Dungeons of Dreadrock Review (Switch)
Indies are released by the dozens each week, so discoverability can be an issue, especially on the eShop. Dungeons of Dreadrock was one I hadn’t heard of prior to seeing it mentioned on Twitter, but I like to play a variety of indie games so I decided to try it. While not technically an RPG (despite being tagged as one), Dungeons of Dreadrock nonetheless turned out to be a fun and interesting dungeon-crawling, puzzle-solving game.
Every year, a young boy is selected to take on the King of the Mountain, and this year, your brother is chosen. You play as his sister and go with your brother to the entrance but shortly thereafter, things don’t go as planned. You then decide to take things upon yourself and save your brother by entering the dungeon and slowly descending its 100 floors to save your brother from evil.
The story of Dungeons of Dreadrock isn’t very deep, but there are cut scenes every handful of floors when you rest at fireplaces. Story beats are told through the dreams you experience while resting at these fireplaces, or by discovering small pieces of lore hidden throughout the game. Even still, the story is really just to set up why you are here and are traversing the 100 floors of the dungeon.
Dungeons of Dreadrock is played from an overhead view with a grid/tile layout for each floor, and the entirety of the current floor is displayed on screen at once. The objective of each floor is to solve its puzzle in order to reach the next floor. Initially, these puzzles start out easy – flipping switches or killing all the goblins in the room to get the key and unlock the gate to proceed to the next one. After a dozen or so floors, though, things begin to get interesting and this is when the game really starts to shine. You will at a point reach a floor where you can’t seem to progress, but if you go back up a floor and instead of killing the goblin have him chase after you down to the next floor, you now have the means to solve the original floor’s puzzle and advance.
I can’t recall any other dungeon-crawling puzzle game that is crafted in a way with 100 floors – not procedurally generated – and that makes you solve puzzles by using resources from the prior floor. This mechanic only becomes more important the further you dive into the dungeon, as well. Not only will you be tasked with getting baddies to chase after you from floor to floor, but also the occasional NPC. One puzzle will even require you to get four baddies on trap doors and then flip a switch, get their corpses to fall to the floor below, and land on pressure switches. The cleverly crafted puzzles are hands down the best feature of the game.
Presentation and Performance
Dungeons of Dreadrock features a 16-bit aesthetic that looks especially stunning on the Nintendo Switch OLED. I really enjoyed the chiptune soundtrack as well, especially the melody between floors as it becomes quite catchy over time. Despite showing an entire floor all at once, the game doesn’t have any performance issues to speak of, with the exception of a single crash which was fixed by rebooting the console. It’s also worth noting that at the time of this review (4-27-22), the pro controller isn’t supported but that could change in the future. Regardless, the sound and art design work and fit well for this game.
Dungeons of Dreadrock is surprisingly delightful – no other way to really put it. Surprising since I never really heard anything about it through my usual outlets, but now I only want to sing its praises. Once I started this game, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I never wanted to put it down.
Dungeons of Dreadrock is pure Zelda-inspired, puzzle-solving bliss. If you enjoy the puzzles in Zelda-like games, but not much else, then this one’s for you. Right away the premise is set, and then you immediately face off against 100 floors of puzzle solving that, at times, will give your mind a genuine workout. What really stood out for me above all else is the puzzle design and attention to detail. Everything in Dungeons of Dreadrock is hand crafted and placed for a reason, and I really liked how you need to go back and forth between floors in order to advance some puzzles.
I am not sure I have seen that done before and it is a refreshing mechanic that didn’t get overused either. Each year, there are always a few indie games that stand out above the rest and Dungeons of Dreadrock is one of those for me. While it may not have turned out to be an RPG, it’s still a fantastic experience that won’t take you more than 5-7 hours to complete and is well worth taking.