Super Dungeon Bros is a co-operative rock and rolling dungeon crawler where you venture through the dangerous realm of Rökheim to achieve rock supremacy. It offers the simplicity of classic arcade titles like ‘Gauntlet’ but mixes it up with the dungeon crawling and loot elements found in titles like ‘Diablo’, amalgamating in an experience that’s fun to pick up and play but certainly has its fair share of flaws.
The story of Super Dungeon Bros follows the classic rock ‘n roll myth that if you play a vinyl record backwards there’s a hidden message, except this time it isn’t a myth and leads a group of four heavy metal loving brothers on a quest to rescue the Rock Gods.
The overall vibe of the game is charming with the four brothers following the comedy rock-like approach with random yells, laughs, and comments aplenty as you work through each dungeon. It’s all a bit silly but never descends into toilet humour, instead offering something that both older and younger players could laugh along with. The same silliness is brought over to the aesthetic style of the game too, with the brothers a colourful bunch that always seem to have some strange jib on their face.
You control one of the four ‘Bros’ (or ‘Broettes’ if you get the game’s limited time free DLC), each one fairly similar in design but with a different colour. They’re all named after famous rock icons too: you’ve got Axl, Lars, Freddie, and Ozzie. There’s not much of a difference between who you play as though, with the only real noticeable change being an aesthetic one.
There’s a good variety of weapons to use though, most of which you’ll craft yourself from materials found in and around each dungeon. They come in varying types with different strengths, with some also working from different distances too. One piece of advice I’d give gamers is to not bother with ranged weapons if you’re playing on your own though – I always like to try out a ranged character in dungeon crawlers, but I found myself getting overwhelmed very quickly. There are a few balance issues in regards to the long-range and short-range weapons to begin with, so you’re pretty much only left with the option to get up close and personal if you want any chance of survival.
It’s probably worth mentioning that the game can be incredibly tough when playing solo anyway, something I initially found out the hard way. Super Dungeon Bros works on a lives based system and once you’re all out it’s game over, forcing you to replay entire dungeons all over again from the beginning. There are some things which carry over between playthroughs such as your weapons, but the punishment of starting an area over from scratch after spending so much time working through the depths of it could be a real pain. It often left actual progress never feeling that rewarding but rather offering a sense of relief that I didn’t die yet again. It didn’t help that most layouts of the dungeons felt incredibly familiar after constantly retrying the game too, despite the fact they’re procedurally generated.
However, when you play with friends and start to get used to each gameplay mechanic there’s a lot of fun to be had with Super Dungeon Bros. The gameplay really lends itself to co-ordinating with other players and preparing yourself for each group of enemies – it really felt satisfying to outsmart and outmuscle these critters that had caused me so many deaths in the single player mode. You’ve also got co-op moves that pack more punch, giving you another advantage over your opponents that’s missing in the single player mode. It certainly felt like the game was designed with co-op in mind, with the single player mode simply an added bonus (though I’m using that term very loosely).
One of the biggest benefits of playing co-operatively is that you can revive an ally before a life is depleted, offering a similar approach to ‘Gears of War’ where it isn’t necessarily ‘game over’ if you have someone around to rescue you. Of course, having other players could also cause you to unnecessarily lose lives too. You’re able to pick up other players and throw them in order to solve puzzles, though this could lead to some accidental (and some not so accidental) deaths. It’s funny for awhile, but when you hit the later depths of dungeons there’s no room for tomfoolery, something which is a little bit difficult to explain to players you don’t know…
Whilst the co-operative mode is Super Dungeon Bros’ best feature, match-making could be a little awkward and I’d strongly recommend getting three friends together for the most enjoyable experience. Frustratingly, if anyone quits during a multiplayer match it ends for everyone else too, bringing a swift end to a dungeon you might’ve spent a good while working through. It’s could be a painful experience, though one that’s easily avoided when playing with friends who’ve got the time to stick it out during a playthrough. Thankfully Super Dungeon Bros has been made free for Xbox One gamers during the month of November, so getting three friends together is a much easier experience if the Xbox is your console of choice.
Super Dungeon Bros’ level design is on point, offering dungeons that look great and offer a decent amount of traps and combat situations. Platforming sections are an enjoyable addition too and it was always great to outmanoeuvre deadly traps. You could use these traps against you enemies too, though that was something better utilised in the game’s multiplayer offering where you can lure enemies to you and have another player trigger the trap. The procedurally generated element kept things a little varied, though admittedly it was hard to really notice any significant changes as you played through the game – that’s something you’ll only notice if you die a lot though…
I didn’t really enjoy playing Super Dungeon Bros on my own all that much, but when dungeon crawling with three others players it was a lot of fun. It doesn’t offer the same amount of depth seen in plenty of other dungeon crawlers out there, but it offered enough to keep me entertained for quite a while.
It’ll take a while to get on with the game thanks to the tricky difficulty and a few balance issues, but there is something rewarding to be found to those who stick with it. It’s far from perfect, but there’s definitely fun to be found in Super Dungeon Bros – just stick to the multiplayer options to find it.
Developer: React Games
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: 01/11/2016
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), Playstation 4, PC