Happy Dungeons Open Beta Preview – Don’t Drink the Fountain Water (PS4)
It’s pretty rare that I jump into a game without not knowing what to expect, but I knew nothing about Happy Dungeons when I downloaded the game’s open beta. I could’ve looked up a trailer to find out more, but I figured it would be more fun to be surprised. After all, with how intense the news cycle can be for games nowadays, I’ll sometimes walk into a game knowing exactly what I’ll see from it. That’s no fun!
The first thing that stood out about Happy Dungeons was its art style. All of the characters look absolutely hideous, but in a sort of charming and goofy way. I definitely wouldn’t describe the game as being beautiful to look at, especially as it’s no technical marvel, but there’s something about the look that I just dig. The game’s plot is kicked into action via a cutscene that shows a princess getting kidnapped in a war-torn world. It wasn’t exactly breaking new ground, but there was enough slapstick humor that I found myself getting into what was happening on-screen.
Once I had control of my character, I found out that Happy Dungeons is a pretty basic action game. I was able to swing my character’s sword as much as I wanted with a basic swipe attack, and the other face buttons were dedicated to unleashing special moves. I only had two of these moves unlocked initially, but the game does a pretty great “abili-tease” moment near the end of the tutorial that shows off the rest of them. Rounding out my skillset was a God of War-style dodge that I could use to quickly get out of the way.
Prepare for Weird
All the mechanics are there for a solid action game, but there was nothing compelling about the combat. The game regularly threw a dozen enemies at my way, as though the only challenge it could bring was through numbers. I simply sliced my way through them, and the whole experience was pretty mindless. I’m not against turning my brain off and watching numbers go up on the screen, but the core gameplay wasn’t satisfying enough.
I do have to give Happy Dungeons credit for being supremely weird, though. After chopping my way through several dungeon floors filled with enemies, I was transported to a new floor that had a fountain that would restore my character’s health. That’s normal enough, but in this case the fountain gained its liquid from a dog urinating. That’s right. You gain health by soaking yourself in dog piss. That’s extremely metal, and absolutely rules in my book.
I eventually faced off with a boss, who I defeated within 20 seconds by jumping on a ballista and firing a ton projectiles at him. Afterwards I checked out the game’s many currency systems in the main menu, bought a few packs of card to get new gear for my character, and then jumped back into another level. It was just as uneventful as the first. I loved the fountains full of dog urine, but I just couldn’t get into the combat at all.
Better with Others?
Since nothing in my experience really clicked, I thought I’d go online in order to see if that was the component I was missing. Would the gameplay be given more variety when I was joined by other adorable soldiers? I’d like to say that the answer is no, but I can’t really speak to the online play as it was the laggiest experience I’ve had playing a game online since I was playing Unreal Tournament on dial-up. The frame-rate crawled to a halt, even during cutscenes, and it made the game so unenjoyable to play that I actually bailed on my partner and quit out of the game. I absolutely hate doing that, but it was the final straw.
While I didn’t dislike all of my time with Happy Dungeons, I definitely wasn’t drawn to continue. I didn’t find the combat to be satisfying at all. Since I wasn’t having fun, it essentially made the game’s loot grind, which appears the be the main draw here, meaningless to me. I didn’t care about what gear my character had or what abilities I could unlock because I had zero desire to continue on. There are more games than ever before, and I’ll be passing on Happy Dungeons.