Super Dungeon Bros - Deep Look

Swing and a Miss
by Sam Wachter

Super Dungeon Bros
Platform: PS4
Developer: React Games
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: 11.01.2016 (US) / 11.01.2016 (EU)
"When friends will tell you that they aren't enjoying a couch co-op game, then you've done the couch co-op game wrong. "
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   Super Dungeon Bros was a game that I had been keeping my eye on as press materials trickled out. Heck, our PAX video impression let me feeling like it had the potential to be a great couch co-op RPG. However, after spending a few hours with Super Dungeon Bros I have no desire to go back to it. When the friends you are playing with tell you they want to call it quits, you listen.

   Touted as a four player cooperative action RPG that can be played with friends locally or online, Super Dungeon Bros is a game about rock n' roll and dungeon crawling. The game is essentially a 3D Castle Crashers clone, but without all the charm or solid gameplay to back it up. With up to four friends, players select their hero and one of two weapons to start: a large beat-stick sword or a crossbow. Once characters and weapons have been selected, the players traverse three randomly generated dungeons, based on a cheesy theme such as breweries and jungles, in search of loot and glory.

   Too bad there's not much to the game itself. In terms of randomly generated locations, the game seems to randomize the same five or six locations in repeated patterns, so it's easy to get a rhythm as to how some of the levels will play out. However, the developers clearly must have realized this and decided to throw in all the traps, blockades and an abundance of enemies to make sure that you can barely progress. This is on top of the fact that if your friends fail to revive you, you only have four lives, and trust me, they are easy to go through.

   The combat is also dreadfully dull. There's a lot of hacking and slashing, and a special move that has finite use, but in some instances it feels as though no damage is really being done to enemies and they simply just keep coming. Combat just feels way too basic, and there's no real draw with it, even with the different weapons. The challenge level never feels fair in Super Dungeon Bros, which is really my main gripe with the overall experience. While it is supposed to be challenging, the game doesn't do the best job of making the game feel balanced for players to make progress. Even when progress is made, it never feels rewarding either. If I'm being frank, the challenge in Super Dungeon Bros is an utter mess. Even with two other players, we had many instances where out of nowhere more enemies would spawn and our four lives would be gone in one fell swoop. This happened far too many times for it to be excusable, and that's on top of the fact that while there are three ways to map the game controller, and none feel at all natural for play.

   One interesting aspect that the developers put in is that the dungeons can be modified before play, allowing the players to increase or decrease the challenge. However, while this is a fantastic idea in concept, the difficulty never feels truly balanced even with these setting on. In fact any time we decreased the difficulty it wasn't noticeable in the slightest. There is also a threat meter that comes into play, and as it fills, more enemies will populate the screen. Once the threat meter hits its maximum, it is nigh-impossible to get through the wave of enemies alive. This gauge fills way too quickly when playing with friends, and a lot of the time we never felt like we had a sporting chance to make it through the waves of enemies. It's supposed to go down when you reach the next location, but we were seldom lucky to get to that point.

   Then there's the delightful load times, which are way too long for their own good. At one point we were concerned the game had frozen because of how long the load time was taking. These kinds of kinks should have been ironed out before release, and that's not even the start of it, considering there were coins floating in midair that couldn't be obtained, and player characters getting stuck in the environments. Topping these problems up with annoying voice-over work and stupid 80s style catch-phrases, it's enough to make you want to just simply disengage and delete the game.

   Which is exactly what I did.

   When friends will tell you that they aren't enjoying a couch co-op game, then you've done the couch co-op game wrong. These are the kinds of games that should fuel hours of fun bantering back and forth with friends while also co-operatively working together towards a goal. Super Dungeon Bros never made us feel that way, leaving us bitter about the time we wasted. The game is a poor man's Castle Crashers. Unless React Games can iron out the problems, rebalance the difficulty, and put more fun into couch co-op, this game is an easy pass. If you want to stick to playing great co-op games, there are far better titles with better staying power to consider, as Super Dungeon Bros is just too hot a mess to truly enjoy.

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