Dungeon Punks. Dungeon. Punks. What the hell kind of name is that?! Developed by Hyper Awesome Entertainment, Dungeon Punks is a sidescrolling beat-em-up RPG. It claims to be a throwback to old-school beat-em-ups such as Golden Axe, while mixing in RPG elements and Marvel vs Capcom-style tag-team fighting. However, it falls completely short due to a plethora of poor design choices.
You play as a band of six mercenaries, each of a different class. After screwing up a job one too many times and falling into considerable debt, you find yourselves on the run from creditors of your former company. As plots go, the juxtaposition between the fantasy setting and corporate politics is definitely original and interesting, though its attempts at humour elicit more eye-rolling and cringing than laughter. Each class has a unique design, from a knight to a werewolf to a djinn, and are completely distinct from each other. Upon selecting your class, you will be accompanied by two other characters, either controlled by the AI or by up to two other local players.
The first thing you will notice upon entering a stage is the beautiful art style, full of vibrant colours. The second thing you will notice is the sluggish movement controls. Whenever you try to move in any direction, your character will start their walk animation for a second before going into their running animation. This also happens when trying to change directions, making it feel like you are running on ice. Coupled with the rigged animation, it makes all the characters seem little more than lifeless cardboard cutouts.
The stages themselves are sequences of rooms, with several branching and looping pathways to take, before encountering a boss at the end of the stage. There is even a side quest or two in each level, and while they rarely amount to anything more than killing a certain number of a specific monster or beating a miniboss, extra experience and gold is always appreciated. However, traversing through a stage is made a chore by the waves of enemies inhabiting almost every room, all of whom respawn when you reenter the room, making the necessary backtracking a nightmare and discouraging exploration.
As mentioned earlier, Dungeon Punks supports up to three-player local multiplayer (there are no online features). If playing in single player, you can switch on the fly between your three party members. You start off with only three, but you unlock all six members of your party fairly quickly. However, you can still only have three of them onscreen at a time, which is where the tag-team fighting comes in. Each player takes control of two characters, who can be tagged out for each other at the press of a button. This can also be done during an attack, allowing you to set up combos, but this is limited due to the repetitive nature of the combat.
Each character has the exact same three-hit melee combo, right down to the animations. Melee attacks fill up your mana gauge, so you will spend roughly 90 percent of the game mashing X and watching that animation over and over from three simultaneous sources. There is also a Rage meter that can be used to unleash a massive area-of-effect attack, with more powerful attacks being used the more you fill up the gauge, but that should be saved for boss battles.
The mana gauge powers your character’s spells, of which they have three unique to their class, plus one extra that is bound to their equipped weapon. This is where the RPG elements come in, as you can buy or loot better weapons and shields (the only two pieces of equipment in the game), as well as buy spells using spell tomes. Unfortunately, each class has only three spells available to buy, and they can all only be upgraded once. The lack of any healing abilities and the scarcity of health drops make dying really easy, as the difficulty ramps up sharply between each stage. This means mandatory grinding.
There are a few “emergency exits” scattered throughout each stage, which can be used to leave the level early, with all your gathered loot and experience, if you are low on health and out of potions. The game even gives you an onscreen prompt to flee when you are close to death. However, you are unable to leave a room until it has been cleared of enemies and, as stated before, enemies respawn when you reenter a previously cleared room. So if you find yourself low on health with even one room between you and the exit, you will have to defeat every single enemy in that room, more often than not resulting in your death. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
This is abated somewhat by RezCorp, an insurance agency that deals in resurrecting their clients from death. Aside from being a major force in the story, they are also the in-universe explanation for the constantly respawning enemies and the player’s own ability to retry the mission after death. When you are killed, you retain all the treasure you have collected from it, with a fair-sized deduction from your gained experience as payment for services rendered.
Any completed sidequests also remain completed upon reentering the level, so instead of restarting the whole level from scratch, it is more like slowly chipping away at it until you beat it. This is far less taxing on your sanity, but a poor and flagrant method of extending gameplay.
But the worst part, the most insulting aspect of the game is this: each boss has its own dying animation, and certain boss’ animations also count as an attack. If you are down to your last living character, and this attack kills them, then that counts as a game over for you, even though you killed the boss, meaning you will have to fight it all over again.
Upon beating a stage, you then unlock Joust mode for that stage. It is a PvP mode for 2-3 players. Unfortunately on PC, having one player use a controller and another use the keyboard will not work. You will need either multiple controllers or multiple keyboards to play multiplayer, and as I have only one charger cable for my PS4, I could not play it for this review.
Dungeon Punks’ soundtrack is completely forgettable. The game also features no voice-acting, which was rather disappointing as one of the trailers had a major character providing voice-over narration. The story instead unfolds through still images with text at the bottom. At least we don’t have to hear the cringe-worthy jokes.