Game Review

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Lee Meyer


D3Publisher, Cartoon Network and WayForward were definitely onto something in last year's Adventure Time: Hey, Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! Though the title was over too soon, it took players all over the Land of Ooo on a true-to-series nonsensical quest using Zelda II-like gameplay, with a top-down overworld and side-scrolling towns and dungeons. We'd hoped Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! would expand on the strengths of its predecessor and solidify Adventure Time as a strong licensed game series, but unfortunately this simplified dungeon crawler is a disappointing step back. While not without its charms, it manages to feel smaller in scope than Ice King and will grow old fast due to its lack of variety and surprise.

"Explore the Dungeon" is certainly on the nose. Bubblegum Princess calls for Finn, Jake and other Adventure Time favourites to travel deep into her secret dungeon to stop a prison riot, and before long they're traversing floor after monster-infested floor, picking up treasure and sub-weapons along the way. The single setting of the Candy Kingdom wouldn't be so bad if the dungeons were varied and fun to actually "explore," but each floor is randomized, and the theme (ice, for example) only changes every ten levels. Every five floors, the player is given the option of returning to the surface to spend treasure on items and character upgrades, complete side quests (which usually amount to killing a certain number of enemies and getting a rudimentary reward) and deposit sub-weapons.

A boss awaits the player on every tenth floor, and these battles are the most satisfying moments in the game; running from a frantic prison break while collecting treasure, destroying the Ice King's latest ridiculous creation and more feel like classic Adventure Time, and it's here where WayForward's signature creativity is able to shine through. Following each boss battle is an 8-bit styled cut-scene, with all the characters voiced by the show's actors. These silly interludes are funny and welcome, but we couldn't help but wish the entire game showed that personality.

Gameplay is simple, sometimes to a fault. Each character — Finn, Jake, Lumpy Space Princess and more — has a default weapon, a special attack, slots for power-up tokens and a sub-weapon slot. Certain characters have ranged attacks, while others are melee fighters, but sub-weapons add some balance to each character; Finn, for example, uses his sword, but with a sub-weapon like a Kitten Gun, can also fight from afar. Sub-weapons drop randomly and players will have their own preferences. Some characters, like Marceline and Lumpy Space Princess, can float over chasms and get treasure and items inaccessible to other characters, while tokens provide the most strategy and customisation in the game. Special attacks are built up with a meter, meanwhile, and can be very funny; Lumpy Space Princess, for example, makes an annoyed phone call that damages every enemy on-screen. Some tokens will give the player a health boost, while others prevent certain curses, speed the characters up, prevent recoil from being hit and more.

Treasure that is collected in dungeons can be used on items and on character building, but early in the game players may be agitated by the high price of boosting stats like health and strength, since treasure isn't as frequent in the early dungeons. In a frustrating twist, a "candy tax" prevents the player from keeping treasure after going back down into the dungeon, which makes collecting treasure a chore. Dying in the middle of the dungeon sends the player back up to the surface with half their treasure, and going back down means starting at the first of the five levels the player was traversing. Mercifully, players can retry boss battles, but will lose half their treasure in the process. The consequences of dying make for a challenge, but can also be very irritating when spending a lot of time playing only to die at the worst moment.

For a game based on a property with so much character and personality, Explore the Dungeon has a disappointingly generic presentation. Aside from the cut-scenes, the top-down 3D environments contrasted with pixelated character sprites isn't especially pleasing on the eye. While the voice acting is top-notch the characters' repetitive phrases wear thin, while the background music is without any flair or distinguishable trait. Thankfully the story, written by series creator Pendleton Ward, will please fans of the cartoon with a surprising twist ending that plays into the show's mythos (and is considered canon, according to D3Publisher).

