Of all the genres of games, it would be difficult to argue that puzzle games do not suit mobile mobiles extremely well, with their ability to slip in a level or two whenever convenient, and whilst you can find some great puzzle games on a Nintendo Switch, for example, a mobile is a lot less cumbersome to whip out on a five-minute bus journey. So finding a great puzzle game on mobile like Dungeons of Dreadrock is an exciting moment.
Opening on two siblings huddled around a fire in front of an imposing dungeon, the game introduces its protagonist, a young girl talking with her reluctant brother. The village elders have sent the young boy to defeat the Dead King, which he makes his discomfort known about, whilst his sister has been told to wait outside as the village elders preach that women can’t wield a sword without upsetting the gods. The boy enters the dungeon, and shortly after the girl follows out of worry, and within five seconds finds the boy's sword, and must advance through 100 floors to rescue him
Playing through the dungeon's floors is a fairly straightforward experience. The girl can be moved by swiping whatever direction you want her to go, or you can toggle a d-pad in the options, which I’d advise if you have clumsy fingers like me. You will encounter plenty of enemies, each with unique attack patterns to learn and exploit as you quest to advance through the floor, often by collecting a key or flipping a switch. There is no music playing during the levels, and only a few atmospheric sounds as you stumble around, so you can focus solely on the puzzle, and you will need to.
The game's simple graphics and controls do pretty well to make you underestimate the difficulty of the levels, at first. There is no jumping, the movement is tile-based on an XY axis with no diagonals, and the graphics will remind you of an old Zelda game, so you would be forgiven for thinking the puzzles would be simple. But, in reality, they have some of the best designs I have seen in a while and will require some out-of-the-box thinking. There were levels that I determined the straightforward seeming solution was correct, and it turned out I was nowhere near close to the right method.
There is one particular puzzle early on where you are presented with two portals, a switch and a pressure plate, and as it stands there is no way to advance with what you have. It's only after investigating what looks like just some background decoration with no obvious draw to it that you find a way to continue, and it is situations like this that truly make this game great. The best puzzle games are from developers who assume their players can pick up on subtly, not just heavily signposted and obvious solutions.
This is not to say that the game will hang you out to dry. Each floor or chapter title offers a small hint of what to expect, and occasionally you will find a scroll offering a small hint while exploring. There is also a hint system that is set up to offer you a bigger hint every five minutes, but this can be set to never or always depending on if you struggle or don’t want a hand. You can even use the “cheat” option to skip to any floor you like, although why you would want to skip any of the excellent puzzles is beyond me.
If I had to pick one negative, it would be the advertisements, which can be a little annoying. They pop up after every level and the music mixes together with the ad, making for an unpleasant listen. However, removing them only costs £1.79, which is great value for a game this good.