Platforms PC, PS4, XBO (reviewed)
Developer React Games
Publisher Wired Productions
Release Date November 1, 2016

Super Dungeon Bros is a rock-and-roll powered, hack-and-slash dungeon crawler that can be played alone or with up to four friends. In this colourful brawler you’re sent on a quest from the Gods of rock, choosing from one of the four thematically named protagonists (Axl, Lars, Freddie or Ozzie). You’ll be raiding the dungeons of Rökheim, battling hordes of the Undead in search of epic loot.

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Super Dungeon Bros seems like a winning formula. Take the tried and true gameplay of a game like Diablo, add the energy and attitude of rock-and-roll and set the whole thing in a rock-themed world filled to the brim with bright locations and some admittedly cool music. Profit. It feels strange to say this about a game with such overt rock-and-roll themes, but Super Dungeon Bros is actually a fairly lifeless and dull game.

It all starts and ends with the core gameplay loop. Rushing through the game’s various dungeons is, quite simply, monotonous. Super Dungeon Bros sees you essentially mashing the same one or two buttons on repeat through every single dungeon, cutting your way through scores of repetitive enemies until you reach a black hole that transports you to the next area, where you get to do it all over again.

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That’s it, really. Super Dungeon Bros in a nutshell is a game where you repeat the same things over and over, alternating between hitting enemies with heavy and light attacks, ad infinitum. The four protagonists each have different weapons, which should in theory remove some of the sting of repetition, but all it really does is dictate how close you’ll be standing to your foes while you murder them. It’s a false sense of variety.

The game tries to combat this by making its dungeons procedurally generated. The layout of the various levels you’ll tackle changes constantly, and there are various environmental hazards, obstacles and traps that you’ll need to navigate safely past (or lure enemies towards). Regardless of map layout however, each level feels the same as the last because you’re never doing anything substantially different, and the levels all look the same anyway.

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The entire time you’ll constantly find yourself at odds with the floaty, imprecise controls. It’s just not that fun to actually control the protagonists. They move fairly slowly, attack fairly slowly and generally spout the same lines over and over again while they’re doing so. Hit detection seems to be a bit dodgy too, with some of my swings failing to find their mark despite standing right next to the enemy whose head I was trying to crush. There also seems to be a small amount of input lag between pushing a button and having something happen on screen.

Character progression is equally underwhelming. As a loot-based brawler, what should be the cornerstone of the experience feels more or less redundant. Weapons are tied to each individual character and, while you can upgrade them using coins you collect while playing through the various levels, there’s no real customisation options at all. The biggest variety you’re going to get is on the character select screen.

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Super Dungeon Bros doesn’t help itself at all by being completely unbalanced as a single-player experience. The game comes with a Threat Meter, a gauge that constantly builds and dictates how difficult your experience will be. The quicker you make your way through a level, the easier a time you’ll have. Dawdle and you’ll be met with greater threats. Linger too long and the challenge will eventually become unmanageable.

It’s a pretty neat system in theory, giving players a clear and present risk vs reward system to work against – the risk of getting into a very tricky situation or overwhelmed by tough enemies versus the reward of fully exploring each level to maximise your gold count. Unfortunately, this risk vs reward system relies on character progression and gold collecting actually being worthwhile.

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Playing alone essentially breaks the Threat Meter. When you’re by yourself it naturally takes longer to clear enemies out of your way, meaning that your threat level will be higher than if you were with friends. Playing co-operatively with others does spawn more enemies on top of you, but the difficulty isn’t scaled correctly. Solo play eventually becomes nothing more than a grind.

It doesn’t take long for you to realise this and come to the conclusion that Super Dungeon Bros, despite having the option, is not meant to be played alone. Multiplayer is where some of Super Dungeon Bros’ better ideas come to the forefront. As well as being able to revive fallen allies, you’re also able to perform team-based moves, such as pick up the crossbow wielding bro and turn yourself into a mobile turret.

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Taking the action online, however, is a catastrophe in terms of performance and mechanics. Super Dungeon Bros suffers from crippling and game breaking lag online that utterly destroys the experience for anyone playing, sometimes with hits just outright not even registering at all. The game won’t start until you’ve got a full roster of four and if anyone quits or drops their connection during play then everyone gets kicked back.


Summary

Super Dungeon Bros grabbed my attention with its rock-and-roll stylings, but quickly left me feeling cold thanks to its lacklustre gameplay and broken multiplayer features. While the game does have one or two neat features, and a fair few amusing points of reference humour, the experience just isn’t a positive one. Super Dungeon Bros is a grind, with monotonous gameplay, repetitive levels and no real customisation options. It’s also completely unbalanced for single-player. Taking the action online presents a whole new world of problems thanks to a buggy multiplayer that constantly suffers from lag.

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