Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is 2021’s Best Puzzle Game

The most important game on any device is the one you can keep coming back to when you’re out of things to play. For me, that’s a good puzzle game. Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure, of all things, was one of my most-played Nintendo 3DS games. Whenever I had some downtime between games, I always knew I could pop it open and bust some pills for hours on end.

Despite a wealth of options, I’ve struggled to find kind of that game on Nintendo Switch … until now. Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon, a new spinoff game for the Shovel Knight series, is exactly what I’ve been craving. It’s a fast, addictive puzzle game that has me saying “just one more round” for hours on end.

Dig it

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon puts a new spin on a familiar concept. In its story mode, players control Shovel Knight, who gets sucked into a puzzle dungeon. The indie icon is thrown into a series of grids that fill up with enemies, breakable blocks, and health-restoring potions. You can guess where this is going: Clear the board by chaining matching icons together.

But there’s a lot more going on than in your average “Match 3” game. It’s essentially a dungeon crawler in the middle of a traditional puzzle game. Rather than tapping icons, players actually control Shovel Knight, who appears on the grid. He needs to physically navigate around and bash things with his shovel to break them. All that happens while more stuff continually falls from the top of the screen (if the screen fills up, it’s game over). That creates a fast-paced flow where players need to constantly carve a path through the board by jabbing obstacles. Spatial awareness is key.

On top of that, Shovel Knight has health points. Every time he hits an enemy, they hit him back for a few points. Grabbing a potion restores some health, so players need to figure out when to attack and when to heal. Items, like bombs or temporary weapons, populate the board from time to time as well, which can change the tide of battle if used at the right time. It isn’t about mindlessly tapping icons, but figuring out the right order of operations in a constantly evolving puzzle board.

A versus battle in Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon.

It’s a high-speed juggling act that earned my full attention. I quickly found myself in a sort of rhythmic trance thanks to the excellent soundtrack featuring remixes of classic Shovel Knight tracks. Without realizing it, I was moving on beat as if I was playing Crypt of the NecroDancer or Tetris Beat. Every time I hit an enemy, I get a satisfying “thwack” that sounds like a snare drum or handclap. It feels like I’m working in concert with the music, which pushes my brain to keep up with the tempo.

Staying hooked

There are additional gameplay twists that freshen up the core puzzle hook. The game has a roguelite structure where players need to clear a series of boards and fight classic Shovel Knight bosses. Lose and you’ll start from the top. During a run, players can buy relics that have different effects, like increasing the number of bombs that spawn or adding +1 damage on every initial enemy hit. While there aren’t tons to choose from, there are enough that I was able to put together some pretty wild builds that made me feel invincible.

Shovel Knight hangs out in a campsite in Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon.

What really keeps me coming back, though, is the game’s cast of playable characters. Anytime a boss is defeated, players can use them in the adventure. Each one has its own special mechanic that completely changes the game. Plague Knight has reduced HP, but poisons enemies on contact. Specter Knight, on the other hand, regains health from killing enemies, but takes damage from potions. Each character has me rethinking how I tackle each board and carefully choosing relics that best match their playing style.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon does everything a good puzzle game is supposed to do and more. It’s easy to pick up and play, but I feel myself itching to master all 13 of its characters. I get the sense that there are some secrets to its story that I haven’t discovered, which has me pushing on long after completing a run. A daily challenge, versus mode, and leaderboards round out the package, giving me all the ingredients I need for a puzzle game that’s going to ride its way to the top of my Nintendo Switch activity log.

Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon launches on December 13 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Editors’ Choice

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Analogue’s Pocket handheld starts shipping on December 13th

After , the Analogue Pocket finally has an exact release date. In an the company sent to those who pre-ordered the handheld console, Analogue said it would start shipping the device on December 13th. It expects to deliver most pre-orders by the end of the year.

If you expect you won’t be at home to receive your shipment during that time, Analogue recommends you email it about holding your order. In that case, your Pocket will ship sometime around January 3rd. Lastly, if you want to make any last-minute tweaks to your order, the final day to do so is November 28th.

Getting the Pocket to market has been something of a journey for Analogue. When the company first announced the , with its ability to play Game Boy, Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color and Atari Lynx games, it promised to deliver it sometime in 2020. But that was before the pandemic, and like with many other electronics, supply chain issues forced Analogue to adapt.

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Analogue Pocket release date revealed at last (for pre-orders anyway)

It’s been a rough road to launch for the Analogue Pocket. First announced way back in October 2019, the Pocket – an FPGA-based handheld console – didn’t go up for pre-order until August 2020 because of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though pre-orders sold out quickly, the shipment date for those pre-orders was then pushed back several times. Now we finally have a ship date for those initial pre-orders, and that’s good news for everyone interested in picking up a Pocket.

