Ready those conspiracy theories! If you were to buy Pixelcraft Dungeons and head into the game, the ‘t’ in Pixelcraft would be unceremoniously lopped off, making this ‘Pixelcraf Dungeons’. The text hasn’t even been re-aligned to make up for the lost letter; clearly something was there. We’d be willing to bet the £1.29 that it cost to buy Pixelcraft Dungeons that Xbox got a bit snooty about the proximity to Minecraft Dungeons and did a bit of ‘cease-and-desisting’.
There’s a point to mentioning this, as there’s an air of last-minute-changes to Pixelcraft (Pixelcraf?) Dungeons. For the price, it’s a good-value and no-nonsense little puzzler. But the closer you get to the end, the clearer it becomes that something has fatally compromised it.
First of all, you should be aware that Pixelcraft Dungeons, as a £1.29 purchase, does not have any achievements. It’s a game that would have benefited from them, as it has a cunning approach to collectibles, hiding a crown within a treasure chest in the level. It probably says a lot about us that the lack of achievements diminished our enjoyment of Pixelcraft Dungeons: we would have been a bit more exhaustive in 100%ing it if they were there.
Pixelcraft Dungeons does nothing new, but does it reasonably well. There are thirty levels, spread across three worlds, and the main objective is to get the little knight character that you control to the staircase at the end. What will surprise most is the lack of combat: while the knight has a sword, this is purely a puzzle game. You can still die, however: hazards come from the various obstacles in the level.
This means side-stepping through lasers, spinning blades and arrow cannons. It’s made easier by the lack of speed of them all: the dungeon-keeper here is clearly feeling sympathetic to our little knight. So, by learning the rhythm of when they move, it’s easy and possible to waltz to the end of a level without issue.
This is where Pixelcraft Dungeons introduces the lightweight puzzling. It loves a sliding crate, and you will often be thunking a block form one end of a room to another in the attempt to lock it to a switch. It’s by-the-book and we’ve played it hundreds of times before, but it’s frictionless at least. Sometimes, all you want to do at the end of the day is push a crate about.
In combination, the puzzles and trap-dodging create a vanilla dungeon experience, but sometimes we are in the mood for vanilla. The lack of difficulty means that you can breeze through everything here in an afternoon without touching the sides, and that will be a recommendation or a warning depending on your beliefs.
Considering Pixelcraft Dungeons is so risk-free, and has been done umpteen times before, it’s unusual to find everything unraveling towards the end. Various game-breaking bugs interrupt play, and you wonder how it passed certification. Perhaps Microsoft was more distracted by that ‘t’ in the title.
In the last of the three worlds, Pixelcraft Dungeon black-screened after every level, so we had to quit every time to make progress. Core elements of the levels would disappear, like a crate that we pushed from one screen to another. There was no pattern to when it would or wouldn’t happen: it was utterly random. We were at the whims of the bugs.
But the kicker is level 3-5. This level is impossible to complete because the developers have accidentally dropped a block in the wrong place. We’re not the only ones to have hit this issue – a quick Google search has shown that this problem is shared – but the last corridor to the exit is just mapped incorrectly, meaning the staircase remains frustratingly out of reach. It turns a thirty-level game to a twenty-five level game, and we don’t hold out a huge amount of hope that it will be resolved. This is a £1.29 game, after all – it’s not likely to have much in the way of live servicing.
Which brings us neatly to the value question. As with most of these budget titles, Pixelcraft Dungeons lasts around the half-hour mark. Is half-an-hour of moderate entertainment, laced with a bit of a buggy aftertaste, worth £1.29? It depends on your desperation for a budget puzzler. If, somehow, you have rinsed the Xbox Store of this type of game, and it’s absolutely the type of game you revel in, then sure, fill your boots.
For its first twenty levels, Pixelcraft Dungeon is well-made but basic – the MDF board of puzzle-adventuring. The £1.29 cost might even begin to look like a wise investment. But the construction collapses in the last ten levels, as the bugs make everything unstable. You can likely do better.
You can buy Pixelcraft Dungeons from the Xbox Store