Shovel Knight, the indie Kickstarter legend and master of the cameo finally has a new release, slamming into the dirt of a new genre. It’s time to see what skills the knight has been honing lately.
While the original Shovel Knight was a homage to 2D NES Platformers like Duck Tales, Pocket Dungeon aims to fuse the genres of puzzle and Roguelike with that unique flavour the series has now become known for.
Shovel Knight and friends find themselves stuck in the titular Pocket Dungeon and have to solve an unsolvable puzzle to gain freedom, while not exactly life changing narrative it retains the humour and character interactions that the original game and expansions had in droves.
Graphically Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is more 16bit than it’s 8bit inspired origins, featuring heavily detailed sprite work and a fantastic use of colours it draws comparisons to titles like Columns and Tetris Attacks! from that 16 bit golden age.
While there aren’t stages in the traditional level design way each level is based in a different area on the map and this slightly alters the playing board to follow it’s theme, be it a field or clock town the small touches help define the area you are in.
Now anyone who’s played Shovel Knight will remember just how GOOD the music was there, fortunately this spin off title is no exception.
Pocket Dungeon features remixes of all your favourite tracks from the original alongside some totally new arrangements, the soundtrack slaps more than a “Best of EastEnders” montage video.
So how does one solve the Pocket Dungeon I hear ye cry, by chaining enemies, collecting potions and purchasing stuff from the shop using gems, much like the original just with a puzzle infusion.
Played on a 8×8 grid you move your chosen knight across the board, enemies stack much like blocks from Tetris or gems in Columns and if you walk into them you damage them, the caviet being they also damage you back unless your hit kills.
Only the enemy you touch damages you but any enemy next to that one takes damage from you, it’s here the chain aspect comes into things and will see you trying to plan your moves to chain the most monsters which in turn nets you extra gems.
There are potions on the field to regain health and thus starts the delicate ballet of death as you whittle the enemies down that constantly rain down on you, use potions sparingly, collect gems and treasures and leave the stage before the port cullis closes and traps you forever.
Some enemies can only be attacked under certain circumstances, some need multiple attacks from different directions and there are so many different strategies waiting for you to discover.
Boss fights appear and are a true test of skill, usually following the abilities of each knight you’ll not only have to deal with the standard puzzle gameplay but also the unique attacks of the bosses.
Being this game has Roguelike elements each failure takes you back to the start but you can buy abilities and upgrades to help further your next run.
Another handy feature is you can take the 12 Playable knights (once you’ve unlocked them) through the entire game. Each Knight has a unique playstyle and special ability just waiting for eager gamers to dissect.
Gameplay modes include the Adventure mode which is your main narrative and gameplay, daily puzzle to keep you coming back and a local competitive multiplayer. Sadly no online which is a massive misfire considering we still live in strained times socially.
Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is tough, rewarding, charming, content rich and has all the addictive “one more go” qualities of legendary puzzle games, arcade games and Class A Drugs.
While possibly not for everyone due to the puzzle and Roguelike aspects, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is a fantastic title and one I continue to enjoy every time I play it, it reminds me of titles such as Curse of the Necrodancer with its addictive qualities and absolutely banging soundtrack, easily a must play.
Also available on PS4/5 and Nintendo Switch
Perfect mix of shovelry and puzzling in an endlessly replayable package
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