I want to like this game so bad. So, so very bad.
What I like: It’s Adventure Time!
I love Adventure Time! I’ve loved Adventure Time for a long time! I started watching the show approximately at the start of the second season, and, I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s a good show with a slightly off kilter view of the universe, and, frankly, it’s funny and adventurous. Jake the Dog and Finn the Human save and snicker at Ooo in equal measure, and that’s awesome for someone like me with a vague “laugh it off” life philosophy. And did I mention the mythology of the Adventure Time world? The apparently teenage princess of candy land is nearly a thousand years old, and was ultimately born of a catastrophically explosive war? Sign me the glob up!
Also, there’s Lumpy Space Princess, and that gal is always a good time.
What I like: It’s Adventure Time (for real)!
Now, just because you’ve got the Adventure Time license, that doesn’t mean you’ve got a “true” Adventure Time game. The previous Wayforward Adventure Time game, Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!, was a Zelda 2-esque adventure game starring Finn and Jake… but it seemed to take random liberties with the characters. No, it wasn’t like Finn suddenly had the ability to fly and Jake could turn into a seven-headed hydra or something, but the whole thing stunk of “we need to randomly insert this character because he/she is popular, and who cares if it fits in the Adventure Time world”. Here’s Flame Princess… just… hanging out? Here’s Lemongrab… for some reason? And LSP becomes a world-destroying threat? Uh… okay. The game was generally good, make no mistake, but the plot and overall setting felt a lot like the licensed games of days gone by: here’s a great concept for a videogame, and we’ve quickly slapped an Adventure Time skin on the affair so as to fleece the kiddies (and adult-shaped kiddies). Again: good game, but it seems like a videogame based on an animated series that contains so many videogame influences should have had much better gaming synergy.
However, it seems the folks at WayforWard learned from their mistakes. Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! got Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time creator) completely on board, and the game is, in its entirety, canon. Yes, I am the kind of nerd that believes dreaded continuity to be the devil that destroyed the comics industry (everything about that statement is a lie), and I don’t think a videogame has to be “canon” to be “real”, but here… it makes a difference. I liked AT:HIK!WYSOG?!! despite its continuity gaffes, but every single one still took me out of the experience. It’s a silly, superfluous complaint to have, but I like to be immersed in my videogames based on a children’s properties. AT:EtDBIDK! seems to more properly handle each character, and even offers additional mythology through the story and its finale. As someone that feeds on ridiculous stories, I couldn’t be happier.
What I like: It’s Retro!
Adventure Time has a decidedly retro flair to its aesthetics, so it seems only natural that its tie-in videogames would appear to be similarly “8-bit”. From the title screen to the cinema scenes, AT:EtDBIDK! hues closely to a pixelated style that is a fine simulation of classic games. And, no, it’s not just retro for the sake of being retro; it really does seem appropriate for this literal dungeon crawler to look similar to the dungeon crawlers of decades ago (well, the ones that weren’t just text-based, at least). There’s more than a little Gauntlet in the DNA of this adventure, so a similarity to Midway quarter munchers is practically required. The whole thing should make BMO happy. Actually, speaking of which…
What I like: Hey, an actual use for the WiiU gamepad!
This game was released for practically every system available at its launch (nobody loves you, Vita), but the WiiU version contained a special feature. Rather than just offer the option to play the game on the big screen or the lil’ gamepad (like, ya know, every non-Nintendo game released for the WiiU ever), AT:EtDBIDK! sticks BMO on the gamepad, so you get to venture through the depths with a constant, adorable companion. It’s not exactly a system selling feature (I never need to hear the phrase, “Try it with mustard!” ever again), but it is cute and very Adventure Time appropriate. It also makes every other company that claimed they could never do anything with the WiiU gamepad look like an asshole, so thank you for that, Wayforward. It’s the little things that make a game great, even when that little thing is a minuscule, sentient game system.
What I like: The other little things!
This is a very Adventure Time game, and it’s clear that there was a deliberate move to maintain that Adventure Time feeling through everything. Cyclops tears cure status ailments. Status ailments include being cursed by a Hug Wolf. There’s a kitten gun (that’s a gun that shoots out kittens, as opposed to a gun meant for shooting kittens, or a gun that is kitten-appropriate sized). There are malevolent deer. Fiona and Cake are not real. Princess Bubblegum collects tyrannical taxes. Marceline the Vampire Queen doesn’t actually “die” in a dungeon, she seems to simply get annoyed and leave. From top to bottom, this is a very dedicated Adventure Time experience.
And there are easter eggs for retro-fanatics, too! The magic wand blasts out Legend of Zelda-style magic waves. A pile of skeletons isn’t the only Castlevania reference skulking around, and Choose Goose is channeling every JRPG merchant that ever was. There’s just so much to like here!
What I don’t like: This game sucks
Despite everything, this game sucks. Character movement speed is atrocious, and the monsters are too fast or the dungeons are too big (or both). It seems to take absolutely forever to get anywhere, and practically everything feels uphill. Worthwhile loot starts at, what, 100 pieces of treasure? Per floor, you’re lucky if you find 20 helpings of treasure. By my calculations, that means it would take for-freaking-ever to purchase anything worthwhile. There’s a powerup to make everything go faster!… but it’s a rogue-like, and you could potentially lose that hard-earned ability after a particularly costly hummingbird ambush. Now it’s back to square one! Woo!
But you know what? The slow, plodding gameplay could work. Some of my favorite games are slow as balls, so that just means I utilize that rad WiiU gamepad and play the game on the small screen while watching horrible anime or something. Oh, wait, no… while the typical dungeon floors are slow and generally innocuous, the boss fights can be difficult and based on completely different skill sets (let’s play hide and seek!), so I better pay complete attention to those events, or risk losing my every last treasure. AT:EtDBIDK! isn’t consistent with its tedium, so, rather than getting to relax and enjoy a unique adventure, I’m constantly on edge. This isn’t Silent Hill. I love Harry Mason’s adventures, but sometimes I just want to be Jake the Dog and play a fun game while enjoying an everything burrito. Is that so wrong?
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! has a lot to like, but its gameplay completely turns me off. I really want to like everything about this game, but it is not to be. Maybe next time we’ll get an adventure where the fun will never end.
FGC #217 Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know!
- System: WiiU is my preference, but you may also enjoy the experience on a Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, or Nintendo 3DS. I understand the 3DS version is atrocious, but I’ve never tried it, so that might just be typical internet hyperbole.
- Number of players: Four, though I could not in good conscious ever recommend we play this game to my social circle. I still have at least one friend that is in an endless boredom coma thanks to playing Fortune Street, so I don’t want to risk the slowness of this title. Particularly when there are better Gauntlets about.
- Favorite character: Marceline the Vampire Queen and her rad axe are all I need. I’d choose her if she didn’t already have floaty powers, I swear. Then again, maybe I just have a weakness for vampires.
- So, did you beat it? Nope. According to my in-game clock, I put fifteen hours into this game, and that’s about when I quit. I looked up the ending on Youtube, and the final boss fight looked… monotonous. That was pretty much the final nail in the coffin.
- Did you know? Adventure Time has a ludicrously complicated and depressing backstory involving nuclear war and the destruction of nearly the entire human race. And it was all foreshadowed from the first second of the opening animation of every episode. Good job, Pen Ward.
- Would I play again: Nooooope.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Skate or Die! Oh snap, I’m probably going to die. Please look forward to it! … Wait a minute.