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Review: Dungeons of Dreadrock (Nintendo Switch)

Inspired by early adventure video games, Dungeons of Dreadrock sends you – a lone child – into a 100-floor dungeon that requires you to fight off monsters and solve puzzles to defeat the Dead King.

You begin the game at the mouth of the dungeon on a grim winter evening until the urge to go inside after your ‘Chosen’ brother gets too strong. In your community, a boy is chosen each year to kill the Dead King, but none have ever returned. You take it upon yourself to help your brother in his quest.

Dungeons of Dreadrock is a beautifully designed game. It combined fluid animation and a smooth art style with the grid layout of early dungeon-crawler puzzle games. At first, I thought the lack of a diagonal step would get annoying, but it factors into enough of the puzzles you face to justify the decision.

Each floor contains various traps and enemies you have to circumvent to reach the stairway to the next level. There are also levers to pull, buttons to push, stones to throw and items to carry with you that inject a level of creativity into the game.

The puzzles are generally built of simple components, combined in a way that creates a really fun sequence. They’re not so difficult that you’ll get overwhelmed, but they are challenging enough to engage your creative thinking. I like that some of the puzzles require you to go back to previous floors to collect items or have an enemy chase you to the next level in order to progress.

If any of the puzzles prove too difficult, an optional hint will appear after a short time. These vary in usefulness. They always include the same information, regardless of whether you’ve already figured it out. Some hints feel like they’re simply telling you what to do, while others are more cryptic. Overall, though, it’s nice to have them there.

On your journey, you learn things about your village, its relationship with the Dead King and the role of the boys who went out to kill him and never returned. The story beats aren’t the most original I’ve ever read, but I appreciate them lending the adventure some stakes.

Clearly a lot of effort has gone into Dungeons of Dreadrock. There are some little details that are fun to notice, such as the bloody footprints you leave behind you if you walk through a defeated enemy. Everything about it is well put together. The story is coherent and interesting, the puzzles are fun, and the 100 levels get you a decent amount of gameplay for your money.

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