Pocket pre-orders begin shipping out in December

With the latest delay, Analogue said that Pocket pre-orders placed in 2020 would begin shipping out in December 2021. At the time, we weren’t given a specific date, but now we have one: on its website today, Analogue announced that those initial orders would begin shipping on December 13th. The company says that emails are being sent out to those who pre-ordered today.

Because of “unprecedented shipping congestion,” Analogue says that Pocket pre-orders shipping on that date will arrive sometime between December 14th and the 30th, giving us roughly a two-week window for delivery. This, of course, is not great news for those who were planning to travel for the holidays, but Analogue has a solution for that as well.

If you won’t be around to accept your delivery and you don’t want it sitting outside your house or apartment until you get back, you can contact Analogue and have it put a hold on your order until the new year or ask it to change your delivery address. That can be done by replying to the email you received or emailing with your request. Analogue says that the last day customers can change their orders is November 28th, so keep that in mind if you need an address change or a hold.

Good news for everyone – not just those who pre-ordered

The fact that these initial Pocket pre-orders will soon begin shipping is good news for everyone interested in the Pocket, even if you can’t order one at the moment. When Analogue announced this delay back in September, it also noted that Pocket and its accessories would be restocked following the holidays, and orders would open up once more.

So far, there’s only been one round of Pocket pre-orders, so if you didn’t order back in August 2020, you haven’t had another chance yet. That will presumably change shortly after 2022 begins, but Pocket hasn’t given us the specific date that it will open up orders again.

There’s seemingly a lot to love about Pocket if you’re a fan of handheld gaming, too. Built on two FPGAs, the Pocket will come with out-of-the-box support for Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges, with adapters available for many other retro handhelds. The Pocket will also have an optional dock that can be used to play those retro handheld games on a big screen, Super Game Boy-style.

So, if you’re a fan of Analogue’s FPGA consoles and you’ve been waiting for a chance to order a Pocket, it sounds like that chance is coming. You can read more about the Pocket, including full specs, over on Analogue’s website, but otherwise, we’ll let you know when Analogue gives us a specific date for Pocket’s 2022 restock.

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Tech News

Sony Reon Pocket 2 wearable air conditioner gets some fashion sense

In 2019, Sony’s internal crowdfunding program gave birth to the first and still only wearable air conditioning system in the world. Looking more like a flattened computer mouse than a mini air conditioner, the Reon Pocket seems to have enjoyed some amount of fame and success because Sony is now coming out with a version 2. Simply called the Reon Pocket 2, the device offers significant new upgrades, including the ability to be worn with your choice of clothes or, if Sony is to be asked, one of the shirts from a new line of fashionable clothes made especially with the Reon Pocket 2 in mind.

The Reon Pocket doesn’t exactly blow cold air inside your shirt. Instead, it employs the Peltier effect to generate the sensation of coldness by absorbing heat or vice versa. It utilizes electronics and different materials to create that effect and those are exactly what’s being upgraded in the Reon Pocket 2.

For the second version, Sony switched from silicon to stainless steel for the cooling surface, as the metal reportedly transfers lower temperatures better to the skin. The internal circuitry has also been improved to absorb more heat to better create that cooling effect. It now also offers minor dust and water resistance, enough to be used for golf.

That application is actually one of the main points of the upgrade and Sony has even partnered with golf apparel makers to come up with exclusive shirts for the Reon Pocket 2. Just like with the first device, these shirts have pockets on the back for the device.

That said, Sony is also offering a $14 neckband accessory so that you can use the Reon Pocket 2 with the shirt of your choice. The device itself costs almost $140 but, just like its predecessor, it is available only in Japan.

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Analogue Pocket gaming handheld delayed again due to global affairs

There was a bout of new consoles in the past few years that were designed to pay homage to the old consoles of yesteryears. These retro consoles, often coming in miniature forms, only allowed for a limited set of titles that their originals supported. Some, however, have tried to expand that roster to almost any game, provided you still had the original physical media. That’s what the Analogue Pocket promised for Game Boy cartridges and similar handheld games but, unfortunately, the fulfillment of that promise is being delayed a second time around.

Announced back in 2019, the Pocket promised to revive the Game Boy craze. But more than just supporting Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advanced cartridges, it also embraced the Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and even the Atari Lynx. All in a Game Boy-like design that boasted a 3.5-inch 1600×1440 screen.

