At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Richard Pilot PC/Mac Paradox Interactive Critical Studio Up to 3 (Local), 4 (Online)
Requirements
(PC Only) Windows Vista/7/8, 2.6GHz Dual Core processor, 4GB RAM, 512MB graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce 8000/AMD Radeon HD 2000 or above), 4GB Hard Disk Drive space

DungeonLand review

I haven't been to a theme park in some time, but were I to go out for an adventure, I would be hesitant to go to a place called DungeonLand. Filled with dangers around every corner, it's certainly not a place for the faint of heart. DungeonLand is a top-down action hack-and-slash from Critical Studio and Paradox Interactive that centres around a monster-filled amusement park. It's certainly an interesting setting for a game and one I looked forward getting stuck into.

Players form up into a party of three to assault the theme park. If you're playing solo, AI will take control of your counterparts. As you progress through each area of the park, monster spawners will appear and you need to take them out before you're swarmed by the creatures they spit out. As the game helpfully points out, it's not about killing monsters but the things that are creating them. This forces players to keep moving forward else surcumb to these overwhelming numbers. Gaining items to increase your health is rare so minimising damage while constantly pushing ahead is key. The park itself is divided into a small number of sections with minigame-style middle parts to vary the action. The game has a fair share of tricks up its sleeve to mix up the main sections too, so whilst the level design itself never changes, the positions of monster spawners often do and random boss monsters also make an appearance such as a homicidal bunny and its kin, or a laser beam shooting chicken. As you can probably tell, DungeonLand doesn’t take itself too seriously, from the really rich and over saturated visuals to the evil tauntings of the Dungeon Maestro over the park's tannoy. It really works to ground the humour in this overly cheerful setting and there are plenty of fantasy and D&D references too for the more geeky amongst us.

Dungeonland sessions can get rather hectic

Dungeonland sessions can get rather hectic

Taking out monsters and spawners alike causes them to drop coins which you can use outside of the park to upgrade your characters' abilities. There are three characters to chose from; a rogue, whose focus is ranged combat, a warrior, who likes to get in the middle of the action and the mage, who deals out elemental magic or can help provide buffs to your characters. The game's internal economy is balanced such that you need to play a few games before you can afford even the most basic equipment and upgrades. There are numerous different types of item you can buy for each character, including different weapons, armour and perks, all of which allow you to create a character thats suits your play style. Ultimately, though, while the type and look of each variation of weapon and bonus feel different from each other, you'll still find that DungeonLand is very much a numbers game, one in which you're hard pressed to scale up to. The game's difficulty settings are accurately labelled "Hard", "Harder" and "Impossible". These really do portray the weight of the forces that come your way and teamwork becomes a very important factor when trying to actually complete an arena. Whilst you and your friends will rejoice if you manage to finally complete a section of the park, it unfortunately means that solo players will find the AI unable to match the skill of real humans, meaning it's almost impossible to complete on your own. Even adding a second player to the mix wasn't really enough to change the tide of combat, although it certainly helped and the progress that was made was notably further ahead than when I played alone. The biggest cause of these failures is due to the shared life pool that the party has. Once you've been drained of your life, you will respawn taking away one of your team's remaining lives. When someone dies and there's no lives left, it's game over. This is more frustrating in solo games as you watch helplessly as the AI mercilessly whittles down that life pool for you.

This whole philosophy seems very much intentional rather than an imbalance in game design as both the number of arenas in the park and the game's economy seem designed to get you constantly replaying levels to try and get those extra few coins in order to get that character item you were after or claw that extra few inches forward in the section you are on. Therefore how much fun you'll have when playing these sections will be determined by the player's desire for self improvement and punishing themselves. Progress though DungeonLand at times feels very much like a war of attrition.

Here come out intrepid heroes

Here come out intrepid heroes

If you want to add a fourth player to the mix or just want something a little bit different, the game offers a DM mode where you play as the park's Dungeon Maestro (DM, geddit?). This is where the game introduces an interesting twist on the established hack-and-slash party mechanics. The DM can choose a number of cards prior to the match beginning. Each card presents an ability, monster, attack or item that they can use to effect the world. When the game starts the DM then gets a selection of these cards which they then use to cause that effect to happen in-game. Each card also has a mana cost associated with it so DMs must choose wisely. As the game progresses, mana replenishes (although painfully slow) and cards are dealt back into your hand. Levels are funneled inside sections compared to the outdoor amusement themed sections of the main game, so DMs can more easily plan ahead, placing traps and towers to catch the invading party unawares. The mode can be played solo too, but like when I was on the side of the heroes, I found myself losing a war of numbers, not doing enough damage to the heros to be able to win.

The Dungeon Master role is an interesting twist for multiplayer

The Dungeon Master role is an interesting twist for multiplayer

DungeonLand manages to provide an interesting hack-and-slash game. The less used theme of an amusement park helps make the game stand out and mixes standard RPG controls and mechanics in a unique setting. The addition of the DM mode offers a nice twist on the standard multiplayer sessions that is common in these types of game of players vs the environment, allowing a clever player the chance to hop into the hot seat to try and take his friends out. The biggest criticism against the game is its difficulty which, at times, makes it feel like a war of numbers that you'll never seem to come out on top of. Players that feel up for the challenge will find that a colourful and humorous adventure awaits them.

Ratings

Overall DungeonLand is a great hack and slash adventure game with a bright visual style and unique setting. Ultimately its own difficulty will deter the more casual players who typically prefer to enjoy the ride over a repeating challenge. 8/10

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