Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! is a game best played with up to three other friends in local co-op mode, and even then it's probably only best in 1-2 hour spurts. It could make for a decent diversion for old school dungeon crawler fans, though.
"Adventure Time" is a popular Cartoon Network series created by Pendleton Ward. Both Pendelton and developer WayForward, known for several great games on the NDS, have teamed up again for this second Adventure Time videogame. Everything from the menu to the graphics and sounds are a tribute to old school 16 bit titles, which some younger gamers may have no understanding of and others may just find annoying. Personally, while I never played many of those 16 bit dungeon crawlers, I didn't mind the angle that the devs took with this one as it sort of fits the very offbeat and spontaneous nature of the show. On the other, in this case more important hand, the monotonous gameplay does seem to be in stark contrast to the show itself, but that doesn't make it awful.
I played the first few hours of what I will conveniently call Adventure Time 2 (AT2) solo, and I have to say between me not knowing anything about "Adventure Time" other than the name of the series and the tedious gameplay, it was a bit of a chore to start out with. The story sees Princess Bubblegum calling upon Finn and and Jake to come to her Candy Kingdom to help squash an uprising taking place in her massive dungeon. This dungeon -- 100 floors deep to be exact -- houses nothing but monsters and other beasts that need to be put in their place.
At the outset, players can choose between Finn, Jake, Cinnamon Bun, and Marceline, with four more characters available to unlock as you progress (the first of these came just ten floors in after the first boss fight, but I do not recall her name). Each character has a stats card with values for "Thumps," "Rowdiness," "Focus," "Imagination," and "Token Slots" listed. Finn is able to hold three Tokens by default, but Jake can hop over pits that Jake cannot cross. On the other hand, besides being funnier, Cinnamon Bun has one more heart for Thumps, meaning he has more HP by default, and his Rowdiness meter is at three stars (one more than Jake's) meaning he deals out more damage. These simple RPG mechanics are familiar and accessible to veteran and younger gamers alike, and they can all be upgraded by talking to a few NPCs in the main hub area, like Mr. Cupcakes. The currency is treasures, which are collected throughout the dungeon -- the damn thing is that you lose your collected treasures in between visits to the dungeon, which puts you in a strange loop of not having enough funds to actually buy anything, yet no means to save your funds for next time. I don't know why the upgrade system was designed that way, but it's annoying.
At about every tenth floor, players reach a checkpoint, which in my experience was always a welcomed sight. This was the case not because the game was difficult and I was one my last bit of health or nearly out of ammo for my kitten gun, but actually because clearing ten floors of this seemingly endless dungeon was a grind. Despite changing characters at these intervals and purchasing a basic upgrade or equipping a few Tokens (think of them like Perks that give you more HP, or an attack while dodging, etc), playing AT2 was more of a chore than a great time. Fortunately, it's easy enough and progresses steadily enough to make it worthwhile, but only in spurts. I did have a chance to play local co-op briefly with a friend and, as I expected, playing co-op can do wonders for masking a game's shortcomings. It was more enjoyable in co-op, but I doubt many gamers will want to play AT2 for more than a couple hours at a time, which is really just fine in its own way, but it does indicate that the game isn't "really" fun, it's "serviceably" fun, or just fun enough to keep going.
It's plausible to think that had AT2 reduced the number of floors or just introduced additional gameplay elements more regularly, things would be more interesting. As is, going from floor to floor often yields only marginal changes. New enemies didn't appear quite often enough for my tastes and there are a lot of useless items (looking at you, bamboo sticks!) about as well. The Bamboo Sticks are one of thirty available sub-weapons that compliment your character's main attack. For Finn, he wields a sword primarily, while Cinnamon Bun punches. All characters can benefit from the Kitten Gun and Ice Stars and the other sub-weapons though, and using them is as easy as pressing Y. While I'm on the topic of numbers briefly, in addition to those thirty sub-weapons, there are also forty tokens to be found and thirty main story quests, too.
The rest I can wrap up in the summary, so let's head there...