SteamWorld Dig – Review

steamworld-box

Platform | Release Date
3DS | August 8, 2013
Developed by Image & Form
Published by Image & Form

The Pitch:

Take the role as Rusty, a lone mining steambot, as he arrives to an old mining town in great need. Dig your way through the old earth, gaining riches while uncovering the ancient threat that lurks below…

steamworld-1If you’ve ever lamented that the 3DS doesn’t have nearly enough games about robots digging holes in the ground, Steamworld Dig is here to solve all your problems. A post-apocalyptic mining adventure from developer Image & Form, Steamworld Dig blends some of the best elements from Metroid and Castlevania with “mining” genre gems like Terraria and Dig Dug. While this might seem like an odd combination, the final product is one of the best titles currently available on the Nintendo eShop.

Things start when Rusty rolls into Tumbleton and inherits an old mine from his deceased robo-uncle Joe. After a quick chat with the locals, you’ll begin your journey underground armed with only a pickaxe and a lantern with 60 seconds worth of light.

steamworld-2Steamworld Dig relies solely on a few basic mechanics. Dig, find ore in the ground, exchange that loot back in town, repeat. This might not sound appealing, but one of this game’s greatest strengths is its ability to keep luring you back into the mine to see what’s beneath that next layer of dirt and rock. As you explore, you’ll unlock upgrades and new powers that let you venture into previously inaccessible portions of the mine and find extra minerals and orbs to purchase power-ups. Upgrades to your pickaxe and drill will allow you to break through ground more efficiently, while enhancing your backpack will let you carry larger loads of ore topside. The game’s upgrade path is laid out well enough to keep you going for that next carrot, even if the initial foray into the underground is a bit tedious. You’ll be chipping away at dirt blocks with a weak pickaxe for a while until you’ve purchased some enhancements.

steamworld-3Each subsequent area of the mine becomes larger and feels more expansive. In addition to the open-ended exploration, you’ll stumble across secret caves that are self-contained puzzle areas that will yield further upgrades and sometimes rare gems. Steamworld Dig is lenient enough where you can pretty much chart a path in any direction you want as long as Rusty’s current equipment can chisel through it. This allows for an enormous amount of customization, and most players probably won’t have the same experience. The mine you’ll create will be individualized, with different routes, ladders, and teleporters to the surface.

As you plumb the depths further, you’ll encounter different types of enemies including bugs, “shiners” which are the Gollum-like remnants of humanity, and other strange mechanoids. Combat feels fairly standard for a platformer, with multiple ways to dispatch baddies ranging from your axe to sticks of dynamite. Rusty is initially very weak; every encounter with an enemy can range from harrowing to costly if you fail and are forced to respawn on the surface. But once you unlock some of the final upgrades, your enemies almost become an afterthought. Death is never a permanent end to your adventure, but being blown up by shiners or the victim of a mine tunnel collapse too often will put a real dent in your upgrade funds.

steamworld-4Steamworld Dig is easily one of the best games available on the eShop. It’s a high quality game that has more polish and heart than a lot of full-priced retail releases. Clocking in around five hours for under ten bucks, this game is an absolute no brainer for anyone who enjoys exploration or is looking for an affordable reason to dust off their 3DS to dig into some handheld gaming.

About Ben Daniels

Ben Daniels is Community Manager for Splitkick and co-host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He frequently disseminates misinformation.
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