Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon (PS4, Switch, PC)

The indie game Shovel Knight has really gained fame since its release.  And for good reason, because it’s a great game!  The 8-bit styled 2-D platformer has gotten spinoffs with playable bosses, a Smash clone with Shovel Knight Showdown, and has even gotten kids meal toys at Arby’s!  And now Shovel Knight is starring in a puzzle action game!  It’s available on PS4, Switch, and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

In the game, Shovel Knight is at camp and just received a surprise package.  But before he can open it, a little box pops out and sucks him inside!  Now he’s trapped in the puzzle dungeon and must find a way out!  The game has three main modes of play.  In Story Mode, you’ll start out at a camp and can talk to characters and shop for items before venturing forth out in the field.  In the game you move around a grid in any direction.  Levels will have monsters, items, and blocks falling down from the top.  If you bump into monsters or blocks, you’ll give them damage and can take damage yourself.  Before you lose all your health, touch a potion falling down to recover.  If you can defeat monsters or blocks next to each other, you’ll perform a chain and can earn more gems to buy things later.

If you run out of energy, that doesn’t mean the game is over.  You’ll drop your gold and float up to the top like an angel, but you’ll reappear again at the top and can keep playing.  But things will keep falling from the top while this happens, so you’ll want to avoid this as much as possible.  If the screen fills with blocks and you can’t move, then the game is over.  Sometimes, treasure chests will fall.  Collect a key to open them and they’ll sometimes have items inside that’ll help you fight the monsters.  Other times you can enter a shop to buy items as well.  Open enough treasures and a door will appear.  Collect a key to open it and you’ll finish the level!

Each level has different monsters that you need to learn how to defeat.  Slimes can turn into acid so you won’t want to go over those squares right away or you’ll take damage.  Ghosts can be hit once, then you must hit something else to make them vulnerable again.  And there are a lot more for you to discover.  At the end of a few levels, you can fight a boss from the main Shovel Knight game, but in puzzle form.  And once you defeat one, you can play as them.  Each character has different skills and strengths.  For instance, Plague Knight may have less energy, but he can poison enemies with his attacks for extra damage.  And King Knight has a charge move.  When you are defeated in Story Mode, you’ll return to camp and can buy items that’ll be found in treasure chests when you play again.  You can also switch characters here.

The other modes of play include a VS. Mode where you can challenge another person or the CPU in a split screen match. You can also partake in daily challenges once per day, and view the leaderboards.  You can also view info on each enemy and item you’ve encountered, as well as view your ‘feats’ (Achievements or Trophies), and toggle options.

Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon is really fun and implements the Shovel Knight themes well into the puzzle gameplay.  But I had some problems with the game, too.  The game has too many ‘roguelike’ elements for my tastes.  You will die a lot and have to start back over, buying items each time in hopes to be stronger and get further in the next run.  But to me, that just slows down the feel of progression.  Plus, like the original game, this one is way too hard!  If it was a bit easier, I probably wouldn’t have lost interest as quickly.

Kid Factor:

Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Fantasy Violence.  If you defeat enemies, they just disappear.  When you lose all your energy, you just float up to the top of the screen like an angel before reappearing.  Reading skill is needed for the text, and younger gamers may find it too difficult.

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