Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! is WayForward’s second crack at a game based on the popular cartoon, but it feels far less authentic than the first. The unique humour and sharp writing of the series are clipped in favour of fighting a handful of enemies across bland, randomly generated dungeon floors. That might have been okay if the exploration and combat were interesting at their heart, but that’s just not the case. The possibilities for fun are limited here for fans of beat-‘em-ups, and fans of Adventure Time will find little of what makes the show stand out.
The throwback look and sound of everything seems all right at first, but it’s not long before you notice the conspicuous lack of Adventure Time icons. The game lets you play as a decent collection of characters from the show, but the dungeon they progress through has no identifying marks. As you descend, the game disappointingly sticks to a few stock settings – classic stone dungeon, ice caves, jungle ruins – and fills them with boilerplate skeletons, bats and other fodder for you push through. With untold unique creature designs from the series waiting to be tapped, it’s tough to excuse its drabness.
Playing it can’t rise past that pervasive creative slump, either. There are ranged and melee characters to mess with, but none of them go beyond mashing the attack button. There are no combos to learn or identifiable skills to build. Weapon pick-ups change your attacks but only make them more effective, not more entertaining. Treasure gained from exploring the dungeon and killing enemies can upgrade an individual character’s stats, but none of that progression manages to make an impact. Worse is that unspent treasure is lost each time you return to the hub area and head back to the dungeon. The only way to afford the good upgrades is to repeatedly clear dungeon floors for extended periods of time without returning. That system takes the creative bankruptcy of this game to saddening lows.
Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! is a winking subtitle, but it also describes the game more accurately than it ought to. This is a functional but mostly joyless and aimless game whose design maximizes the most tedious parts of its dungeon crawl, and not even local co-op for four can make things more palatable. Adventure Time deserves more respect than this.