Dungeon Punks is a combination of Golden Axe, Dragon’s Crown, Dark Souls, and many classic scrolling brawlers from yesterday – but is it any good? Find out right now, in my review.
Name: Dungeon Punks
Developer: Hyper Awesome Entertainment
Publisher: Hyper Awesome Entertainment
Released on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PSVita, PC
Original Release Date: Out Now (PC version coming soon)
First impressions are everything, and for the most part, Dungeon Punks certainly does offer up a good one. A side-scrolling brawler with JRPG-style mechanics wrapped up in a package of humour and lovely hand-drawn artwork. You’ve all played brawler, so you know exactly what to do, and if you’ve played Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown, you’re probably a little more familiar with what Dungeon Punks is trying to achieve.
In between the swords and sorcery style of combat, are some pretty cool mechanics that help to push the genre a little further than the arcade and 16-bit brawlers that we played in our youths. Each level is its own dungeon, complete with Zelda-style rooms and an ever-present map. You’ve got quests to be found and completed in between the usual task of getting from the start of the level to defeating the big bad at the end, and you’re also part of a gigantic party that consists of tag teams, another of Dungeon Punk’s excellent new additions.
While only three player-controlled characters can be onscreen at once, of which you’ll pick three from the six characters at the start of the game, you’ll later be able to hire the remaining three characters and be able to tag out, while from the beginning you’ll be able to swap between all three tag teams at will. These are essentially your lives – Once all your party members die, not only will you have to start from the level again, but you’ll also lose Souls, which are gained from killing enemies and will also help raise your party’s stats. But in the world of Dungeon Punks, returning from the grave requires the help of the shady Rezcorp, who will collect a chunk of those souls as payment for resurrecting you – And it’s this corporation that are a huge part of the game’s humour-laden narrative.
Each of the six character classes has different abilities in terms of the magic you can use and the equipment that can be assigned to each one, and each one has a devastating arsenal of moves and spells that are activated with various different combinations of buttons and directions pressed at the same time. Spells use mana, and that’s replenished by attacking enemies, while you’ve also got a shield block and also a different type of dodge move depending on the selected character. It’s a simple combat system, but it’s likely that you’ll quickly find a character and move that can be used repeatedly for the entirety of the game.
However, no matter what character you play as, you’ll be moving and attacking at the speed of a tortoise stuck in treacle, as from the moment you pick up a pad, you’ll notice the sluggish controls. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the characters all handled differently, but everything just happens so slowly that it does becoming a little bit frustrating.
Another qualm I do have with Dungeon Punks is the humour. Running through the entirety of the text-based narrative is a very modern tale of corporate greed in fantasy times, as well as the story of your own group of misfits that can’t seem to do right, as hard as they try – But while the humour works to a certain extent, it doesn’t quite seem to gel with the game’s tone as a whole. I would have preferred a game that went all the way to be funny in its gameplay, and not just the in-between level cutscenes.
The JRPG stylings extend to the levelling up, and yes, that includes grinding. Each level has a recommended level range, and you’ll certainly need to level up to get past some of the tougher enemies. Plus, you’ve also got loot in the form of money and better weapons or armour, and a shop that can be visited to buy and sell items. Each level also contains Emergency Exits that you’ll be able to use to escape if your party is close to death – Although in backtracking you may need to fight entire rooms of previously defeated foes, again in order to get to those exits, and it’s entirely possible to die while rushing towards them. Granted, death isn’t really much of sticking point in this game (although you do lose a lot more souls upon death in the New Game Plus mode), but it can be a little frustrating to keep playing the same parts of levels until you’re powerful enough to get to the end of the level.
The end of level bosses are also quite the letdown, and can easily be felled by spamming magic attacks as well as the Rage attacks that are earned through collecting Rage crystals. I actually defeated the final boss of the game in about 20 seconds, and I wasn’t even that high a level, which was more than a little disappointing.
But even with the flaws and the irritations, I was still compelled enough to reach the end of the game.
Highlights: The tag team mechanics, bright and colourful visuals and humour help to elevate Dungeon Punks beyond the standard brawlers out there.
Low points: The music. Not that it’s terrible, as there are relatively decent classical-style tracks that are sometimes repeated a little too much. But my main issue with the music is that it mostly feels inappropriate to the on-screen action. When I’m finding a never-ending army of foes, I want something that pumps me up to fight; not a slow, calm piece that feels more appropriate in a cutscene.
Verdict: Dungeon Punks is an enjoyable adventure, especially when playing with friends, and the mixture of old and new elements come together in a solid package that’s just held down by a couple of unfortunate issues.