Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Review thumbnail

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Review

Dig up a puzzle gem

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PS4 on

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is also available for Nintendo Switch

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is rated Everyone by the ESRB

Shovel Knight is back and now, he's starring in a brand new roguelike that just happens to be one of the best puzzle games of all time.

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Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon screenshot 1
Now that I have the Troupple King's blessings; let's get to it!

When I started playing Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, I didn't know what to think of it. It seemed like kind of a mess with its cluttered playfield that appeared to constantly be in motion. However, after taking the time to learn how to play it, I adjusted the rules so that it played like a Mystery Dungeon game where enemies move only when you do. From then on, I had an absolute blast defeating enemies, collecting treasures, besting bosses in battle, and unlocking all sorts of goodies. That's the thing about Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon; it's a puzzle game built for everyone with the simple fact that you can alter its gameplay in exceptionally clever ways so that it plays exactly as you'd like to play it and enjoy it at your own pace. There are even cheats for those who struggle with the core gameplay. v1d30chumz 18-232-56-9

Speaking of which, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is played by moving your character of choice around a grid-based playfield where you bump into enemies or obstructions to attack them. Whenever you do, enemies will retaliate so the key to success is to balance your potion-drinking and enemy-fighting so that you can stay alive. Meanwhile, attacking an enemy harms all of the same enemy type that are touching so there's a sort of BreakThru! mechanic in place which adds a layer of strategy. Also, enemies and goodies fall from the top of the screen as you play and each level is completed by snagging a key and opening a door with it. Along the way, there will be many stand-out moments such as new enemy types, fun relics that give you a boost, and even bonus challenges. 😄

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon screenshot 2
Shovel Knight readies his steel for an epic battle on the sea

This varied setup makes for one highly entertaining formula and considering you'll unlock additional playable characters as you play with each of them having their own distinct traits and abilities, you're looking at one jam-packed puzzler that's hard to put down. Not only that; you can also purchase shortcuts, character-specific costumes, and relics that will spawn from then on. So, each run will be a unique experience, especially if you regularly change-up your character and try out different relics that'll hopefully complement your current character's distinct style. Once you find a winning combination and strategy, it feels great to topple the bosses and complete a playthrough which in my experience, often takes over an hour. Then, you unlock more things and start the fun all over again. 😊

On top of the obvious unlockables, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon contains plenty of secrets that I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of even though I've been playing for well over 10 hours so far. For example, I discovered a bonus mini-game by bashing into a wall in the hub area and as you play through the campaign, you'll also come across portals to gateways that require you to sacrifice a few keys or your maximum health to open. Doing so grants you pieces of a key but what will happen when you collect them all? 🤔

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon may be an incredible puzzle game but it still has its downsides. The most prominent of which is that I found its gameplay to become rather tiresome after a handful of hours or so which is a lot longer than it takes for most puzzlers to start getting repetitive so that's a good thing. Anyway, one aspect that compounds the feeling of tedium is that not only do you face similar situations constantly, there's also a sense of randomness, especially when it comes to unlocking characters. Specifically, you might play through the whole campaign multiple times and still not run into the randomly assigned bosses that you haven't unlocked yet which can be annoying to say the least. Maybe there's a trick to getting them to spawn and if there is, it's super-well hidden. 🤫

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon screenshot 3
Don't you hate it when you're just 1 away?

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is a superb puzzle game that's much more enjoyable than it has any right being. Plus, no matter which kind of puzzle gameplay you prefer, the wide variety of options will allow you to enjoy it at whichever pace you prefer.

  • + Rewarding core gameplay that you can enjoy with many very different characters
  • + Rule options can cleverly alter the gameplay
  • + Tons of unlockables and secrets
  • - Gameplay loop will become a bit tiresome after a handful of hours
  • - Campaign can be too random
8.7 out of 10
Gameplay video for Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon thumbnail
Watch A.J. play Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon
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