One of the common problems with co-op games is that few ever really make cooperation a necessity. Or when they do, it’s often rather clumsy and forced. The best co-op games always encourage teamwork gently and naturally. Super Dungeon Bros from Wired Productions aims to do just that.
It’s a top-down dungeon crawler with rock ‘n roll inspired themes in which four players hack and slash their way through procedurally generated levels in search of treasure. It’s a primarily multiplayer-focused game, though it side-steps the usual problems inherent to multiplayer-centric games (namely keeping the community populated) by enabling cross-platform play. The Xbox One version can connect with the Windows 10 release, and the PlayStation 4 with PC and Mac, which should ensure that you’ll always be able to find someone to team up with. It also can be played solo in its entirety.
The level we played was set in a crypt. Blue stonework stood suspended over a vast abyss of green mist, the platforms narrow and often lacking any fencing along the sides. The area was big enough to easily accommodate the four of us, but it didn’t stop us from still occasionally slipping off amid the chaos of battle (myself especially). Enemies are quick to swarm upon arrival, but also smart enough to divide your attention between close-quarters and ranged foes. They were pushovers, though they still took us a while to vanquish those first couple hordes since we weren’t focusing our attacks.
The thing about Super Dungeon Bros is that you have to work together, even when fighting off cannon-fodder foes. The game is built around teamwork. You can spread out and divide and conquer, but generally, everything felt like it moved at its smoothest when we were all working in tandem. Enemies fall much faster when attacking as a group rather than as individuals. Fighting solo, at least for me, definitely didn’t work well because my weapon – a hammer – was too slow to deal much damage quickly. Should have gone with something faster in retrospect.
Defeating enemies quickly is paramount because of the threat meter. Resting on the right side of the screen, it denotes the position of enemies that are pursuing you from behind. Take too long to move forward, and they’ll steadily start catching up to you. They’re primarily additional enemy hordes to add to those in front of you (and are also stronger, too?), serving to further overwhelm for loitering around.
Luckily we kept moving. Most of the dungeon was straightforward. We kept fighting through groups of enemies, occasionally doing a bit of light platforming or throwing each other around to grab large deposits of gold. Secrets and the like are generally the only reason you want to pick up and toss each other around, as, at least in the level we got, they were always placed just out of our reach individually. The matter of who gets the gold wasn’t a concern, either, as money is shared between all players.
Cooperation become more pronounced as we got deeper. One small obstacle had one of us keep a button pressed to raise a bridge for the rest of us to cross, whereupon someone had to keep the button on the other side down so that our remaining comrade could rejoin us. Rudimentary, but a good example of the ways Super Dungeon Bros forces cooperation.
Soon after, it was time for a boss. A large snake-like being rose from a portal suspended between two raised platforms, raining down fire and other nasty spells on us. We couldn’t attack it head-on, as it was just out of our each on the ground level. Instead we had to toss each other up to the higher platforms to reach it, occasionally being knocked off there by the boss’ sweeping attacks. Enemies would also spawn in the area below. We made quick work of them by using team attacks such as the “Bro Nado,” in which everyone formed a totem pole and started spinning around the area sending foes flying.
Once we defeated the boss, the level concluded with a race to the exit, everyone trying to throw each other off the ramp leading to the finish line. There wasn’t any reward waiting for whoever got there first – it was just a bit of fun to end the demo on. Super Dungeon Bros will be out sometime this winter on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac.