Digging in with Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon

You know, I really enjoyed Shovel Knight. The original platform game plus its myriad expansions, I mean. Who didn't? Don't answer that, statistically some of you didn't. Idiots. It was brilliant; possibly the most successful capturing of old-school game feel outside of the actual technical parameters of old-school games. And now, developers Yacht Club have announced their second full-fledged title, Mina the Hollower - essentially their take on Link's Awakening. Yeah, I'm excited too.

The knight of shovelry, though, wasn't to be left by the wayside. A short while ago, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon graced us with its presence, a hybrid roguelike/dungeon-'em-up/falling block puzzle game with absolutely glorious coin-op style graphics and music. So, you know, I played it. I had to play it! New Shovel Knight, come on!

And to this day I have not seen the back half of stage 3. Hell, I've only seen stage 3 a couple of times. This game is hard. Nails hard. Genuinely shockingly difficult stuff. You move around a tile at a time ala Crypt of the Necrodancer and everything else moves when you do ala... erm... Crypt of the Necrodancer. You've got enemies that hit you at the same time as you hit them, potions that heal you up, blocks/stones that simply break, various different enemy types, locked treasure chests and their associated keys... and that's not all. It's a lot to take in, frankly, and it's incredibly easy to get frazzled and quickly die. Getting enough chests opens the exit to the next level, whereupon it all gets harder.

It's the variety of enemies that makes things tough - you need to remember where and how the enemies strike, how much damage they do, and to ensure that there are enough potions nearby to heal up so you don't get cornered by some manner of beastie. There's constant animation and stuff happening around you and that was enough to really pile on the pressure for me - hence my inability to get too far.

To be fair to Pocket Dungeon, the game is heavily customisable to the point that it doesn't actually have to be a roguelike if you don't want it to. I stuck with it though, because that feels like the correct way to play; anything less would be a compromise and I, Stuart Gipp, never compromise. Unless you pay me to do so, in which case I will compromise everything.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon ended up not really being for me, but the quality shines through. There's a ton of love poured into its presentation and it's a game with a thoroughly high skill ceiling. Gold/gems collected in each round can be spent back at base camp between games in order to unlock more items that will appear in future runs, ala... oh my god... Crypt of the Necrodancer again! Hang on, was it made by the same people? (Checks) It WASN'T?!? Nobody tell the police!

Erm, yes, well, Pocket Dungeon. It's good if you like getting a "game over". I've lost games before in literally the minimum possible moves it would take to lose and I suppose I'm oddly proud of that for some reason. Mm.