SteamWorld Dig Review

Yee-Haw! It’s time to head down to the old steampunk West for some drillin’, some blowin’ up and some forced 3D perspective in Image & Form’s SteamWorld Dig.

SteamWorld Dig: On the plus side

It’s probably just coincidental, but just prior to picking up SteamWorld Dig, I dipped into my retro games catalog and played another digging-themed title. It wasn’t Dig Dug. It wasn’t Mr Driller, either, although both those titles have had clear inspirations that SteamWorld Dig borrows from.
Instead, it was the relatively unknown Digger T Rock: Legend Of The Lost City, developed by Rare, and whose IP is (presumably) now owned by Microsoft. Digger’s job in that 8-bit game is to search for hidden treasures, and it just so happens that this is exactly what you do in SteamWorld Dig, taking on the role of Rusty the robot, new to town and after some answers deep below the ground — as well as some riches, too. As I say, it’s probably just coincidence.

SteamWorld Dig borrows from most classic digging titles, along with a light dusting of metroidvania style backtracking as it drip feeds you new powers, which are purchased by selling the valuable ores you find underground to the townsfolk. As you upgrade you gain new powers, which make it easier to traverse the world that you’re creating underground.

I'm a robot. Why can't I go on eBay and shop around for my upgrades?
I’m a robot. Why can’t I go on eBay and shop around for my upgrades?

Part of SteamWorld Dig’s appeal is meant to be that the world underground is randomised each time you start a new game, and you’re the one picking away at it with axe, drill and steam-powered punch, creating each new tunnel as you go. So rather than be constrained by how the levels are designed, you’re the one building out each level, being as careful as possible to make it feasible to get to some of the trickier — but more valuable — ore pieces as you go. Getting crushed to death or soaked in acid isn’t much fun for a robot miner, either.
SteamWorld Dig isn’t massively refined, but it is a lot of fun; since picking it up it’s been my go-to game up until completion, simply because it’s easy to jump in, mine a few precious gems and watch Rusty level up and buy new tools to tackle the underground world with.

SteamWorld Dig: On the minus side

There are some issues. Like many 3DS titles, the use of 3D is quite minimal; there’s a tiny bit of parallax effect above and below ground — and that’s your lot.
Randomised levels sound neat, but the reality is that fitting in certain predetermined sections without making them impossible means that there are simply some parts of the game that’ll play out near-identically each time. Equally, because you’re drilling and creating the mine shafts all the time, it’s also feasible to drop yourself into areas where all you can do is die in order to regain the surface. Death isn’t too costly, but it’s annoying if you’re carrying a small fortune in ores.

Fleshy meatbags are the enemy. Stick them with your pickaxe. That'll show them.
Fleshy meatbags are the enemy. Stick them with your pickaxe. That’ll show them.

I was very happy playing SteamWorld Dig right up until it ended, and that took me, according to the in-game clock, around 5 hours and 56 deaths. I don’t want to give too much away, but there was a section — not a randomised one — near the endgame that was responsible for a fairly large and somewhat annoying number of those deaths.

SteamWorld Dig: Pricing

SteamWorld Dig is a 3DS eShop title that currently costs $11.99.

SteamWorld Dig: Alex’s Verdict

I seriously enjoyed SteamWorld Dig, if that wasn’t already apparent. It’s got that nice old-school platforming charm to it, tied into a visual style that lends it a lot of appeal. It’s not the longest platform game you’ll every play, but that means it doesn’t overstay its welcome in any real way. If you’re a fan of platform adventures, it’s well worth the asking price.

1 thought on “SteamWorld Dig Review”

  1. One of my pet hates about the DS was the lack of games using the stylus or even the dual screens for that matter to their “full” potential.. there were just so many games that kept coming out that didn’t use the stylus for more than a menu selection thing that you could do more efficiently with your cursor keys anyway.. this is one of the reasons I steered clear of the 3DS because I just knew it was going to frustrated me that there wasn’t enough support for the 3D.. even though the games are fine with or without it.. it’s just like I’ve bought this with the promise of 3D (or stylus) potential.. and I’m being let down each time..
    I ended up using my DS for old-school GBA games more than I did actual DS titles..

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