The game supports local multiplayer, and while it's fun to play with friends, the simple, Gauntlet-style gameplay doesn't make for the most exciting time. Explore the Dungeon also allows for play on the GamePad, but the default setting puts BMO (the talking Game Boy-like character) on the GamePad screen to periodically talk to the player about power-ups or dangerous enemies, which is novel but far from useful. We were disappointed that the GamePad wasn't used for more practical purposes.


Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! is not a complete failure, but it's also not the game that Adventure Time fans deserve or should expect from a developer like WayForward. While the story takes some fun turns, the gameplay is too dull and one-note to keep players interested in the long term. While multiplayer will extend the experience and provide for some laughs — characters do say some funny lines, even if they get repetitive — this title is recommended primarily for the most devoted Adventure Time fans.

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User Comments (47)



Dark-Luigi said:

Dang, I was expecting this to get at least a 7. Oh well, "Hey Ice King!" looks better.



HawkeyeWii said:

Now this was one of those games I randomly expected to be an "out of nowhere" hit with a 9 out of 10, especially when the original game actually was received well.



Knuckles said:

Wow, I'm not a fan of the series, nor was I expecting to buy it, but I wasn't expecting the game to be this much worse than previous entries.



GuitarAnthony said:

I got it for Xbox360 and sadly, tons of repetitiveness and got boring real fast. I'm hoping its that their main focus is on Shantae for 3DS as well as the Kickstarter game. As long as those two are great, I can forgive them this game.



Stu13 said:

I understand the desire to do something wildly different from the last game. I do. But, this is pretty disappointing and definitely seems like a step backwards.



C-Olimar said:

Any news on when Hey Ice King! hits Europe?

I'll probably get this when the price drops. Looks like it would be fun in multiplayer for me, even though it wasn't for the reviewer.



BooJoh said:

I've been enjoying the game, and while I stopped about halfway through, it was more because of Super Mario 3D World than anything else. I'll be getting back into it soon I hope. I find that the enemies getting harder the farther you go changes things up and keeps it somewhat fresh. I really think this game needs a demo so people can judge for themselves, because I don't think it necessarily deserves the absolutely terrible reviews it's been getting from most sites.



Gamer_Natalie said:

Adventure time is ok..but I feel as if it should be nothing more but on flash games on the CN site...not for consoles



ricklongo said:

Videos I've seen of this game make it look like a cheap e-Shop title, to be honest.



Gioku said:

Dang, that's disappointing... I still haven't played Hey Ice King!, so I guess I'll just go with that one... and hope that maybe the next Adventure Time game is as good as or better than the first one...

Hopefully the 3DS version is better...?

And ew, the graphics are really gross in this...



Solid_Stannis said:

5/10? That makes it about 100% true to the series and probably the best licensed title ever in this regard.



Aerona said:

Wayforward is overrated in my opinion. Phew, feels good to get that off my chest. Anyways that's definitely disappointing, I'd certainly be interested in a well made Adventure Time game.



Melkaticox said:



Ok seriously, the entire industry is getting stupider. What with Sony and Microsoft releasing their consoles and games getting easier...and then these kinda stuff...



Lobster said:

I skipped ahead to the bottom just to see the score. Man, I'm bummed. I picked this up on my birthday (Sunday) when I was getting Mario and Zelda (Link Between Worlds) because I felt like I was being kinda brusque with the poor sales kid and wanted to let him rec something for me. The problem was, I already had like 90% of the games he pointed out, or they weren't my type (they were all good games). Finally he pulled out this one. He was clearly a HUGE Adventure Time fan and I asked him if he'd played it, he said no. I mentioned the other AT game was kinda wonky (mixed reviews), and that I hadn't seen any reviews of this one yet. But he was such a big fan, and frankly a lot of my friends are too and I know eventually I'm going to start watching the show as well, so I caved.

Off to read the review to find out why I shouldn't have. (Who knows, maybe it will still be playable... But obviously don't trust holiday part-time staffers, even if they can point out all the really good games for a console first.)



