Review for Dungeons of Dreadrock
The village elders send a young boy on a quest to defeat the Dead King every year, but no boy has ever returned alive. This time, a young girl accompanies her brother along the path, but when he doesn't return, she decides to break tradition and go into the mountain to rescue him. As she descends into the mountain, she uncovers some truths about the mountain and even the village elders that change her perspective. In Dungeons of Dreadrock the heroine not only has to fight against the evils of the dungeons but also the established rules of her society.
The developer (Prof. Dr. Christoph Minnameier) has created a more immersive experience by adding a full voice to the protagonist in the game so players can better understand and connect with the main character. Ensuring that the heroine is unusually strong and brave may encourage more female players, and also may help break stereotypes about women in gaming.
Puzzles are the heart of Dungeons of Dreadrock. They range from simple to complex, but most can be solved with some thought and experimentation. The game does a great job of easing you into the mechanics of its 100 levels. For example, the first dungeon only uses three different types of puzzles, so you can get used to them before being introduced to new ones.
There are different ways to approach each room full of puzzles. This encourages experimentation and allows for different playstyles. The difficulty is well-balanced. The first dungeon is quite easy (as it should be). However, it already includes some slightly more challenging optional objectives that give experienced players something to do while allowing casual gamers to finish the dungeon without too much trouble.
You can take a more brute force method and start hacking away at everything until something breaks open, or you can try to be more stealthy and figure out how to avoid combat altogether. I never felt stuck for too long, and it was always satisfying when I finally solved a puzzle.
There are multiple solutions to most rooms, which is refreshing – it means that if you are stumped, you can usually find another way around (or consult one of the many online guides). A hint system can be used if you get stuck on a puzzle, with three hints available at every level (ranging from a suggestion to a flat-out ‘do this’). Some rooms/puzzles did start to feel too similar, and I would've liked more variety.
The game is designed to give the player a lighthearted story that is still engaging. The dream sequences allow the player to get hints as to what is going on without needing large amounts of exposition and cutscenes. Lines of dialogue and world-building are added throughout the game to help flesh out the story. Finally, humor is thrown in to keep the tone from getting too serious.
A unique art style helps this game stand out; some of it reminded me of playing Zelda back on the SNES. While the minimalist approach to design might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think it works well for this type of experience. Everything that the player needs to take note of is telegraphed through visuals. The character and enemy design have a lovely variety for a game of such scale. The minimalist design means no clutter on-screen so that you can focus on the task.
While it could use more variety in room/puzzle design, Dungeons of Dreadrock's minimalist approach to the user interface design makes it accessible for both old-school gamers and casual players. Its relatively short length may not be ideal for those looking for a lengthy adventure, but its quality makes up for quantity.