Thanks to Christoph Minnameier for the opportunity to review this. Follow the links on the official website to grab your copy on Android, iOS, Switch, or Steam! Reviewed in Handheld Mode using the BinBok Wireless joycons.
Dungeons of Dreadrock caught my eye immediately. It promised a nostalgic art style and 100 Dungeon Crawling levels with no long-winded inventory management. It seemed simple yet challenging at its core, with basic story notes as the protagonist searches for their brother. The charm was immediately apparent, so check out the trailer for yourself below, and I’ll see you after the jump!
The first thing I noticed was the speed at which I found myself launched into the experience. I loaded into a crisp, clean screen and a single option of “Press Button to Start”. After a short introduction dialogue, I was in Room 001 solving my first puzzle.
There was no explanation of the controls at the beginning but I found my bearings. Cutscenes could also be sped-up at a button-press without missing any details.
With simple 4-directional movement and no need for complicated controls, the gameplay stayed focused on nostalgia, dungeon-crawling and puzzle-solving throughout. Levels consisted of getting from entry to exit and either defeating enemies for a Key or solving a puzzle in order to unlock the path. Each puzzle opened on a chapter screen which gave a name containing some hint towards the solution. This was a welcome and invaluable resource.
Thinking outside the box, knowing which enemies to spare, and dodging projectiles were all key skills. I was able to clear the first 20 puzzles with no issues and quickly became overconfident. I thought this would be a very simple game and was ultimately proven wrong.
By level 50 the difficulty was increasing steadily, with some puzzles even spreading over multiple floors. I used items to solve more complicated puzzles across multiple levels, and negotiated multiple enemies/obstacles simultaneously. This curve continued consistently with the exception of a couple of puzzles (I’m looking at you Level 90!). The in-game prompts made it impossible to miss essential items or backtrack without needing to.
The chiptune music was well-made and brought back many memories of my childhood adventures in Hyrule. I also enjoyed the narration voiceovers, though they were sparingly used.
Graphically speaking, this 16-bit effort was easy on the eyes all around. Flickering torches, skeletons and some brilliant easter eggs adorned Dreadrock. The little details weren’t neglected at all(try walking through a fallen enemy, you won’t regret it). The in-game text was bold and clear, so there was no difficulty or eye strain involved.
Some levels in the game stood out from others, both for better and worse. Level 65 was a favourite, implementing a multi-roomed puzzle especially well. I won’t give away any solutions here, but again the chapter title was helpful and entertaining. Level 90 was frustrating as It was far too easy to walk into a fireball after solving the room. A split-second mistake meant that I needed to repeat most of the two rooms a fair few times.
Unfortunately, once I cleared the 100 puzzles there was nothing else to experience or unlock. “Press Button to Start” became the name of the last level, and there was nothing except to start over.
This was a high-quality effort, especially considering the small size of the team involved. For $10 (at the time of writing) I got just over 4 hours of gameplay. The “Cheat Unlock” option did offer the ability to revisit specific puzzles, but there was no incentive to do this.