Taking Out A Life Insurance Policy –
Outside of Castle Crashers and the upcoming sequel to River City Ransom, the 2D Brawler isn’t as popular of a genre as it was in the 8-bit and16-bit eras. Dungeon Punks: Tag Team Brawler RPG harkens back to the beat’em ups of yesteryear such as Final Fight, Golden Ax, or Streets of Rage. But Dungeon Punks stands uniquely for its eccentric sense of humor even though the gameplay has some unique flourishes although grindy.
The playable roster of characters is a stand-out feature and grows as the player progresses further into the quest. But this ragtag group of misfits is essentially a pack of mercenaries who will beat up anyone willing to give them a side quest. And herein lies the game’s best asset – the humor. Never taking itself seriously, each mission and side quest is pretty much more ridiculous than the last. For example, an early quest has the player hunting down a pyromaniac. This stage’s end boss, you guessed it, is a pyromancer. But after he is felled, you quickly find out you killed the wrong firestarter and get in trouble by the king. Dungeon Punks takes the stereotypical RPG troupes and makes fun of them at every corner. Even the loading screens and dying mechanic are handled with humor as death carries an insurance premium, literally.
Watch me die as I play an hour’s worth of Dungeon Punks during my stream:
Unlike most 16-bit brawlers, Dungeon Punks uses a leveling system to increase stats, unlock new abilities, and use different weapons. While it is definitely appreciated to see different cosmetic features in each weapon and shield, the overall gameplay is grind-heavy. Most stages have the player battling through, say, three screens of bad guys before you simply get overwhelmed or have to retreat back to your ship to heal. But when you re-enter, the player has to backtrack through the same exact screens only this time they are a little stronger and can now possible get through 4-5 screens before having to retreat again. Rinse and repeat until the player is at a high enough level to stream roll the way to the boss. Perhaps playing couch co-op this would be more entertaining but the grindy nature of gameplay is rather tedious especially when played solo and your AI teammates are only so competent. If more healing options were introduced, perhaps this pain would also be eased.
Combat is also approached differently. Sure, at times, the player will simply button mash until all the baddies are defeated but the magic system spices things up a bit. The “A” button is the standard attack and once enough standard attacks have been connected, the magic/ability meter fills. Using the “X” button like the special move button in any Smash Bros. game, the player can pull off special moves unique to that character. So pushing forward and X might trigger a fire spell while up and X might activate a lightning jump. While button mashing to earn a special move yields a balanced combat system, using the special button in conjunction with a direction button press is rather awkward for a brawler like this. It is strange why these abilities cannot be mapped to the other face buttons or triggers. Further, it is super weird playing a brawer without the ability to jump. Maybe I am so used to jump kicking in Double Dragon or using Acro Circus in River City Ransom, but using a jump kick or jump attack has always been a staple in any beat’em up. Not having it here in Dungeon Punks makes the game feel like it is missing something especially since characters move and fight like a Flash animation game. And it seems like the characters’ basic attacks do not reach far enough, there is no way to dash to move faster, and there are parts of the non-interactive environment that are needlessly in the way of the playable field.
One of the biggest gimmicks of Dungeon Punk’s combat is the tag team system. In time, the player will fill out the playable roster of six characters. However, only three will be on screen at one time. Like a fighting game, the player can assign a tag team character and swap as needed. While the tag team character is hidden off screen, the power meter still grows so they can use a special move upon entering. This becomes key if you want make combat as effective as possible. Seeing this fighting game feature in a brawler is unique and welcomed.
Dungeon Punks is far from perfect but still holds entertainment value with its co-op gameplay and humorous writing. While the grinding-nature is a little too heavy for my tastes and the leveling/combat system isn’t the best, there is still some fun to be had with this indie brawler.
Not As Good As: Castle Crashers Remastered
Better Than: TMNT: Turtles In Time Re-Shelled
Wait For It: River City: Tokyo Rumble
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com