The Xbox Games with Gold scheme has been a big hit since its arrival way back in the days of Xbox 360. Since its introduction, subscribers have been gifted some incredible titles to add to their library. This year alone has seen the likes of Sunset Overdrive and Lords of the Fallen as well as indie hits Styx: Master of Shadows and The Escapists, to name a few. Sometimes though, games can arrive that aren’t too well received by fans, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of paying customers. So, with the latest batch of freebies now available, I sat down for some dungeon delving madness to see if Super Dungeon Bros can appease the masses with its daring release via Games With Gold.
Given the large fan base for dungeon crawlers, the available titles in the genre are seemingly limited on consoles, with Diablo 3 the go-to-game for most fans. Super Dungeon Bros aims to change that though and with four player co-op and randomly generated dungeons on offer, you’d expect it to contain all the right things to do just that.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Let’s start off with the story, or lack of in this case. Starting up, players are met with the intro video which depicts the four unusual protagonists, Axl, Lars, Freddie and Ozzie as they are dragged into an alternate dimension via a magical rock record, embarking on a quest from the gods to become heavy metal, dungeon delving heroes. Whilst that may sound quite exciting at first, any engagement is quickly lost as this is seemingly as far as the story goes. From this point on, everything else left to experience is purely gameplay related, with the story seemingly lost forever.
As for the quest in question (and every other dungeon crawler in existence), the main interest comes down to the gameplay, but unfortunately Super Dungeon Bros doesn’t excel there either.
After choosing between one of the four almost identical characters – eight should you download the free Broettes DLC – you will arrive at the weapon selection screen. Selecting your weapon is a simple process in Super Dungeon Bros and these range from swords and hammers to crossbows and wands. However, from the start just four are available to players, with more unlocked with shards collected from treasure boxes at the end of each level.
After selecting your weapon, all is done and the quest begins – at least after getting past the incredibly lengthy load times that is.
There are two ways to play through Super Dungeon Bros with both local and online play on offer. Those looking to get in on some online co-op action be warned, play requires four players to start so those arriving in groups of two or three will quickly find a random or two added to the group which can add a few difficulties if you don’t all wish to follow the same path. This is mainly due to the need to stick together via a shared screen, as any player wandering off can quickly find themselves stuck down ledges and walking into traps with no way to get out. Whilst it’s certainly nice to see online co-op included after so few of the year’s indies have had the option available, the need to be stuck to each other’s side takes away the exploration element dungeon crawlers usually tend to offer. This brings the first dampener to this potentially great title – that is if the constant random disconnecting doesn’t end all enjoyment for you straight away.
Gameplay itself is rather simple, and after choosing from the four different gameplay difficulty modifiers that appear via cauldrons at the start of each level, players embark on the task at hand – reaching the end of the level. This is done by avoiding the various traps, solving the puzzles, and of course slaying the various enemies that appear on screen along the way. However, all is not quite so simple. The idea of each level is to reach the end as fast as possible in order to progress with minimal threat, something which will give you at least half a chance to attempt a takedown on the tremendously difficult end of world bosses. If you should be the kind of player that likes to take in the scenery along the way (or just don’t possess the skill to get things done quickly), things can take a quick turn for the worst. You see, should players take too long in one area, the onscreen threat meter will quickly start to fill, spawning more and more enemies the higher it gets.
The is where the problems start to shine through. Whilst the enemies don’t particularly pose too much of a challenge, the onscreen lag from the games inability to keep up with what is happening certainly makes things difficult. On top of this the sheer number of enemies can make visibility an issue, as every part of the screen quickly fills with bonies, bunnies and wasps, to the point that finding your own hero can become impossible. Should you manage to make it through the various generated levels to the end of world boss, then you can pretty much kiss your progress goodbye. Even the first boss, the great Duke Spookem, takes next to no damage from continuous attacks, despite dealing tons of damage with the slightest movement. Even with full health, boss battles seem to be no more than five minutes of jumping to dodge ground attacks before inevitably dying a painful death at the hands of pestering bonies you’d forgotten about.
For those that don’t mind the constant grind required till you master how to best every situation, be warned, combat itself isn’t exactly enjoyable with attacks coming down to nothing more than light and heavy attacks and the occasional dodge roll. Whilst the various weapons struggle to make much of an impact on anything therefore limiting any enjoyment that could be had with this title.
As for the local option, the four-player requirement is dropped with the option to also run the dungeons solo if you so wish, however whilst the freedom to move around without the concern of online players doing their own thing is certainly welcome, the experience is then made much more difficult due to no change in the number of enemies thrown at the player.
Whilst Super Dungeon Bros certainly won’t be my game of the year choice in 2016, it’s not complete doom and gloom either. One nice addition that takes you away from the main mode is the Daily and Weekly challenges on offer. Once more the task is nothing more than reaching the end of the level, but with online leaderboards in place for the fastest items and gameplay proving surprisingly smoother than the main offering, any real fun to be had with Super Dungeon Bros is certainly found here.
Overall and whilst Super Dungeon Bros is certainly a promising prospect, the gameplay on offer certainly doesn’t stand up to what is expected from a dungeon crawler. The story is seemingly forgotten before it’s started and the combat offers nothing more than an unfair and dull experience, Super Dungeon Bros unfortunately falls short of the pack, and becomes another title offering disappointment in the Games with Gold scheme.