By Mike Perry
Hyper Awesome Entertainment
Release Date 7/26/2016
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita (8-16-16), PC (Late Summer)
Hyper Awesome Entertainment was awesome enough to provide us with an early release copy of their new beat ’em up, Dungeon Punks. We spent some time with the game over the weekend and, while the game shows a lot of promise, there were enough glaring weaknesses that it was worth taking a deeper look at. As indie games from smaller developers go, you could certainly do a lot worse.
Releasing on July 26, 2016 at a price point of $15.99, Dungeon Punks holds its own as a fun little budget title to play around with for a while and then eventually move on from. Remember that this game is a callback to arcade beat ’em ups with RPG elements, not Fallout, and you’ll definitely be able to have some fun with it.
The art style is very cartoonish and well-detailed. The playable characters are all very cool looking, borrowing from the classic role playing book of clichés. You’ve got your dwarf, which is very strong but slow and not too great with magic, you’ve got your balanced character that is adequate at everything but excels at nothing, and you’ve got both extremes in either direction.
When you begin, you’re treated to a very thin but humor-filled (especially if you are an old time D&D player) backstory. In a different kind of game, this might get completely bashed in a review, but it’s a beat ’em up game at its heart. I grew up playing Double Dragon, Battletoads, X-Men Arcade, and Streets of Rage, so I understand that the value of a title like this is in the gameplay, not the storyline and cinematics. However, there are plenty of NPCs, each with their own quirks. Some of them fell flat or felt dry, others were quite charming. The one consistent thing was the beautiful artwork.
The gameplay couldn’t be more simple: Walk towards a given destination (which sometimes means “go right” and other times depends on the quest that you’re trying to complete) and kill everything that moves. In the combat lies one of the most deadly flaws of Dungeon Punks, however. With so much action on the screen at a given time, it is entirely TOO easy to damage your own party members. Friendly fire is on by default in this one, and you will be frustrated by it before you finish the first level. There’s just too much going on and not enough real estate. If this were a four player co-op game, this would be a game breaker. As it stands, it’s annoying, but not enough to stop you from having fun.
Of course, between levels, there are shops and different ways to level up and upgrade your weapons, armor, magic, and other miscellaneous equipment. While the difficulty does ramp up fairly quickly, the boss battles are relatively uninspired and, for a game that’s using fast-paced action as a marketing gimmick, seems to move along very slowly. There are twelve levels, each with various quests you can complete throughout the game, and while the character art is great and at times incredible, the environments felt uninspired.
For a short, cheap game, the sheer amount of magic and weapons that are available is enormous. Like any RPG-inspired game worth its salt, different items or spells add to some stats while taking away from others. This, coupled with the tag team combo system, make the battle mechanics more feel more interesting than if they were simply straightforward button mashing. There are strategies and exploits that will make the game much easier, but unfortunately, they don’t make it any faster or less repetitive.
We tested the Xbox One version, but it is available on the aforementioned platforms. It should be noted that the PlayStation versions are cross-buy compatible. If you purchase it for PS4 or Vita, you get it for both.
For $14.99, you’re getting a quick and dirty beat ’em up that is fun to play for a while but is certainly not going to be appearing on anyone’s top ten lists at the end of the year. We do have to give a ton of credit to the team at Hyper Awesome for putting out a game with a deep item optimization system by the standards of the genre, but they may have been reaching a bit far in trying to incorporate RPG elements that sometimes worked and sometimes felt out of place.
We give Dungeon Punks a 6/10. If you love this kind of game, give it a shot. If it’s not your bag, it probably won’t reel you in.