Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Review

The most important game on any gadget is one that you can return to when you’ve run out of things to do. That is a good puzzle game for me. Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure was one of my most-played Nintendo 3DS games of all time. I knew I could pop it up and smash some pills for hours on end whenever I had some break between games.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Review

Despite a plethora of possibilities, I’ve been unable to locate a game similar to it on the Nintendo Switch… until now. Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon, a new Shovel Knight offshoot game, is just what I’ve been looking for. It’s a fast-paced, addicting puzzle game that keeps me saying, “Just one more round.”

Can You Dig It?

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon takes a familiar premise and gives it a fresh spin. Players control Shovel Knight, who is pulled into a puzzling dungeon in the game’s story mode. The indie hero is tossed into a grid of foes, breakable blocks, and health-restoring potions. You can probably figure out where this is going: Chain together identical icons to clear the board.

In Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, Shovel Knight navigates a puzzle board. However, there’s a lot more going on here than in a typical “Match 3” game. It’s essentially a dungeon crawler sandwiched between two puzzle games. Players control Shovel Knight, who appears on the grid, rather than tapping icons. To break objects, he needs to physically navigate around and beat them with his shovel. All of this occurs when more items fall from the top of the screen (if the screen fills up, the game is ended). This generates a fast-paced flow in which players must constantly poke obstacles to cut a way across the board. The importance of spatial awareness cannot be overstated.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon Screentshots

Shovel Knight, on top of that, possesses health points. When he hits an enemy, they retaliate with a few points. Because picking up a potion restores some health, players must learn when to attack and when to heal. Items like bombs and temporary weaponry appear on the board from time to time, and if employed at the appropriate time, they can turn the tide of battle. It’s not about blindly touching icons, but rather about figuring out the correct order of actions on a continually changing puzzle board.

It’s a fast-paced juggling act that has my undivided attention. Thanks to the superb soundtrack, which includes remixes of popular Shovel Knight tracks, I rapidly fell into a rhythmic trance. I was moving on the beat without realizing it, like if I were playing Crypt of the NecroDancer or Tetris Beat. I get a nice “thwack” that sounds like a snare drum or handclap every time I hit an adversary. It’s as if I’m collaborating with the music, which forces my head to keep up with the beat.

Additional gameplay variations offer variety to the fundamental puzzle hook. The game follows a roguelite format in which players must complete a sequence of boards and battle classic Shovel Knight enemies. If you lose, you’ll have to start over. During a run, players can purchase relics that have various effects, such as boosting the quantity of spawned bombs or adding +1 damage to every initial opponent hit. While there aren’t many options, there are enough that I was able to create some really insane builds that made me feel unstoppable.

But it’s the game’s cast of selectable characters that keeps me going back. Players can employ slain bosses in the adventure at any time. Each one has a unique mechanic that changes the game altogether. Plague Knight has a lower HP, but poisons foes when they come into contact with him. The Specter Knight, on the other hand, recovers health by killing opponents but suffers harm from potions. I’m changing how I approach each board and carefully selecting relics that best match their playing style for each character.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon accomplishes everything a good puzzle game should. It’s simple to pick up and play, but I can’t wait to master all 13 of the game’s characters. I get the feeling there are some secrets to its plot that I haven’t figured out yet, which keeps me going long after I’ve finished a run. A daily challenge, versus mode, and leaderboards round out the package, ensuring that I have everything I need for a puzzle game that will quickly climb to the top of my Nintendo Switch activity log.

The Verdict

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon
8 10 0 1
Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, even though adopting a completely different genre, proves that the franchise is still at its pinnacle. It’s a must-play for lovers of the original and puzzle games alike, with some unique aspects that make it genuinely unique. Even if there are a few minor flaws.
Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, even though adopting a completely different genre, proves that the franchise is still at its pinnacle. It’s a must-play for lovers of the original and puzzle games alike, with some unique aspects that make it genuinely unique. Even if there are a few minor flaws.
Total Score
Very good
Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon


  • Character variety and how that impacts gameplay
  • The damage system’s twist on the puzzle genre
  • Excellent style and aesthetic
  • Shovel Knight proves it can adapt genres and remain true to itself


  • Roguelite elements feel somewhat underbaked
  • Could do with more unlocks at launch
  • Lacking accessibility features outside of some small sliders

Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeonwas Developed by Yacht Club Games and will be released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC on December 13th.

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