First things first, with the literally infinite amount of literary possibilities available could we really not find a better title? I mean, Toylogic put sweat and tears (probably not blood) into making this game. Why sink such significant amounts of time and effort into creating something only to name it Happy Dungeons. It’s like calling your kid Ronald.

Given its title and its ‘indie’ nature, Happy Dungeons very well may have passed under your radar. And I won’t blame you for that. But if it has, here’s a three point summary:

  • It’s a dungeon crawler, with
  • Crazy cartoon graphics, and
  • An infinite amount of loot to gather.

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Essentially, you’re a cuter, Medieval version of Elmer Fudd marauding through endless fields gathering pants and hats and shirts and hoping that those pants, shirts and hats are better than the ones you already have. If that’s something you’re into, then you probably won’t need a motivating reason. But after a few hours, I had an ex(box)istential – see what I did there? – and began wondering what the point of my little Elmer Fudd dude’s existence was. I gathered that it was purely to garner the world’s most expansive wardrobe and the more I played Happy Dungeons the more I began thinking that I was right.

Happy Dungeon has almost no characterisation. Your attachment to your character comes purely from his/her ability to be cute and the fact that you are playing as them. The world has no lore and AI interactions are limited. Essentially, the gaming elements that hold the audience’s attention are missing. The same could basically be said for the story. There is the rescue the princess thing. And for that I’ve got two words: Super Mario. And I’ve got two more words to say about that: dead horse.

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Still the mechanics are tight. Happy Dungeons deviates from the typical top-down perspective of dungeon-crawler games. It instead takes an over-the-shoulder sort of viewpoint, allowing the player to control the camera with the right stick. Movement and camera controls are fluid and easy to use, both in and out of combat. That said, when you’re not in battle you’ll be walking towards it or collecting the spoils thereof. And that’s because Happy Dungeons is entirely focussed around combat. It comprises the majority of the gameplay: it’s integral to exploration and provides loot necessary to upgrade your character. Like the story, Happy Dungeons’ combat is simple. Unlike the story, it’s effective.

Combat revolves predominantly around chains of light and heavy attacks, calling occasionally for the player to block. Given that you’ll be swarmed by multitudes of enemies, it’s important to make use of the environment and movement. When you do, Happy Dungeons’ combat is at its best. It’s seamless and easy to learn. It combines perfectly with the cartoon visuals to create a charming and amusing experience. Unfortunately, that amusement mitigates.

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See, despite the game’s online focus, it was rare that I interacted with another player in Happy Dungeons. I seldom joined someone’s game, and they seldom joined mine. And I think that this jeopardised the experience. Unto itself, this is quite sad, because it’s not exactly the developers fault. I’m sure this game could be infinitely more fun if played with a group of friends. Then, the lack of purpose in the dungeon crawling could be overlooked in light of the socialising the game creates. But while I’d love to attribute the game’s flaws to it’s lack of online community, I have to admit that there’s more.

The main issues with Happy Dungeons – apart from it’s title – is that it doesn’t seem to have a point. And yes, touche: the dungeon crawler genre as a whole really just exists because its fans love killing stuff and collecting shirts. But at this stage of the piece, the genre is inundated with titles. If Toylogic were hoping for a hit with Happy Dungeons they needed to create something truly unique. As tight as Happy Dungeons’ mechanics are (and they are tight), you just can’t compete with Torchlight and Diablo. And even if you can compete, the support from legions of loyal fans and the historical significance of these franchises has them winning 9 times out of 10.

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Even though I’ve said all this, if you’ve got kids or if you’re a fan of gear-hoarding and grinding, I’d still encourage you to pick up Happy Dungeons. It’s graphics border on adorable and the combat is simple enough to appeal to children but refined enough to also keep adults occupied. The grinding can be tedious and the game can feel rather pointless; however, in the right circumstance and with the right people, Happy Dungeons is a basis for heaps of fun. It might not be your thing, but then again it just might. It’s worth investigating Happy Dungeons; it’s free after all.

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