A game that has more faults than qualities yet still manages to maintain a consistent level of fun.
Dale Hardshovel and the Bloomstone Mystery isn’t going to be winning any awards for originality. It’s Egyptian theme is already very well-trodden, and certainly its match-2 block moving mechanic tears a page from many different books. Even the titular Dale Hardshovel himself is a cliché himself. Though it should be noted that the Aussie-archaeologist is occasionally hilarious, if only unintentionally.
As the story begins, our hero is working diligently in his study when his daughter Daisy presents him with an unusual piece of Egyptian scripture. Dale quickly sets about putting his decades of archaeological training to good use by looking up the answer on the internet. They find that the scroll belonged to an ancient brotherhood and quickly set out to plunder the Big Pyramid for the Bloomstone, which they think will help them translate the inscriptions. However, they are quickly stopped by a surprisingly well-tempered ancient Egyptian god, Anubis, who tells them that they will have to solve all of the pyramid’s 100 puzzles before they can assemble the Bloomstone.
And so from there you begin your trek through the pyramid, beset by dozens of puzzles and unique gimmicks. Possibly Dale Hardshovel‘s greatest achievement is the great difficulty curve which slowly leans you into the challenge of the puzzles. At first the game seems overly easy, but around the mid-way point in the game the challenge has ramped up quite well. Also, the additions to the puzzles (moving platforms, teleporters etc.) are introduced gradually over the course of the game which keeps things interesting.
Perhaps my biggest complaint with the game comes from the fact that only in certain situations will you be told that you failed the puzzle. I have no problem with a game that forces me to figure that out for myself. However, by only telling you that you failed a portion of the time, the game creates the illusion that they it will stop when you have no chance of succeeding. Therefore, you’ll spend far too long toiling pointlessly towards solving puzzles that are literally impossible.
Throughout the game – in addition to the mainstay puzzle-solving levels -there are also these extremely odd, tacked on Pac-Man-esque levels which see Dale Hardshovel’s daughter running through a maze being chased by mummies. These segments are extremely awkward to control (click left mouse button to run, then flick mouse in the direction you want to go.) But more importantly, they’re utterly broken. About 50 percent of the time you can run straight through a mummy without being touched. These segments have no place in this game, and their quality doesn’t nearly match the rest of the game. Their presence is nothing short of baffling.
Despite all of this, Dale Hardshovel is a game that still manages to rise above its flaws. The Pac-Man segments are weird, but as long as you choose to forget them entirely it’s not that big of a deal. It’s got style with it’s quality production values and aesthetic, and Dale himself is an unintentional (though still amusing) laugh riot due to his utterly unintelligible Australian accent. What it comes down to is that fact that this is a solid, challenging puzzler that will keep you busy for a decent amount of time too. Just don’t expect to find much that you haven’t already seen before a half dozen times.