Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is a spin-off installment of the Shovel Knight game series.
It is a puzzle roguelite that encourages players to replay in order to unlock special characters and items.
The gist of the game’s story is that Shovel Knight gets gifted a mysterious puzzle box that traps him in some puzzle dimension. It is up to the Shovel Knights and his fellow knights to escape the puzzle box that trapped all of them. Pretty simple story but intriguing nonetheless as you’ll be sure to discover if you play the game.
I’ll admit that the game is addicting like a mobile game and I’ll tell you good folks why!
As I have mentioned earlier, this game is a puzzle roguelite.
I think that it’s easier to describe it as a mix of Crypt of the Necrodancer and Tetris.
The game takes place on a 2D board in which the player controls a knight to move left, right, up, and down.
Enemies and obstacles will be floating down from the top of the board. The rate at which these things will fall depends on your movement as in: the faster you move, the faster things will move. Chests and keys will also fall down for you to use. These chests can contain useful artifacts such as a shield that blocks damage or a spear that can pierce through enemies. There is a meter that is on the bottom of the screen called the Gem Meter which increases the amount of gems earned from killing monsters. This combo meter is filled by killing monsters and increased further by chaining kills.
Speaking of enemies, most will not actively attack you, instead you’ll take damage if you hit an enemy and they survive. If your hitpoints get depleted, you’ll either need to start the run over or you’ll respawn but the board will fill up more depending on which mode you chose. Just like in Tetris, you will lose the run if the game board gets completely filled, so try your best to clear the board ASAP. In order for players to be able to clear the board, they will need to chain kills. To successfully chain kills, players will need to attack monsters that are the same and next to each other (not diagonally) which will cause them to all take the same hit.
One thing that I like about the game is the ability to discover and unlock knights from the main game to play. A common way to acquire said knights is whenever you reach a boss level and fight certain knights to earn them[/b]. Another way I have found is through secret Shrine Portals that have a certain requirements such as using 3 keys or giving up some max health. Each knight has a special ability or trait that makes each run feel unique such as the King Knight being able to bash at stuff.
Art & Sound
If I were to compare Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon to the other main games, I’d say that this spin-off is rather more colorful and animated. This is me saying that the game looks really good in terms of visual aesthetics. The art direction focuses on being whimsical and as close to fantasy as possible. It feels less of the retro style that was attributed to the original games and more like modern pixel games.
The soundtrack is an absolute banger. It’s essentially in the similar vein as the retro Mega Man music. I just love this style of music and it helps in playing through continuous runs as you die again and again. Another detail that I like about the game’s sound effects is that they’re good at signaling certain things on the board. For example, if you take too long to exit the level, the game will play a distinctive crushing sound to indicate that you should hurry up before you lose. Another one would be if a bomb or explosive is about to explode with the sizzling sound effect. It’s great that the sounds are practically crystal clear.
For all of my praises so far, I did encounter some things that were pretty annoying that you’d need to know.
1. RNG-heavy: I thought the reviews were exaggerating about the game being a bit too RNG but I was wrong. The game doesn’t really tell you where incoming enemies are coming from and what type. This is problematic if you need to build up chains to mass clear enemies before they take up too much of the board. It does not help that certain enemies can be extremely devastating to your run if they appear at an unwanted position. This RNG issue is not necessarily bad by itself but when compounded with the other issues, it makes it hard to manage.
2. Potion Dependency: I mentioned how you’ll be trading hits with monsters earlier in the review. Well in order to make sure that you don’t die, you’ll need to consume potions to restore your hitpoints. These potions will drop down from the top just as enemies and obstacles do. This goes back to the RNG factor of hoping to God that you get a potion when you need it. Most of the time you won’t need to use a potion to restore health, but you’ll need to consume them to clear the board. I just don’t like how potions are necessary for the game’s combat but the frequency of them dropping is all over the place. This is annoying when you don’t have enough health to kill enemies since some of them are incredibly tanky or they have an annoying mechanic tied to them.
3. Boss Battles: First of all, boss battles in this game aren’t bad by themselves. In fact, I find them fun and engaging in comparison to the normal levels. However the issue that I have with boss battles is that they rely so much on you getting potions in order to win. Each boss battle will have enemies and potions falling down on you. To win these boss fights, you must deplete the boss’s hitpoints to zero but just like enemies, you will get damaged every time you hit the boss. Recall the other issues I’ve stated and you can see things being a problem. It becomes a race against the clock to kill the boss while hoping to have enough health from randomly falling potions before too many enemies fill up the board.
Even though I recommend Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon because it’s a decent, addictive roguelite with a solid tetris gameplay loop, I am not afraid to say that it should have been a mobile game. This is to say that I think that it’s a bit overpriced for a game that feels and plays similarly to Crypt of the Necrodancer but Tetris. I won’t deny that the game is highly replayable thanks to the inclusion of familiar knights that add a bit of spice to each run.
You can purchase Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon through the Steam store page HERE!