Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! preview: quirky dungeon crawling

By Gabriella Tato, Oct 02, 2013 8:00am PDT

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! is a traditional multiplayer dungeon crawler hearkening back to the SNES days. Putting its own spin on the classic dungeon crawler, the latest game based on Pendleton Ward's popular animation mixes its own brand of quirky humor with simple, but solid gameplay.

Princess Bubblegum has employed Finn and Jake to determine why prisoners are escaping from the Land of Ooo. It's up to you and up to three friends to navigate over one hundred dungeon levels to solve the mystery. The structure is simple: every five levels you return to the Candy Kingdom to switch characters and buy upgrades, every ten levels is a boss battle, and every twenty levels is a new environment. You navigate through defeating enemies, collecting treasures, and finding the exit.

It may seem rather barebones, but it compliments the charm and expansiveness of the Adventure Time world. At the start of the game, you can select Jake, Finn, Parsley, and Cinnamon Bun. As you progress, you can unlock other playable and non-playable characters by rescuing them, defeating them, and so on. Each character appears to have their own detailed and well-thought out brand of attacks and offerings, differing in everything from speed, attack power, health/defense, to ability to float across chasms.

A few playable secret characters made an appearance in the demo including Ice King, Marceline, and Lumpy Space Princess. I chose the slow, but strong Cinnamon Bun half because I was hungry, half because, I mean, he's a cinnamon bun. Aside from your basic attack, you can press and hold to charge up your attack; Cinnamon Bun, appropriately, vomits a torrent of colorful sprinkles. If you die in a level, your teammates can come to your rescue and try to revive you before you disappear; otherwise, you're out until the next level.

In addition to basic attacks and defense, each character has a unique summon attack, which you build up as you defeat enemies. "The orange bar underneath the hearts [is] your... 'imagination' [which] builds up your summons," D3 representative Edith Yang told us. "Finn's is like a massive attack so every enemy gets damaged. Ice King... freezes everybody."

The character diversity keeps four-player co-op dynamics balanced and interesting. While another player moved swiftly throughout the level as Marceline, for example, Cinnamon Bun seemed to slug along after. Since Marceline has fewer hearts than Cinnamon Bun, however, he makes a good defensive compliment. I imagine part of the replay value of the game will be connected to checking out all of the characters and combinations.

Depending on the dungeon environments, you'll encounter different enemies, such as the Hug Wolves, which "don't actually hurt you, but... hug you," says Yang, forcing you to have to hug other players in order to dispel the curse. In addition, some treasure chests contain "familiars," which have different effects that aid in attack, defense or do "absolutely nothing," such as Stanley, the watermelon, who merely rolls around the characters' legs. You'll also pick up numerous other treasures, which are automatically sent back to the Candy Kingdom upgrade station.

Graphically the game is a nice mix of 32-bit–era sprites and pre-rendered levels. At the end of boss battles, there are even pixelated "screens" a la PC classics like Monkey Island. Most exciting for Adventure Time fans is that the original voice actors voice the characters, and the audio quality is crisp and clear.

The latest Adventure Time installment will be released this November for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and PC, with Nintendo consoles getting exclusive features. Explore the Dungeon, like the show, pays homage to such classics as Diablo and Gauntlet--and pays it well. Obvious care has been put into combining the world of the cult TV show with references to gaming tropes, which, if carried well throughout, looks to keep gameplay fresh for both fans and newcomers.

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