The Shovel Knight crew is back and this time, they find themselves trapped in the sinister Pocket Dungeon. Blending tile-based action puzzle elements with roguelite progression, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon provides its own unique take with that charming coat of paint we've come to know and love. As we delve deeper into the dungeon, guided by the Puzzle Knight himself, it's time to dig into another shovelling adventure.

The Good

Shovel Knight not only delves into the puzzle gaming world but does so with roguelite elements. The gems that you collect act as total currency and throughout runs, you can either use them to purchase upgrades for said run or between runs to purchase item upgrades from Chester's Shop that can be found within future attempts. This game doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to roguelites by any means but it doesn't have to, it simply compliments the tile puzzle gameplay.

Speaking of the gameplay, it is so wonderfully addictive - such is the appeal of tile-matching, chain building puzzle games. Each enemy here has their own unique abilities and stats (health, attack, special moves/attributes, etc.) and this allows for such wonderful creativity in its gameplay design. It feels like you're playing a roguelite, block-falling game of chess, where you need to anticipate where the block enemies will fall and where you'll be situated when they do. And for those looking for that extra challenge, chaining together attacks consistently enough in order to build up and sustain your gem meter calls for some quick thinking and serious puzzle-solving skills.

Check out our interview with Yacht Club Games

The whole gang is back together! If it's one thing that Yacht Club Games has managed to achieve since its initial launch of Shovel Knight back in 2014, it's making every character in their universe memorable; some admittedly more than others (e.g. characters who received their own campaigns in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove). However, it's more than just the main cast; all Shovel Justice Warriors remember the griffin mini-boss and the previously mentioned travelling merchant Chester - the characters blend seamlessly into this new genre and the skies the limit for their futures.

TL;DR

  • Puzzle roguelite gameplay
  • Addictively unique
  • Recurring (and new) characters

The Bad

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon suffers from some notable difficulty spikes, especially in one level in particular midway through. Its difficulty is inconsistent, no matter which level of challenge you've adjusted the settings to (more on this in a moment) and it's this inconsistency that makes its pacing feel awkward. Roguelite puzzle adventures can be tricky to balance difficulty with and while the Shovel Knight series is partly renowned for it, the chaos of its tile-falling puzzle gameplay is here more infuriating than challenging.

When you start Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, the game will ask whether you wish to play it as a roguelite or as a puzzle adventure. The option is nice and yet, it can be changed in the Options menu as well as a multitude of other factors (such as lives, block speed and). While the accessibility works, I also find it to be somewhat detrimental to its overall design. With the difficulty being so customisable, you may find yourself with an odd feeling of guilt if you make it too easy and yet, the frustration of its randomised elements are just that, frustrating. It's difficult to complain about something as this but it begs to question, is there such a thing as too much accessibility?

TL;DR

  • Difficulty spikes
  • Too much accessibility?

Final Score: 8/10

The Shovel Knight franchise has boldly taken on new grounds and it leaves me excited for which wacky directions the series will surely take in the future. While Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon isn't without some design flaws, its unique spin on tile-puzzle mechanics coupled with the evergrowing universe filled with its wacky cast of characters fits better than anyone would've ever expected. Shovel Knight Dig is slated for 2022 but who's to say what's after that? Shovel Kart? Shovel Party? You had my curiousity but now, you have my attention.

Thank you for checking out our Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Switch review, thank you to Yacht Club Games for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:

For more reading, check out our review of Clockwork Aquario.