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Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Review

Official Score

Overall - 85%


Methodical puzzle games and frenzied roguelikes sound like apples and oranges, but Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon makes a delicious smoothie out of the two genres suitable for all tastes.

User Rating: 4.3 ( 2 votes)

The indie darling Shovel Knight, who has kept busy hawking Arby’s Kids Meals and filling in as a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Assist Trophy, has a new gig with Vine and Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon. Should players follow the lead of the mysterious Puzzle Knight, or should this hero sit on the sidelines?

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Review

As the blue guy himself, players will follow Shovel Knight on his new adventure in the Pocket Dungeon. After a cube traps him and countless others in this unsolvable area, it’s up to Shovel Knight to team up with the Puzzle Knight to find five key fragments and plan their escape.

However, players won’t be hopping and bopping this time around – the platforming action from the Treasure Trove collection has been swapped out with a roguelike-puzzle hybrid playstyle. Set up in a grid-like format, players will navigate a world of constantly falling enemies, potions, blocks, hazards, and treasures as they set out to find a door out. Moving into any particular item will allow players to dish out some damage or heal up, with some taking multiple whacks. It’s not unlike the system found in Dragonward, which we reviewed favorably a few years ago.

However, there are a few key rules to keep in mind. For one, players can dispatch whole groups of enemies by lining them up and chaining attacks. One can also move fast to get their gem meter up, meaning that those who dilly-dally will be a bit skint.

Once one gets enough funds, they can pay themselves a visit to Chester and pick up a number of relics that vary up each run. This is where the roguelike elements really begin to shine, as the titular Shovel Knight can quickly become an absolute beast with the right build. For those feeling lucky, there’s also the chance to take part in Glitzem’s relic chance game. No matter one’s play style, one can find exactly what they’re looking for here – in good time, at least.

If anything, part of the joy of Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is that it can be played in a number of different ways. Want to revel in its puzzles and not worry about death? There’s an option for that. More of a roguelike fellow who worships the church of permadeath? There’s an option for that too. There’s even an Endless Mode available for those who successfully solve this conundrum.

While one would really need to be a fan of both puzzle and roguelike genres to really appreciate this title, its combination leads to a unique final product that takes the best elements of both. Whether one is a Tetris Attack junkie or a Hades aficionado, one’s skills in managing threats will be your greatest ally.

To spice things up, players will travel to different areas that each have their own threat types. Lava, electricity, bombs, griffins, ghosts, and plenty of other foes each have their own properties that players must keep in mind as they progress. Those that charge into battle – even with infinite lives – will find the board filled with clutter and no clear matches. Players will need to wrap their head around what everything does, keeping things fresh and forcing players to stay alert.

For those looking for replayability, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon has a leaderboard, dailies, and a versus mode. There’s a fair amount of achievements (dubbed “feats” in-game) around the title as well.

Methodical puzzle games and frenzied roguelikes sound like apples and oranges, but Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon makes a delicious smoothie out of the two genres suitable for all tastes.

This review of Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was done on the PC. The game was purchased digitally.
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Casey Scheld

Drawn to the underground side of gaming, Casey helps the lesser known heroes of video games. If you’ve never heard of it, he’s mastered it.
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