon divers like Diablo, Finn and Co. never fight anyone reasonably interesting, nor pick up cool loot. In fact, you can only get money to buy stat upgrades above ground, though you have to spend a lot of time in the dungeon to get enough all at once, because you can’t keep it– even if you don’t spend it. (Princess Bubblegum literally says it’s because of taxes.)
Sometimes, characters can loot “tokens,” which enchant characters to have certain stat boosts or other abilities, including faster walking, but they are consumable and don’t add much to the experience. The only permanent additions to your save file are new characters unlocked every 20 levels or so, and since they’re hopelessly similar in terms of play style, there’s not much point to it except for aesthetics.
Monotonous level design does not flatter the license.
It’s just really too bad, because everything else besides the gameplay of Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! actually is quite the love letter to fans. Everybody’s voice-acted by the original actors, including Lady Rainicorn, who appropriately speaks only Korean. And the 16-bit visuals only encourage players to dive into the dungeon again and again, even if the place is monotonous beyond reason. Finally, BMO on the Game Pad, riffing on every little thing that happens onscreen, is just a fantastic Bastion-esque idea.
It’s just too bad that this dungeon crawler just doesn’t live up to what it looks like. Maybe next time, Finn. Maybe next time.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.