Dungeons of Dreadrock review
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Dungeons of Dreadrock review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on February 14th, 2022
Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: DREAD ROCKS
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This dungeon-crawler lulls you into a false sense of familiarity before giving way to some of the most playful and creative puzzle challenges the App Store has to offer.

Developer: Christoph Minnameier

Price: Free
Version: 1.02
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Dungeons of Dreadrock reimagines dungeon-crawling by making each floor of its monster-filled depths into a puzzle room. While the concept here isn't earth-shattering, its puzzle design is something to behold and experience for yourself. Simply put, Dungeons of Dreadrock has some of the most novel, varied, and satisfying challenges I've encountered in recent memory, making it an absolute must-play.

Dreaded dungeoning

There is practically nothing exciting about Dungeons of Dreadrock's core premise and mechanics. In it, you play as a young woman setting off to free her brother from the clutches of some ancient evil. To find your sibling and free him, you have to make it down 100 floors of the eponymous dungeon, which involves killing a lot of goblins, manipulating trap switches, dodging arrows, and all other kinds of typical fantasy adventuring maneuvers.

All of this action plays out in an overhead view of a grid-based dungeon, each floor of which fits entirely within the confines of your phone screen. Controlling your character is as easy as swiping up, down, left, or right to move in that direction and tapping on items in your inventory to activate them.

Unexpected depth

This setup almost lulls you into a sense of false familiarity. You've played dungeon-crawlers before. You've played puzzle games that look like this. You know how this all works. But just when you feel you have the game pegged, you hit a level where an ogre chases you between floors, and then on the next floor you have to slow him down by unleashing zombies on him while you break down doors, and even then he keeps chasing you. It isn't until you trick him onto a trap door that you're safe from his grasp and able to rest, though your rest brings a dream that makes the story of Dungeons of Dreadrock seem a lot more complicated than its initial setup suggests.

Suddenly, this flat-looking puzzler actually feels like a real world. It has persistence and follows a consistent logic, and these world rules then open a floodgate of possibilities for puzzles and their solutions. Dungeons of Dreadrock takes full advantage of this potential which is a big reason why it is so delightful to play through. I don't want to spoil any more since this discovery is a huge part of what makes this game so good, but the initial chase sequence I described above is just the tip of the iceberg.

One swipe away from death

Dungeons of Dreadrock is a free-to-play game, but only in the sense that it is ad-supported. One payment of $1.99 removes ads and otherwise there is no monetization scheme to speak of. If you like at all what you try of the game, I wholly recommend paying to bypass the ads, as they interrupt the flow of the game considerably and make death feel more punishing than it actually is.

Speaking of death, dying in Dungeons of Dreadrock is relatively common. This is partially because the game's challenges are tough and can require quick reflexes, but it's also easy to die in the game thanks to missing a swipe and going in a direction you didn't expect. Luckily, restarting challenges is basically instant. Between that and each level being so self-contained, even dying a few times due to minor control issues doesn't feel like a huge deal.

The bottom line

Dungeons of Dreadrock's is a completely unexpected surprise. When you start playing it, it looks and feels like it is just one of 1,000 other fantasy-themed puzzle games you've seen before, but it is so much more than that. Its world feels alive and its action feels so dynamic just by nature of the puzzle logic and design it puts forth. It is a commendable achievement that is worth celebrating. You owe it to yourself to give Dungeons of Dreadrock a try.

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