Originally slated for a 2020 release, the startup revealed that the Pocket would be shipping in May 2021 instead. Of course, the reason back then was like everyone else’s, blaming it on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on production and the economy at large. That pandemic is far from over but there are new circumstances that have unfortunately caused further delays.

Analogue cites the global state of affairs as the cause for the delay of shipping even pre-orders of the Pocket gaming handheld. Two, in particular, stand out, namely the global chip shortage that is affecting even bigger companies as well as the recent blockage of the Suez Canal courtesy of EverGreen’s Ever Given cargo ship.

Analogue is now putting an October 2021 date for its next shipping schedule, though that doesn’t mean it will be able to hit that goal. There is a great deal of uncertainty these days, especially in consumer electronics though, to be fair, some of those are really outside of any company’s control.

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Tech News

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro adds ND filters, ports and a punchier screen

Blackmagic Design has a new version of its 6K camera, with the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro promising more usability, inputs, and runtime on a charge. Flagship of the now three-strong Pocket Cinema Camera line-up, the new version keeps the larger Super 35 HDR sensor and EF lens mount, but throws in features like integrated 2, 4, and 6 stop ND filters.

Those motorized IR ND filters have been designed to match the colorimetry and color science of the camera, Blackmagic Design says, and filter both IR and optical wavelengths evenly. They can be triggered using buttons on the rear of the camera body, with the interface showing the user’s choice of ND number, stop reduction, or fraction on the screen.

The 6144 x 3456 Super 35 sensor supports up to 13 stops of dynamic range, with dual native ISO up to 25,600. Up to 60fps video recording is possible in full resolution, or 120fps windowed.

As before, it’s made of a carbon fiber polycarbonate composite body, with a 5-inch LCD screen on the back. On the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro, however, that’s now adjustable for tilt, and supports up to 1,500 nits of brightness. It should make it more usable outdoors.

Alternatively, there’s now support for an optional viewfinder. That uses a 1280 x 960 OLED panel, with a 4 element glass diopter supporting -4 to +4 focus adjustment with a built-in digital focus chart. Frame guides can be shown, and the EVF has a 70-degree swivel range and four interchangeable eyecups to suit the left or right eyes.

In addition to the mini XLR input with 48v of phantom power, the 6K Pro version gets a second mini XLR input. It means the camera can simultaneously record two separate audio tracks from different sources, without needing an extent mixer. There are still four built-in microphones, plus a 3.5mm audio input. The camera also has a speaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Rather than the LP-E6 battery its siblings rely on, the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro uses the NP-F570 battery for more runtime. There’s also a locking DC power connector, while either the USB-C port can trickle charge the battery, or the AC plug pack both charge the camera and the battery simultaneously. A battery grip is optional, holding two batteries for over 3 hours of shooting on a charge.

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is available to order now, priced at $2,495.

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iPod Hack Puts 50 Million Spotify Songs in Your Pocket

When the iPod music player launched in 2001, Apple went with the slogan, “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Skip forward 20 years and a brilliant bit of work by Massachusetts resident Guy Dupont puts 50 million songs in your pocket, streamable via Spotify.

The project started when Dupont got his hands on a 17-year-old iPod after receiving it from a relative who was presumably having a Marie Kondo moment. In a YouTube video spotted by Gizmodo, the talented tech tinkerer explains how he tore the guts out of Apple’s music player so he could replace it with more modern components that enabled him to incorporate Spotify.

The new parts include a $10 Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-capable Raspberry Pi Zero W computer, a $40 display, and a $7 rechargeable battery.

The device works pretty much in the same way as the original iPod, with the click wheel allowing you to speedily select a music track — only now can choose one from Spotify’s vast library. Another difference is that instead of those tiny audible clicks that you used to hear with the wheel, the addition of a haptic motor means that the device now vibrates instead.

Some of the video (top) shows Dupont carefully putting the device together. He also talks about the three pieces of software that helped to make his creation work — two of which he wrote himself — and offers heartfelt thanks to the writer of a 10-year-old blog post that offered some crucial information that allowed him to get the click wheel to work, a breakthrough that was vital to the task’s success. “This project would not have been remotely as interesting if I couldn’t have gotten the original click wheel to work,” Dupont says in the video.

In a Hackaday article explaining the building process in more detail, Dupont says, “I had forgotten how good it feels to hold and use one of these things. Naturally, I decided to modify one. I wanted to supply some modern features (streaming, search, Bluetooth audio, etc), while paying homage to the amazing user experience that Apple originally released almost 20 years ago.”

Dupont finishes up by noting that while his video may seem like an ad for Spotify, the best way to support artists is to buy their music instead of streaming it, and also to purchase their merchandise.

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