Dungeonland and two sides of a very odd amusement park

The gates open wide, and three cheery adventurers step forward into Dungeonland: a stocky warrior; a thin and nimble rogue; and a big-bellied mage. Dungeonland is the titular amusement park where heroes can mindlessly slaughter hordes of ne'er-do-wells to their heart's content.

However, beyond the groups of enemies and bright facade of the park lies a devious mind that controls the waves of brutes impeding the heroes' progress. This is the dungeon master, another player who has the same job as those controlling the adventurers. Kill the other guys!
%Gallery-161426% Dungeonland, on its surface, looks a lot like most isometric dungeon crawlers. On the heroes' side, you slowly plod along, clearing rooms of baddies as you march toward the boss. The warrior is the tank; the mage hangs back, firing spells and providing his allies with health and invincibility buffs, while the rogue darts around the battlefield back-stabbing enemies and tossing vicious bombs (mind the friendly fire).

The more interesting role in all of this falls on the DM, the Dungeon Master. His side of the game plays out almost like a trading-card game. In the beginning, you compile a deck of monsters and spells that can be doled out throughout the match. As the heroes progress and hit certain milestones, you're given cards to play which summon hordes and cast certain effects. If you don't use your cards before the heroes make it to the next checkpoint, you lose them.

Dungeonland's DM is far from passive – he does more than simply play cards. The DM can take control of unique enemy units, essentially throwing a monkey wrench into the whole situation for the heroes. A good DM will use this special enemy unit to rush vulnerable characters or as a distraction for the heroes until they are ultimately surrounded and succumb to the AI-controlled forces.

Even on easy, you can become overwhelmed quickly; team strategy and communication are paramount to victory on the heroes' side. The warrior is a tank, but he's far from invincible. The same goes for every class – only when used in tandem is success guaranteed.

The heroes themselves pool lives, and after a few deaths it's all over. Heroes can revive each other, but dilly-dallying is not suggested because the game will spawn more enemies on its own to punish your lackadaisical attitude. Despite the cartoonish, inviting atmosphere of Dungeonland (as if the Care Bears had a hand in decoration), death always awaits the unprepared.

Dungeonland showed me two distinct but serviceable experiences during my brief time with it at the Paradox On Tour event last week. On the heroes' side is a competent hack-and-slash dungeon-crawler, with all the depth and variety I could have expected. And on the DM side is something fresh, allowing you to essentially customize your own dungeon and wipe the smirk off the hero's face, once and for all.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.