Gold said:

I still need the original 3DS one. ;( I really loved the 3DS eShop demo for that one. Good thing it's only $19.99 now. Hopefully next year, this will happen with Regular Show 8-Bit Land. (<<< Needs a demo NOW)



Lobster said:

Well, OK, that's not completely awful. Sounds kind of tedious but the kid didn't sell me a total dud.

Sunk Cost Fallacy? Maybe. But I'm not dreading playing it, it's just on the back burner for now. My own fault for buying a game without waiting for a review, after all!



WaveBoy said:

I agree, and Shantae gets too much praise. They did a great job with Contra 4 though and A Boy & his blob(Wii) looks pretty good. But those aren't their babies, they're just retooling somebody elses franchise and building on it. most of their original work('mighty' franchise) and Movie liscenced games aren't exactly all that....WayForward half the time is WayBackwards.



WaveBoy said:


Kids these days would have a temper tantrum meltdown trying to finish Ninja gaiden on the NES. They want big guns, tons of goopy blood, post appocolyptic wolrds all topped off with an unfitting baby challenge that a blind folded 5 year old could beat in their sleep.



Gioku said:

Though I'm a fan of retro games... I still have no intentions of ever touching Ninja Gaiden, lol... I can take hard... but not cheap like Ninja Gaiden was!



Kaze_Memaryu said:

What some people here seem to misunderstand is WayForwards (or any game companies') approach to developing license titles.
They get money for those license titles from their clients (should be Cartoon Network in this case) and have to deal with that or reject the offer. I'm also pretty sure they get a (more or less) detailed 'content plan' which outlines the setting, story content, and often also the prefered genre. WayForward had to work with that - they probably didn't go to Cartoon Network to ask for the project.
So, they have to make do with the funds they get from their clients and hope it works out. This more of a 'we need money' game than anything else. I doubt WayForward would've done this if they were doing well financially.



ToastyYogurt said:

Huh, I'm surprised. I thought everything WayForward touched turned to gold. Ah, well, if the price drops on Steam and a sale hits it, I might buy it. Sounds like a decent time killer at the right price.



Stix_Remix said:

Honestly, this game sounds like a typical "mystery dungeon" type game, and it seems like maybe the reviewer didn't get that (or doesn't enjoy this type of game).

Not saying the reviewer's opinion is wrong (particularly if the game was hyped improperly), but I don't see why the game should get a harsh rating for representing a particular genre.



jgibson75 said:

That's a shame. Seems to be the consensus based on the majority of the reviews I've read. Way Forward is very talented and the license is perfect for video games. And I enjoyed their original Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why'd You Steal Our Garbage for 3DS. It was far from perfect, but enjoyable enough. I'll hold out hope for a better AT game down the road.



Nictendo64 said:

Everyone on the Miiverse pretty much warned me about this. I'll wait till its on sale. It's a shame, I expected more.



retro_player_22 said:

Had experience with this game and really enjoy it, I'm not sure a 5/10 is fair enough but to me I would give it a decent 7/10.



ZurrrrBlattTron said:

Ehhh after lost worlds I really don't trust Nintendo life reviews :3 No offense but a review is just a opinion so I'm still getting it :3



Shambo said:

I was looking forward to this one... Might wait until a price drop. Just got Hey Ice King! in the mail, finally (on ds, since region locking and stuff...), so I'll manage



leemeyer26 said:

@Stix_Remix it's not a Mystery Dungeon-style game; those are turn-based and have rules about enemy movement and progression. This is more of a randomly generated Gauntlet (an old multiplayer arcade title).



WaveBoy said:


I'd still take Gaiden over playing Mega Man 10 on hard mode, Castlevania III, Ninja Gaiden III and adventure Island. but i agree, the first Gaiden can be cheap in quite a few places. It's mainly due to the enemy respawning that occurs the moment you scroll a teeny bit off the screen, INsane enemy placements that turn into a hazerdous butter ball death trap in combination with flailing back the moment you get hit reminiscent of castlevania(although i really like this, it adds even more to the challenge) AND those damn birds. The game still has a brilliant & kinetic rhythm to it though. Gaiden 2 & 3 feel a tiny bit more polished, i can't remember anything cheap about those 2, they were fair game. III was a nightmare in terms of challenge and almost makes the original seem like a trip to disney land. Perhaps the limited continues play a role in that!

Still, i'm a masochist gamer, i love a good challenge. I need that sense of reward, slippery surfer swet dripping down my noggin, mastering my skills harder than master splinter, trial and erroring' it up, to feel accomplished and most importantly to have bragging rights tee hee. I beat mega man 10 on hard mode, can i have a cookie?



SphericalCrusher said:

Probably have Santa bring this to the family for Christmas. Put this and Lego Marvel under the tree for WiiU. My son loves Adventure Time and I am sure would like this game.



GumbyX84 said:

I just played the PS3 version of the game (Gamefly sent me that instead of the Wii U version) and while I agree that it can get a bit boring at times, I still don't think it's as bad as reviewers are making it out to be. Gauntlet and Champions of Norrath got great reviews back in day and are still considered great games today. They play exactly like this. I don't understand how those can be so great and this so bad.

All that withstanding, game should be $40 at a max.



Gioku said:

@CountWavula: Haha, cool! The kind of difficulty I enjoy is like that from the later levels of Pac-Man; where it's all split-second reaction based and you've gotta know the intricate workings of the game. Same thing with Galaga. I love those games!



WaveBoy said:

Tell me about it. I couldn't believe they added in this very thing to Resident Evil 6. Leon busts out a device and it tells you exactly where to go....I mean seriously!? This goes against EVERYTHING that the franchise used to be. I LOATH this kind of crap. Nintendo wouldn't even stoop this low.

You keep feeding kids this easy junk and they're going to grow accustomed to it like they have been for quite a few years now. This is why so many games these days are so bloody boring because they hold you by the hand and give you a free pass. Oh yeahhhh, look at me....I'm all hardcore armed with a sub machine gun, rocking man-stubble in a mech suit blasting tons of aliens down that a blind folded 5 year old could achieve in their sleep. These kids need to be force fed NES games like Contra, Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, Battletoads, Double Dragon ect ect to see what a real MAN'S game is.

They couldn't handle it. incoming ADD temper tantrums and controller tossing. Heck, they wouldn't even play the game because they'd roll their eyes over 8-bit graphics and scoff at it for not having online or achievement points. What would it matter? they wouldn't be able to achieve anything, let alone getting to the 3rd level. I can't help but feel that many of these Brobox/PS4 overly violent 3D games were designed for 14 year olds. yes, i hate where the industry is heading,

nintendo has still got it but they have been playing it pretty darn safe with the Wii U. They need to take more risks and dive into some of their other smaller yet beloved franchises like Punch-Out!!, Wario Land, F-Zero and StarTropics. I love Mario as much as the next guy, but i want to be surprised with something NEW for once. a new franchises maybe? it's about time. Pikmin was the last great one they came up with.

Note to self, stop rambling.



Darkness3131 said:

@CountWavula They did say they had a new game idea... I swear I read that somewhere. (I also sympathize with your rambles. Too many people who don't have the patience for those levels that take practice and extreme skill. More fun for the rest of us )



WaveBoy said:

They said the same exact thing years ago during the Wii era, something about Miyamoto unveiling a new franchise during an upcomming E3.....Which never happened I read an article about 1-2 months ago i think that said the same thing. What i want to see is a brand new mascot.

Not an additional Wii series spin off or simular product aken to that casual cookie cutter brain training shinanigans, just a brand new franchise with a memorable character that can go down in history as being one of the greats just like Pikmin, or at least it deserves to be! Sorry, Pushmo dude & Harmo Knight, neither of you are worthy to take that spot.

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