Last year the furthest thing from my mind was that there would be a good game based off a television show. WayForward surprised me in the best way possible with Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!, and certainly got me excited for the next game they would be doing. Well, they surprised me again, although this time, I'm surprised at how disappointed I am in Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know. And this isn't just a slight let-down, this is a massive, avoid it kind of let down. Adventure Time: ETDBIDN is honestly one of the worst 3DS games I've played in the system's short life-span, which I really think is saying something, and I hope the guys at WayForward don't simply ignore the facts.
Where to begin? It's hard to say, what with all the technical flaws present in this handheld version of the game. Simple things that aren't even present in the console version, like slowdown when multiple projectiles enter the screen at the same time from common enemies, or the massive amounts of texture flickering that seem to get worse as the game goes on. Were they hoping people would abandon this game before the duct tape that's holding things together would come undone? The developers masked a few of the game's omissions in cute ways, like the character voices being swapped with a simple vocal loop by each actor, which I don't fault them for, considering that this is a handheld version, but the rest of the issues? I see little excuses for, it's clearly a rushed product and the game suffers immensely for it.
Visually this game is mediocre at best, but it gets downright ugly at times when textures collide and start flickering, which is a really common occurrence here. The sprite-work is excellent which is not surprising considering that this is a WayForward title, but it does start to get a little disappointing when you start seeing enemies that are just color swaps of earlier enemies. The audio is a bit of a letdown as well. Like I said before, the entire cast obviously couldn't be condensed down to the 3DS cart, so they went with a generic speech line for each character that plays whenever you talk the them. It's not bad, but when compared to the console version, it does feel like you're getting shafted a bit. The music is mostly forgettable which seems odd for a series that has such catchy tunes, instead here we have repetitive themes for each area of the dungeons that don't really do much to make you feel like you're experience something, instead it's just there filling a gap.
When was the last time you wanted to do one hundred levels of anything? Never, right? So I don't get why WayForward thought one hundred randomly generated dungeons would be a good time. And these dungeons get to be a bit long by the halfway point, making it feel like you're spending a lot of time on just one level. This might be okay if there were some cool loot or a good reason to go down there right? Well there is a good reason if you're a fan of the series, but it's such a small carrot that I might as well just spoil it all right here. Actually nah, if you want those deets you're going to have to go look it up. Getting back to the main point, yes, one hundred levels, broken up every ten stages by boss battles that are actually rather fun and are some of the bright spots of this game. But between those ten floors, a lot of boring combat, and a lot of treasure to pick up, in order to power up your characters.
The loot system is utterly baffling in this game, there's plenty of treasure to pick up, and you'll want to make use of all of it to level up your character, but if you return to the hub after every fifth or tenth level you'll have to lose your unspent cash. Why? In what world do you want to punish the player like that? I get that it prevents the player from being able to level up too fast, and there are tokens that will allow you to keep your unspent treasure, but those tokens are incredibly rare, and by the time you find them it's too little too late, because you'll be pulling in enough cash to pay off those final upgrades, and the items in the shop will be equal to the ones you find in the dungeon. Also should you die during your trips down there, you'll lose half your cash, and go back to the nearest check point level, which is on every fifth and tenth level, so if you die at say, level nine, you're going to start your adventure back at level five, which is an incredible turn-off when you get to later levels.
Exploring the dungeon itself is just a matter of finding the exit to the next stage, one part Diablo, one part Gauntlet, though minus the fun character growth with loot. I've got to applaud WayForward for getting so many characters in the game, and the playable roster is pretty good. You'll start out with access to Finn, Jake, Marceline, and Cinnamon Bun, there are others who will join the party as you progress through the dungeons, but I don't want to spoil the surprise, that would be... UNACCEPTABLE! Each character has their own specialty that makes them viable in the dungeon, Marceline and Jake can cross gaps, Cinnamon Bun is just a tank with a ton of hit points, and Finn is a great jack of all trades character that can also carry extra tokens in to the dungeon, allowing him to gain their perks. You'll find plenty of tokens on your trip too that can do things like speed up your movement (a must in this game, because it is agonizingly slow early on), increase your damage, or increase the drop rate of treasure, B-Mo will be on the bottom screen and can fill you in on pretty much every power-up in the game, which is helpful. Combat is a simple one button affair, with minimal combos for each character. You'll be getting a lot of mileage out of some of the special weapons that allow you to use projectile weapons, or freeze enemies in place. Out of all the characters, I like having Marceline as my main because of her ability to get some of those out-of-reach items and eat enemy projectiles to power up her special attack.
There are also quests that become unlocked as you get further down in to the dungeon. These quests are just simple things, like kill X number of Y, and find a specific item, nothing too taxing, but some of the rewards are great, as they can help max out a character who's got an upgrade that seems just a little out of reach. The upgrades available will increase your max hit points, your damage output, the power of your charged attacks, and the power of your special attack that can decimate the enemies in the area.
So boring, middling, repetitive gameplay, messy graphics, and bugs galore. It's a shame that a year removed from a pretty good Adventure Time game, we get this awful experience. I almost think that WayForward shouldn't have even bothered if this is how they were going to treat one of my favorite domestic cartoons in years. I'm utterly disappointed in Adventure Time: Explore The Dungeon Because I Don't Know, can someone tell me why this game was released in its current state? Because 'I don't know' seems like a recurring theme during this game's development, why is this game so busted? I don't know.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.