If you’re hoping for a platformer like Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, you won’t find it here. For Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, Yacht Club Games and VINE have created a falling block puzzle game with roguelite elements. Working as a sequel/spin-off, Shovel Knight’s been transported into the Pocket Dungeon after encountering a strange cube. Finding Puzzle Knight and Chester upon arrival, we’ll begin setting up camp and plotting an escape.
Travelling across 10 regions in Adventure Mode, levels are set across an 8x8 grid, where you’ll destroy descending blocks and enemies until a locked door appears to secure your escape. Unsurprisingly, enemies retaliate when struck — don’t worry, health potions drop too — but attacks hurt every foe within a connected chain. Bigger chains award extra gems, currency used to buy relics from Chester for new attacks, increased maximum HP, and more. Portals also emerge leading to key fragments, each mandating a cost like losing 1HP permanently, or 20,000 gems. You’ll need four to complete Adventure Mode, so tread carefully.
Should you die on single stock, Shovel Knight returns to camp, losing all previously bought relics and progress, but keeping his gems. This roguelite aspect won’t universally appeal and could’ve benefited from greater depth, yet despite this issue, combat remains incredibly satisfying. Pocket Dungeon’s also packed with accessibility options that’ll appeal to most players. Infinite stock respawns you upon dying with full health, though its still game over if the grid fills up. Shortcuts exist (for a price), there’s modifiers for gameplay speed/HP/attack damage, and fully remappable controls too.
It’s a flexible experience, and you can complete Pocket Dungeon quickly using those options, but Pocket Dungeon incentivises multiple runs. Different knights appear across playthroughs for mini-boss battles, and you’ll unlock them after winning. They aren’t purely cosmetic either, each providing unique buffs like extra damage upon inflicting fatal blows. Outside this campaign, Versus Mode offers one-on-one fights in local multiplayer or against a CPU. Daily Mode gives every player one chance to compete for a high score under the same ruleset, while completing Adventure unlocks an endless variant.
There’s not significant variety across these extra modes — and no online multiplayer is unfortunate — though when the core gameplay is this good, it's not a major detractor. Yacht Club Games and VINE ultimately provide an excellent puzzle spin-off, one that’s accessible for all players that'll appeal to existing fans. You won’t necessarily be here for a long time, but it’s an addictive experience that’ll keep you coming back for more.