Game: Dungeons of Dreadrock
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle,
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows & macOS) and Mobile)
Age Rating: EU 12 | US E10+
Price: US $10.00 | UK £8.99 | EU € 8,99
Release Date: May 12th, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to ChristophMinnameir.
Dungeons of Dreadrock is a top-down adventure game that takes inspiration from the old 80s dungeon crawlers, but keeps an emphasis on puzzle-solving. The game has already been quite the hit on mobile devices, gaining the impressive accolade of the number one mobile game on Metacritic 2022. Now the game looks to make its mark on the Nintendo Switch. If you’re looking for a little gem to enjoy in bite-sized chunks, I recommend Dungeons of Dreadrock.
Every year, on orders from the village elders, a young boy is sent into the mountain on a quest to defeat the Dead King. The only trouble is, as of this point, no boy has ever returned alive from the quest. This time a young girl accompanies her brother along the path. When her brother doesn’t return, against the elders’ will, the girl decides it’s time to finally break tradition and head into the mountain to rescue him. As she descends into the mountain, she uncovers some truths about the mountain and even the village elders, changing her perspective on everything she has known.
It’s not just the evils of the dungeons she has to fight against but also the established rules of her society. I don’t want to spoil the plot further, but it does follow a familiar path I feel I have seen in fantasy based stories before. The developer promotes a brave female protagonist who is brought to life further on with full voice acting, monologuing her thoughts and struggles as she descends further on her rescue mission.
Unique Handcrafted Puzzles
The goal of the game is to rescue your brother; you must travel one hundred floors, floor by floor, through the dreaded dungeons, each of which is given a chapter and name to it, some of which will tickle the nostalgia spots such as ‘You Shall Not Pass. Each dungeon is presented on a single screen, with the main objective being to reach the exit room. To do this, you will engage in a variety of handcrafted puzzles. Things start off pretty simple with you slaying zombies, pushing on pressure pads and flipping switches. Although it doesn’t take too long till you need to put your thinking hat on.
There will even be occasions where you actually need to return to the floor above to be able to fully solve a puzzle to progress. The game plays out in real-time and is not turn-based like older dungeon crawlers. You make movements one tile at a time, but if an enemy spots you, it will constantly keep moving toward you. So be on your toes and have your fingers ready. You will die with a single hit, but you will respawn instantly on the same floor to try again. There wasn’t really a moment where a mechanic felt overused or repeated.
Pen and Pad
I was impressed how there was something new to discover with each new puzzle, even with only a few enemy sprites used. When you solve the more challenging puzzles, the feeling you get is pretty awesome. There was an odd occasion where I even got a pad and pen out, which brought back some nice retro memories. A small niggle I had is the game sometimes presents with the odd ‘gotcha’ puzzle.
This is where you only seem to know the solution to the puzzle by failing first. An example of this I discovered on one floor, I had to do something on the floor above first, like move an enemy into a certain position in order to block a runaway enemy from stealing my dagger. But I only discovered this through failure. Luckily checkpoints are very frequent in this game, keeping frustrations at bay.
Controls are simple to pick up and play. In handheld mode, you can choose to use touch controls, buttons or a combination of the two. All you need to use is the movement controls by swiping on the screen, using the analogue stick or D-pad. To use an item, you simply press one of the face buttons. I mostly stuck to buttons since that’s always my preference. I encountered a small niggle now and then; my heroine would not always move in the direction I wanted, which led to the odd cheap death.
Graphics are lovely hand-drawn sprites. The levels follow a familiar dungeon appearance dressed in stone. Every level feels handcrafted with care by the developer, which is pretty impressive for a game featuring 100 levels. There are some really nice touches to the graphics. Vines infest the walls giving a sense of age, and when you come across some small water streams, if you pay close attention, you will see some small fishes swimming about. Even though these are treacherous dungeons, there are still signs of life and hope.
Enemies come in a few varieties like zombies, Minotaurs and evil trees, each of which has its own personality and movement behaviour. It even features some irritating jester-like creatures that are annoying as they appear but very satisfying to trap and defeat. When enemies are defeated, they often fall in a bloodied pile, and when you walk through them, they leave a small trail of blood. This is not something that bothers me, and it’s even used to solve one of the puzzles. I just found it a little odd this granted the game a Pegi 7 rating since this may not be something all parents want their kids playing.
Need a Hint
If you really struggle, the game does offer a hint system which will offer assistance in small steps so as not to totally give away the solution. The game is far more rewarding if you avoid using this, but it’s a nice feature for those that are really struggling. There also appears to be a cheat-like system which lets you skip levels, but I didn’t experiment with this.
The game will take you around 4 to 5 hours to complete. You probably could complete it in one sitting if you’re really dedicated, but I personally liked this in short bursts. It’s worth pointing out this is a title suffering from the famous Switch Tax. I still feel the price of entry is more than fair, but the game is much cheaper on mobile and PC should your finances be a bit low at the moment.
Conclusion – A Dungeon to Remember
Dungeons of Dreadrock is a solid dungeon crawling adventure that will appeal to gamers looking to enjoy a good puzzler in bite-sized chunks. A few small niggles propped up like gotcha mechanics and the controls being a bit finicky. However, none of these severely deterred the experience. When I entered the mountain, I was pretty hooked on the experience to its conclusion, thanks to the game’s uniquely crafted puzzles. This feels like a fun game to also share with a loved one if you want to try to tackle the puzzles together. Whether you’re a fan of older dungeon crawlers or new, this adventure is well worth your time.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot