Super Dungeon Maker
This game was reviewed on PC.
Reviewed by: Joe Cabrera
Going into Super Dungeon Maker I immediately predicted a fairly mediocre experience. I mean what more is there to expect? Super. Dungeon. Maker. However, I was quickly blown away by how much work had been put into this title.
Super Dungeon Maker is a cute, Super Mario Maker-Esq, top-down, retro-pixel game about chickens trying to get eggs... and of course building and exploring dungeons. The game immediately throws you into a dungeon which gives you a pretty solid feel of how the rest of the game is going to play. Once the initial dungeon is complete, you then have the freedom to make your own dungeons or play others.
My initial thought when playing the first dungeon was 'this looks exactly like classic Zelda but doesn't feel as good' and I couldn't help shake the feeling that this just wasn't an original idea. Putting the Zelda thoughts to one side, I was willing to give this game a real shot and I'm pretty glad I did. Super Dungeon Maker boasts a huge amount of charm. The artwork is particularly vibrant and the attention to detail in the animation just reinforces the aesthetic and brings the whole game to life - I mean, literally, each dungeon - no matter the contents - feels like it lives and breathes. The soundtrack is fun and compliments the game's direction fairly well, however it is easily forgettable and becomes grating after being on repeat for some time. Some subtlety in the music would help bolster this game's replayability.
Now this game is split into 2 significant parts - the building and the exploring. It's safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed playing the dungeons more than building them and that's really down to one reason; the building mechanics are lackluster and undercooked. The lack of help inside the editor began to test my patience, not to mention numerous glitches I encountered - I had to restart my dungeon build on more than one occasion due to bugs that would halt my construction. Whilst it's obvious that the UI was designed with accessibility in mind, it can at times be frustrating. The controls felt a bit fiddly and some basic features, like being able to rotate objects, were missing. Negatives aside, there are a lot of creative options here with practically zero limits on what you can do. I think, with some tweaking, the dungeon builder could be something really impressive. Iron out the bugs, add some tooltips and improve accessibility and you've got something great yet in its current form it's mediocre at best.
Unlike the editor, playing the dungeons feels a lot more polished - It's an experience where absolutely no tutorial is required, which is always a complement to the game and its developers - however I feel there is still some work to make it outshine existing dungeon crawlers. The controls, while simple and generally work well although, can at times feel sluggish and unresponsive. These flaws are minor inconveniences when compared to the flaws from the building side of the game. The UI is decent, it tells you what you need to know and isn't intrusive. Combat is easy and your attacks feel fairly weighty, although sometimes imprecise. Exploring the dungeon's environments is exciting at first, but the well soon runs dry when you realise there's only 3 themes - forest, desert and castle. It's not only the lack of themes that grow tiresome quickly though, Interactive elements such as switches and breakable walls are too obvious and stand-out making them easy to find. Collecting items can also be underwhelming - chests automatically open which kills the whole excitement of opening the chest yourself and diminishing the feeling like you've earned that reward.
I generally didn't have a problem with the movement, but why slow the chicken down when carrying pots? It's unnecessary. The sound effects to go with the dungeon crawling are satisfying, although I cannot fathom why when attacking an enemy (one of the most important sfx in any game) it sounds dull, like you're hitting a rubber tyre. The equipment is fun to use, but practically every item is recycled from zelda games... the hookshot, bombs, sword, shield, the feather from Link's Awakening (albeit they changed the jump to a roll, but the mechanics are still the same). It doesn't stop at the items too - the switch puzzles, moving blocks, throwing pots, bombable walls and cuttable grass are all elements from previous Zelda titles. Heck, even the health bar is a row of red hearts.
There are some extra single-player elements included, such as an overworld which is a little chicken town filled with NPC's who inhabit the land and give you advice. There are also a few premade dungeons scattered about. There isn't much in terms of story here, however I didn't think that was to be expected when playing a sandbox-style game. The multiplayer mode allows you to upload your own dungeons as well as play others, similar to Super Mario Maker.
Super Dungeon Maker is a game that delivers some fairly decent mechanics and positively delicious artwork, however it is not without its drawbacks, as the game falls short of ideas, originality and an annoying building experience. There are way too many dungeon elements that have been blatantly hijacked from previous Zelda titles. Super Dungeon Maker is a promising title that offers a relative amount of fun. Unfortunately the game borrows so much from its inspirations and but fails to improve on them leaving the unshakeable feeling that you might as well just be playing Zelda.