When you think of punching people in the face in gaming, what do you think of the most? Fighting in the Streets of Rage? Turning into a beast in Golden Axe? Or exploring the snow covered streets in Scott Pilgrim VS The World? The brawler genre is a very timeless style of game, as its both really simple but at the same time can offer a hidden level of depth you might not have seen originally.
The PS Vita & PS4 Brawler Dungeon Punks from Hyper Awesome Entertainment takes the genre of the brawler and adds a good deal into its DNA; RPG elements, team system where you can have up to four players in a party, three player co-op support & branching paths depending on how you complete missions.
Does the games innovations help it stand out among the crowd of other brawlers? Or does its innovations clutter the core gameplay and end up distracting?
You play as a team of warriors who work for a captain. Completing odd jobs helps bring money to her and expand your forces, ensuring fun brawling times continue. Not much specifics are part of the story but the dialog is where this part of the games stands out.
Depending on the mission, you have options for what you do next and this can lead to really funny dialog popping up. While you and your party are giving each other high fives happy for a job well done, a knight comes up to you, saying you killed the wrong monster. Meaning, your contract with the employer extends to defending a burning village. Stuff like this great, as it makes every level feel dynamic. Your actions have impact and that feeling being in this genre of gaming is quite cool.
The dialog itself has a sense of wit to it as well, making each encounter with NPC’s enjoyable. Not much is here but for what it is, the story elements are done quite well.
Gameplay & Design
The gameplay is your basic brawler on the surface, with the basic attack button and a special magic button (linked with directional inputs) for special attacks linked to a magic meter. You have a number of classes to play as and can bring up to four party members with you on each mission in single player, giving you a lot of combat options to work with.
For example, you can have a dwarf with fire magic and heavy swings but then swap to an agile lizard mage who can stab foes quickly and roll around the battlefield. You have a lot of classes to pick from and each one uses different weapons, magic & gear; no fight is ever the same.
One feature that makes the game stand out is the tag-team systems, where you can both swap between three characters by flicking the right stick left & right but also tag-in a fourth party member anytime by pressing the circle button. This team system is vital, as you need to swap across your large party often, considering the game likes to throw a large amount of creatures at you.
This leads to the game being quite challenging, with death costing you gold that you could use for buying stronger gear (for weapon buffs & stat increases). The fact you also have friendly fire with you sometimes accidentally hitting your party member (as they can get caught between attacks toward foes) ensures combat is something to be focused on.
That issue could be avoided with local co-op though, as Dungeon Punks that for up to three players on BOTH the PS4 & PS Vita. How does it work on Vita? Simple, play the game on the PlayStation TV platform and support for two more players activates. Its a nice features that ensures even Vita owners can play with buddies.
The single player gamer can have issue with hitting teammates sometimes but with health potions being common item drops and leveling up increasing your health, it gets better the more you play the game. Regarding the games RPG systems, you have levels (where you & your party level up after the level is complete or if everyone dies) to gain & gear to equip.
What makes the systems fun to tinker with is that different weapons are fun to play around with and buying or picking up higher level gear is just fun. It takes the weapon drop mechanics from the classic brawlers but adds RPG elements to them, so I personally enjoyed this part of the game.
Lastly, we have the progression system. You visit the same levels despite the choices you make but the context to the main mission changes, encouraging replays to level up more & get better gear. Bosses close each level and they are a lot of fun. My only issue with bosses is that they like to summon a lot of foes on to the screen, making it hard to focus on just the boss when you are worried about your party surviving the onslaught of foes.
Overall, the gameplay is enjoyable with fun design choices ensuring you will have a lot to do, but a few issues with difficulty can be annoying.
As mentioned before, you have a lot of options to consider such as different classes for your party, replaying levels for different mission objectives & even some side missions to complete in levels which reward you with Gold & Gear.
Completing missions also unlocks more classes to play as, giving the game longevity in trying to unlock every class. The game can last up to 5-6 hours but playing through levels over & over again in addition to playing and fully leveling up each class can extend game length as well.
Presentation & Performance
Dungeon Punks runs remarkably well on the PS Vita, with so much being thrown at you (effects, large amounts of creatures to fight, ect) but still running at a locked, stable frame rate. For a brawler, that is critical, so its great to see the developers take great lengths in optimizing the game for Vita.
The visuals & music are solid, with the tracks matching the different fantasy locations you fight across and the creature designs for the main classes are very cool. I enjoy the Mage Lizard & Wolf ones specifically. The only issue with the visuals is that sometimes the character designs don’t match the tone, as while your player characters & the monsters line up greatly, the human NPC’s sometimes don’t match up well. It isn’t a big issue at all, but just something that can be visually distracting sometimes.
Story: 4 out of 5 / Gameplay & Design: 4 out of 5 / Replay Value: 4 out of 5 / Presentation & Performance: 4 out of 5
Dungeon Punks is a great brawler that offers enjoyable combat, fun RPG mechanics and runs really well on the PS Vita. Despite the difficulty being a bit too high for single player games sometimes due to hitting other party members by mistake & the art direction sometimes being off, the game is a great brawler that has strong core gameplay.
Overall: 4 out of 5
This game was reviewed on the PS Vita with a review code provided by the developer. You can get the game now on PS Vita & PS4, with both having cross-buy support. So if you get one, you get access to both versions. It is also out now on the Xbox One and PC (Steam).