Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon will be launched tomorrow and will provide interesting rhythm changes for everyone’s favorite shovel-wielding hero/mandatory independent guest star. After countless games, I can say that its action-oriented rotation works well in jigsaw puzzle games. Assuming you can tolerate the surprisingly steep difficulty curve, if you are looking for a new puzzle game to solve, Pocket Dungeon is worth a try.
Pocket Dungeon’s board has falling tiles. These tiles can be monsters, obstacles, health potions, and other items that you must clear adjacent tiles to prevent stacking to the top. You can move the shovel knight (or other unlockable characters) in these boards to defeat matching titles. Although the tiles will automatically fall slowly at the beginning, they will fall faster each time they move. In addition, you and the monster have a health bar, and most enemies will fight back after being hit. Losing health can lead to failure, so Pocket Dungeon becomes a tricky balance, which is to clear tiles relatively quickly while attacking the enemy thoughtfully to avoid being killed. Tile removal also rewards gems for buying new items and fills up a meter that doubles your gem intake.
As a fan of jigsaw puzzles, Pocket Dungeon has become accustomed to its more action-oriented approach. To be honest, I haven’t mastered it yet. Earlier, I instinctively slammed every pile of matching monsters I saw, forgetting that I often received the same damage in return. Depending on the game mode you choose, traditional or roguelike, death has two consequences. Traditionally playing games can get unlimited lives, so you only lose when the board is full. Playing under the rules of roguelike means that you start from the beginning every time you die, no matter what the state of the board is. I’m playing the traditional format, but I describe it as “not so difficult” rather than itself. Of course, Shovel Knight can die repeatedly, but rebirth takes precious seconds, and the game won’t wait for you to come back. When you come back, the board may be full, causing failure. This taught me to always monitor my health and determine the correct attack time.
You don’t need to wipe the board clean to win. Finding the key to open the exit door will take you to the next stage, so this is really to survive until the said door appears. The key can also open the treasure chest and provide useful energy boosts, such as a spear that pierces multiple targets, a shield that blocks attacks, or a smoke screen that prevents enemies from counterattacking around. My favorite is a simple bomb, which can clear large tiles, but if you don’t escape its range, it will also cause damage to you.
The shovel knight pocket dungeon is challenging. Since the tiles fall faster when moving (slower when stationary), it is difficult to suppress the subconscious desire to pass through as quickly as possible, and may lead to hasty death. This is especially true for enemies that require more thinking to eliminate, such as ghosts that disappear for a while after each hit or frogs that are electrified every step of the way. It is not easy to manage multiple types of enemies and require their own methods to defeat them. I was beaten many times before finally finding a groove. Now, I can browse the board carefully while keeping my swift action. Clearing 10+ blocks of annoying enemies feels very satisfying.
Even so, I think the difficulty soared earlier than it should. The first stage is an exquisite introduction to the basic enemies, and the mechanics can be easily mastered. However, stage 2 will throw at shielded enemies that must attack from multiple directions because they block the angle from where you finally hit them. It is a tricky idea to start thinking so early in the game, and it feels like it should be saved to the minimum of the 3rd or 4th stage. Because of it, I hit the wall very early. I am worried that others will too, and sooner or later they will rebound.
A failure of one stage means starting with stage 1, but fortunately, you can finally purchase the fast travel option to immediately revisit the stage you selected. Between the two runs, you will wander around the base camp and buy useful items from the rotating store inventory. Useful perks include longer-lasting gemstones or gaining more health. I also like to participate in NPC interference activities, such as reflection-based tile impact challenges.
Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon continues to develop, and in general, I am very happy to see the cunning skills it has. Pixel art looks no surprise, and the soundtrack is as worthy as your expectations of the Shovel Knight Union. My metal butt is getting less and less, but in terms of challenges, the game is still a tough climb. Shovel Knight’s puzzling building block experiment is gradually becoming an interesting but often swearing success.
Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon will be available on PlayStation 4, Switch and PC.