Super Dungeon Bros. Review
Super Dungeon Bros is a dungeon brawler that seeks to do something different than the traditional games belonging to its genre. The game is inspired by rock themes -- and as such, there are some rock-ish themed levels: including skulls, spikes, breweries, and sharp pendulums.
It’s a shame that the game doesn’t really go beyond these shallow macabre elements, and the whole “Bro” culture exhibited by the main crew of 4 semi-generic characters. Instead, what you get is a game with forced themes, disappointing sound, generic gameplay, and a host of bugs. Much is left to be desired, and the result is certainly not brotacular.
Super Dungeon Bros does a good job of identifying itself as a co-op focused game. Right from the start screen, the generic characters identified by their red, green, blue, and yellow outfits clearly point out that this game is meant to be played with a group of friends. The characters themselves don’t offer any benefits to the gameplay, and it’s the weapons that you choose which make all the difference.
Just like how obvious the co-op intentions of the game are, everything about how it functions is predictable. Nothing will strike you as out of place or confusing if you’ve played any kind of co-op dungeon crawler in the past. As soon as you hop online, the game will find players to join your party, then you select one of the four colored bros, chose your weapons, and you’ll be on your way to traversing procedurally generated dungeons in one of three areas.
Super Dungeon Bros includes 3 dungeon worlds to explore: a gloomy underground dungeon called Cryptheim; a white, icy brewery called Chillheim; and a poisonous jungle called Bogheim. Each of the three locations is further divided by levels called depths. There are five depths per area, with a miniboss halfway through and a boss at the very end. Yes, it’s all standard fare.
Though the game tries to change things up with procedurally generated dungeons, the assets used for each dungeon don’t do anything especially interesting. For example, in the first world, the depths for each area have a familiar look, with paths travelling in different directions and crossable spike traps randomly laid out, with the occasional target that needs pressing. The diversity provided by procedural generation isn’t enough to make the locations feels like anything more than open spaces to fight swarms of enemies, and narrow walkways to urge your characters forward.
Rock 'n' Flop
The generic feel of the game and its environments wouldn’t be so bad, considering the game is competent when it comes to fun gameplay, if it actually used music in more creative ways. Of course, I don’t expect the game to use licensed music or the like, but clever timing and beat-based gameplay would lend itself well to a game that struggles to remind you of its rock themes. Even if battles with the enemies—bats, skeletons, knights, poisonous frogs and other cavernous critters—didn’t use such rhythm-based sequences, the boss battles could surely benefit from something like the rock levels in Rayman Legends.
Even worse is that the background music is rather soft and timid. As a game that I’d expect to have superb sound design, the weapons give off subdued sounds and the tracks that play in the background do little more than provide a little mood setting. All in all, Super Dungeon Bros feels empty without music that offers any kind of edge.
Strumming to the Beats
But you’re probably interested in the mechanics offered by the game—after all, it’s a game that demands fluid gameplay. I’m happy to report that Super Dungeon Bros is competent when it comes to delivering button-mashing fun. Whether you’re using the base swords or crossbows, or the ones unlocked later in the game, you’ll find mild enjoyment in the thrill of crushing waves of baddies, even if there are few sounds or rumble feedback features to make things satisfying or varied.
Attacks range from light, to heavy, to special attacks called Ultimate Attacks. Some special attacks can even be executed using multiple Bros at once, but again, it all feels so very repetitive. The simple systems offered by the game and the weapon classes didn’t urge me to continue playing; I didn’t really care to upgrade the weapons or see what challenges awaited me in the next depth. Sure there is a combo system and threat meters that measure that intensity of the fray, but they do little to lessen the dragging feel of mowing down crowds of generic enemies with a few attacks.
As you progress through the depths, you can upgrade your weapons between levels and eventually unlock a total of 16 weapons. You and your team share lives, and each coin collected adds to a shared stockpile. Coins looted during the game can be spent toward these weapon upgrades, and earned shards are used to unlock more weapons.
During my play sessions, I unlocked other weapons, but that didn’t do much in the way of making the game any more appealing. Super Dungeon Bros is a game that is fun for the first little bit, but after a while the mediocrity of the whole experience will undoubtedly push you away.
To prolong game time, three Missions are offered while you play through depths, and their details can be brought up on the start screen. Each mission includes objectives like beating areas within a certain time limit, using certain weapons, and slipping past damaging attacks. It’s a decent way to keep you playing, if you actually care.
Other challenges include Daily and Weekly Challenges, which are procedurally generated dungeons that are selected for that time period to be conquered by players around the world.
What isn’t the most authentic way to increase replay value is the harsh death system adopted by the game. Upon losing all your lives, you get kicked back to the menu screen and will have to replay the entire world over again to work your way back up through the depths. After playing several online games and not getting past the first few depths, it quickly became a frustrating endeavor to unlock the other worlds.
And the length of the loading screens along with the severe bugs in the game didn’t do much to ease the pain.
Hitting on all the Wrong Notes
The game, whether playing alone or with a team of bros, is challenging -- and not in a good way. Sometimes enormous swarms of enemies would riddle the screen, so much so that the game would slow to a chug. There was one instance I encountered where the entire screen filled with enemies, and upon dying, my character spawned somewhere right on top of all of them, making it needlessly difficult to get out of the dire situation.
On other occasions teammates and I would plunge below the map and the game wouldn’t automatically spawn us back on top. Instead we’d get stuck at the bottom until our characters eventually died. Even worse than these pesky bugs is the further punishment delivered by the inability to unlock newer worlds unless you beat all five depths from the previous one.
Super Dungeon Bros is clearly built on the idea of replaying levels over and over again to achieve a high score, but its grating to be kicked back to the first depth of a world every single time. To make matters worse, getting into online co-op games is not always straightforward. The procedural generation prevents players from dropping in and out. There were occasions where a player got disconnected form the lobby, which immediately booted the rest of us back to the main menu.
To me Super Dungeon Bros is one of those games that is best played as a game to fiddle with when you are looking to unwind: invite a group of friends online and you’ll have a good time mindlessly plowing through enemies as you get on with a little social hour. But I’d be hard-pressed to believe that the game itself would be the center of the conversation.
Don’t expect to play intense hours of Super Dungeon Bros, because there just isn’t that kind of depth offered here. With tempered expectations and a good social group, I can see the game being a decent distraction as you chat with friends, but nothing more. If you want to enjoy the game by yourself, however, it’s near impossible to get anywhere because of the difficulty spike.
Through and through Super Dungeon Bros is a mediocre co-op game, and the skill demanded is sometimes unreasonable, especially because of the inconsistencies imposed by bugs. That and I’m certain you’ll grow too restless to continue playing after the first few batches of enemies anyway.