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Dungeonland (PC) artwork

Dungeonland (PC) review

"You might cackle at the fact that Critical Studio intentionally labeled the easiest difficulty setting as Hard, but that laughter won’t last for long. There will be livid grunting and even a runaway tear here or there, until you and your crew band together with heroic purpose. Teamwork is unquestionably the main draw of Dungeonland, and I absolutely love the game for it."

Though the lack of ambition in Dungeon Siege III made for a dull-as-dishwater experience, I felt amorous toward that game near release; I ached head to toe for a generic console dungeon crawl at the time, and it scratched my itch well enough. In turn, Magicka won me over with the Highlander reference and Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is probably the only hack n' slash game I would snap a gratuitous picture of me fellating. I may or may not be the sardonic authoress of every forum thread titled "Even Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is better than Diablo III."

The point I am trying to make is that I always manage to find one thing to love in an action-RPG, even if everything else about the title is vanilla. That one thing will see me to the end at the very least, and I happen to like that quality about myself. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I genuinely loved nearly everything about Dungeonland.

Wide-eyed, full of wonderment, and with not a single expletive to give, I approached Dungeonland in much the same manner that I had my first childhood encounter with Disneyland. Then I died, and died yet again, and finally I died some more until I was like, “Hey, this is like, hard.” From there, I decided to tackle Dungeonland using the same method with which I tackle Disneyland in adulthood: agoraphobic, strapped with a first-aid fanny pack, and moving in a travel group of no more than three.

Dungeonland is a walk in the park; an amusement park populated by obese killer poultry, a rabbit suicide bomber, and every death-inflicting anomaly you can imagine, each one highly annoying in their own special way. The carnage is colorful, as is the humor; sheep explode like a juicy Gusher gummy and your character will belt out a silly remark in the midst of battle every now and again. The look of Dungeonland is very board game. My favorite level looked as though everyone and everything was a miniature piece trapped in tabletop hell.

You may either play Dungeonland in complete cooperative multi-player mode with two other brave and hopefully competent people, or in DM mode. The latter option will allow you to assign a fourth buddy the role of Dungeon Maestro and have him bully your team into submission by laying the perfect mousetrap, or by gutting them mano a mano. Being an evil puppeteer is better than you've heard, especially since you have a marvelous laugh taunt at your disposal. Joining anyone online for a game is easy as pie, provided they have a spot open in their room.

You might cackle at the fact that Critical Studio intentionally labeled the easiest difficulty setting as Hard, but that laughter won’t last for long. There will be livid grunting and even a runaway tear here or there, until you and your crew band together with heroic purpose. Teamwork is unquestionably the main draw of Dungeonland, and I absolutely love the game for it. The amount of fun you will have is directly proportionate to how many people are within audible trolling distance. The game will only reach its full potential when you approach it as a couch party game, so do your best to avoid playing it all by your lonesome, or even with the inept AI, for the matter; incessant profanity did nothing to halt my computer-controlled allies from trying to run off on solo adventures while an invisible wall barred my own progress.

Speaking of a rare yet burdensome bug, there are a few more prominent ones that I can add to the list. Gold would refuse to appear in my stash; music would overlap (often sounding like a back-masked Slayer song), and opening a treasure chest after a well-earned victory sometimes meant detrimental lag and often a party disconnect. With that being said, there did seem to be a noticeable and timely amount of hot-fixing happening upon the game’s release, and everything is now in perfect working order as far as I can tell.

There are a total of three men to choose from as you start playing, and all of them are given a unique purpose in combat. The Mage, Warrior, and Rogue have one basic attack to spam, one area of effect move, one class-specific move, and a single special ability that is used in the manner that you might utilize a life potion. The Warrior is a stoic melee meat shield; the gangly and grumpy Rogue is a critical hit connoisseur, and his area of effect bomb is super effective should Dungeonland decide to throw everything but the kitchen sink at your party (and it will do precisely that at some point). Since your potion supply is initially limited to three, determining when and how to use your potion is crucial for early survival. My advice would be to choose a role best suited to your style of play based on said special ability.

For example, being the Mage is a lot of responsibility and being responsible can cause heavy perspiration and revulsion for mankind. Pleasantly plump and comical, the Mage is your only medic, as his special potion ability permits him to heal everyone in his vicinity. Be careful, though; you might deplete your arsenal early on and consequently fail your team when they need it most. Instead, use every checkpoint to your advantage. If your Warrior is on the front line and about to bite the dust, shine your aptly named Ray of Awesome beam to prevent damage and keep him on his feet until either he or the Rogue can clear the mob. The checkpoint will restore your team to full health and you both can keep your potion for the area ahead.

Trust me when I say the first hour or so of Dungeonland is the tutorial you assume is nowhere to be found on the menu screen. The beginning is a subtle grind as you disregard victory and acquire currency to improve your character. The upgrade system in Dungeonland is more of a, uh… sidegrade system. There is no skill tree to flesh out, and there’s no leveling. Only one armor perk and one weapon perk can be purchased, but there are plenty to choose from; some grant life steal, replenish cooldown duration, and even grant an extra potion when a checkpoint is activated. To paraphrase Tony Stark, I also prefer a weapon I only have to fire once, so I purchased the critical hit weapon perk for my Rogue as soon as possible.

There is most certainly an unwavering bromantic synergy between the Mage, Rogue, and Warrior. I enjoyed experimenting with an all-Lightning Mage setup for a good amount of damage and maximum healing potential, however. Minor class variation can still be purchased; the Ice Mage can freeze stun oncoming traffic while the Fire Mage is mainly a nuke, for instance. The item shop even offers hilarious and purely cosmetic stuff to tweak the appearance of your avatar. Naturally, this led me to buy the Rogue a winged fairy costume before investing in anything important. I like to live on the edge.

So often a difficult game is indicative of a high learning curve, but Dungeonland is the refreshing opposite; while it offers a substantial challenge, anyone can learn to play it rather easily. Even the most oafish player can absorb the game in approximately one cheap death before succumbing to the shiny continue button of sadism. The most charming thing Dungeonland has to offer is how much easier it is to pick up than put down. I desire no lip in a world where a ten-dollar bill can maybe afford you a DLC with an outfit change. Buy it; I promise it will hurt so, so good…

Mandy's avatar
Staff review by Mandy Safai (February 13, 2013)

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