Dungeons of Dreadrock gives Switch players a super fun, hand-crafted puzzle adventure that is a little clumsy in its translation from its mobile origins.
Title: Dungeons of Dreadrock
Release Date: May 12, 2022
Suggested Audience Age: Rated T for Teen by the ESRB
Time to Play: 5.5 Hours, according to How Long to Beat
Availability: Switch, Steam, Google Play, App Store
Recommended for fans of: Zelda games, puzzle games like Tetragon or Xel, and bite-sized challenges
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
At a glance, Dungeons of Dreadlock looks a lot like a Sokoban game. That classic formula has players pushing objects tile by tile around single-room puzzles to hit switches and open the way to the next section. This game sort of mixes that format with a bit of classic Zelda flavor to make for one massive, 100-room dungeon that started on iOS but works pretty well on Switch.
Dancing Through Dungeons
I wasn't quite sure how Dungeons of Dreadrock was going to play when I first picked it up. The art direction makes it clear that this is a tile-based game. What surprised me was the restrictions on movement within the grid. Each step is an individual action. What I mean by that is that the game almost feels like it wants you to move three spaces to the left by tapping the stick to the left three times to a beat, like in the Crypt of the Necrodancer games. Except there is no beat to follow. Your movement is just sort of segmented into steps, rather than moving freely like you would in a Zelda game.
It's weird and tough to explain, but it works just fine in practice. It just takes a bit to get used to the staccato way that the player and enemies move.
Puzzles Over Punches
The hook in Dungeons of Dreadrock is always to find your way from an entrance door to an exit door. You get a sword you can use to attack enemies in adjacent tiles right away, but this is mostly not a combat game. Instead, it's much more about solving puzzles.
I'm not quite halfway through the game so far, and I'm delighted at the variety and creativity of the puzzles. Sometimes it's as simple as realizing there's a lever on a wall that opens a door, sometimes you have to utilize switch-activated portals to turn an enemy's projectiles back against them.
There have been a few times when I was sure the game was broken because a single puzzle had me so stumped, and each time I learned something new about how the game works. My mind was blown when I realized that I had to go back upstairs to a previous room in order to solve a puzzle in the current room.
I do have one issue with Dungeons of Dreadlock. The game was developed for iOS and has just made its way off of a touch-screen-only device and hasn't done so super elegantly.
Even when playing the game docked, touch screen buttons for resetting the current room or opening the pause menu hover like a lost ghost. They do work in handheld mode, but it still feels weird for them to be on screen, instead of telling you what button to press for those same functions.
Then there are held items. Throughout the game, you’ll pick up items to help you solve puzzles. The items appear on the side of your screen as touch prompts, so you can tap on them to use them. You can also press buttons to use them, but there’s no indication of which held item is mapped to which button. If you’ve got three identical rocks, no big deal. However, if you are trying to drop a certain item in a certain spot, it can get annoying.
Thankfully, the weird controls don’t really hold the Switch version of Dungeons or Dreadrock back. Since each individual floor only takes a minute or two to solve correctly, a silly mistake never causes too much of an issue.
I’m only about halfway through, but I’m very charmed by this game. It’s a wonderful, bite-sized puzzle adventure that reminds me just enough of Zelda to give me feelings of fake nostalgia, and does a great job of bringing in fresh puzzle ideas without ever making the gameplay feel over complicated.