SteamWorld Dig Review

SteamWorld Dig is the latest title to hit the Nintendo Wii U eShop, and with it a new genre: adventure platforming. In a strange but refreshing cross between Dig Dug and Terraria, the 3DS title is an addictive romp through an old mineshaft filled with all the perils you wouldn’t expect. While I haven’t played the 3DS version, it has successfully made the transition to the home console with upgraded visuals and silky smooth controls.

Rusty is the newest inhabitant of Tumbleton, population: 3. After inheriting his deceased uncle’s mine, Rusty adventures underground in an attempt to discover what his belated uncle had found. As Rusty progresses through the depths, he’ll new areas, technology, and and deadly enemies that do not take kindly to his intrusion. The robofolk of Tumbleton support Rusty through buying any raw materials he finds, as well as supplying him with a slew of upgrades. It’s short and sweet, and most importantly, it works for the premise of the game.

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What I find most interesting in SteamWorld is how it reminds me of DigDug, the arcade classic. Rusty only has his pickaxe at the beginning of the game, and with it the only thing he can really do is dig. As you dig, Rusty will find all sorts of creatures, items, and even some puzzles to solve. Of course, you’ll want to be careful how you dig because it is entirely possible to screw yourself over at the beginning of the game. You know what they say, don’t dig down.

As Rusty progresses into the depths, you’ll find more valuable ores that you can sell back in town. Eventually you’ll find all sorts of nifty upgrades like climbing walls, steam jumping, and more powerful attacks. The townsfolk sell various upgrades such as armor, water tanks for steam, and even usable items like teleporters and dynamite.

I was under the impression that eventually that Rusty alone would turn the town from backwater ghost town into a lively village, but I was wrong. Over the course of the game, a few new personalities moved into the town but I never got to see the revival of the town like I had wanted. See, SteamWorld Dig is very short. I finished it in a about three and a half hours, according to my post-game results. I suppose it is possible to just not go to the end, and dig out every single ore, but I can see that being tedious. However, the reason it is so short is because no two mines are the same; they are randomly generated. That doesn’t stop it from being short, but at least it gives SteamWorld Dig plenty of incentive to replay.

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It’s unfortunate that SteamWorld is short, but it doesn’t make it any less fun or beautiful. Since SteamWorld has been ported from 3DS, it recieved an HD treatment with gorgeous 2D visuals and a smooth framerate. Aesthetically, it simply works and thats all I can ask for. The music fits equally as well, providing a western theme when you’re in Tumbleton and in the first few layers of the mine, but progresses to more a mysterious ambience as you dig.

One thing that you might want to note is that SteamWorld Dig is tough. I died a total of 51 times, meaning I’ve died once every 4 and a half minutes. While that might seem like a lot, it’s certainly not a frustrating challenge unless you make it one. Admittedly, once you get certain powerups, you won’t have to worry about silly things like fall damage.

The most dangerous things you’ll encounter in the mines are easily the enemies. There’s a variety of enemies ranging from little bug creatures to large zombie fellows that throw broken bottles at you. It’s always hard to kill the enemies because your melee attack is weak, slow, and hard to use. However, in some situations it’s essential that you fight because enemies will typically drop health, steam, or fire for your torch.

Buy, Try, or Avoid?
buy-8I’ll put it bluntly. If you haven’t played SteamWorld Dig on the 3DS, and you’re a fan of games like DigDug and Terraria, you should probably buy SteamWorld Dig. It’s a fun, highly addictive game with a ton of upgrades and randomly generated levels. The shortcomings are less of a problem because SteamWorld is meant to be played in short bursts, and it’s more fun that way. In a way, SteamWorld Dig is a special game because it can successfully make the transition to both handheld and home consoles.