Apparently the team that brought Gauntlet back to life last year wasn't the only one that thought "Man, I really miss those games." I recently got the chance to go hands-on with the upcoming Super Dungeon Bros and...it's Gauntlet. With a different aesthetic.
And that's totally fine by me. It's not like I'm drowning in Gauntlet-alikes.
Super Dungeon Bros is (like Gauntlet) an isometric hack-and-slash game that sees you dungeon crawling alongside three friends in search of treasure. One important distinction is that players can choose any weapon they'd like in Super Dungeon Bros—you're not constrained to having one warrior, one wizard, et cetera as per Gauntlet. In our demo, in fact, it was impossible not to double up. We had four players, but only three weapons to choose from (crossbow, sword, mace).
The main addition in Super Dungeon Bros is an increased focus on co-op play. You're able to pick up and throw partners, or all four can stack atop one another to form a deadly tornado of blades. Of course, you can also use these powers for evil and throw your friends off cliffs if that's the type of horrible person you are.
I'm not saying I threw one of the Super Dungeon Bros developers off a cliff, but...Well, I did. Two of them, actually.
Of course, an increased focus on co-op also means you'd better cross your fingers when it comes to your team, as one person can really ruin things for the others. Alas, that's the risk you take with this sort of game. I don't know if the game plans to have any formal "Kick" procedures, but it might be a good call for online play—better for players to be able to drop the one player causing trouble than have three forced to leave because they're annoyed with a single player's antics.
You can play solo, but I don't know how much fun it'd be. Probably about as fun as playing Gauntlet solo, which is to say "Not much." All the levels are procedurally generated though, so it's definitely possible—obstacles and enemies will scale depending on how many players are in the game. And whether or not you're playing solo, procedural dungeons are a nice addition. That'll hopefully help solve the Gauntlet "I know this stage" issue.
As for the aesthetic, Super Dungeon Bros ditches the self-serious Dungeons & Dragons affinity of Gauntlet for the type of fantasy you'd see embraced by a 1980s hair metal band—think of the Stonehenge scene from Spinal Tap. It's fantasy with all the rough edges taken off. Fantasy for a Saturday morning cartoon.
I'll actually be curious to see if the developers can walk the line between "cute" and "annoying" when the game releases. In the demo I saw, very little of the audio was actually finalized, so it's hard to judge. There were already some vocal barks that got on my nerves by the end of our play session though, and I'd only been playing for ten minutes.
It's one of those games where the whole aesthetic is built on a gimmick, and the challenge is making a gimmick feel natural. You know how Mortal Kombat loves to replace Cs with Ks? Well Super Dungeon Bros likes to use the word "Bro" a lot. Like, "Bro-op." I don't even have words to describe the distressed look on my face when I first saw "Four-player bro-op" flash on screen during my demo.
I also have some questions related to boss battles. Our demo dungeon concluded with a short boss encounter of the Zelda variety—stagger the enemy, then hit it in its weak spot. In Super Dungeon Bros fashion the ghostly demo boss was named "Duke Spookem." Har har.
Regardless of bad puns, the main issue is whether these boss encounters will remain as fresh as the rest of the game. Procedural dungeons could do a lot to keep the game fun and interesting the tenth or even hundredth time you play through, but if players are stuck fighting the same handful of bosses it'll kill the pacing.
These are future questions, though. For now, all I've got to go on is my demo, and my demo was fun despite some small annoyances. I'm a big fan of Gauntlet-style games, especially when I can get people over to my apartment to play in local co-op. Combine that with the ability to throw my friends off cliffs? Super Dungeon Bros could be a great party game.