Can you dig it?
SteamWorld Dig from Image & Form has proven to be quite successful on the 3DS and PC. But very soon (like Tomorrow) Sony gamers will be able to get their hands on this impressive platform mining adventure through PSN for both the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation Vita. Having spent some time digging through the dirt in the Vita version, I managed to find some real treasure.
In SteamWorld Dig, the player is cast into a strange steam punk version of the wild west, inhabited by robots. Taking on the role of Rusty, the player has been summoned there by his uncle with a view to claiming his mine. Not really of the mining persuasion, Rusty will have to start from the very basics and not only learn how to make some cash from this mining malarkey, but maybe also save a town from ruin.
Key to this adventure is digging, lots of digging. Starting out with a rusty old pickaxe, the player will find themselves swinging away as they carve out routes through the soft rock from a side-on perspective. The small map on the screen will show markers indicating anywhere that the player has to reach to progress the story, but otherwise the early game is just learning the ropes and realising that it is always a good idea to have an exit plan.
Rusty is able to wall jump in order to make his way out of long vertical tunnels, but that won’t save him from many of the other hazards that can be found underground. Strange creatures lurk in the depths and while they can be easily dispatched with the pickaxe, when there is more than one, things get tricky. And there is always the risk of mining under neath some solid rock and it falling on poor Rusty. Once all of your health is gone, you are zapped back to the town on the surface and charged a hefty fee for repairs. Oh, and you also lose anything you had not taken back up and sold.
As the player digs their way through the dirt, they will come across all manner of gems and precious minerals. These can be stowed away in Rusty’s small bag and taken to the surface to be sold for cash. That cash in turn can then be spent on upgrades that make life underground easier, such as a larger bag which will allow the player to keep digging for longer before having to return to the surface, or a better quality pickaxe that allows Rusty to dig more types of dirt and quicker. Other options to buy include the likes of a teleporter for quickly nipping back to teh surface, and lanterns to stave off the darkness for a little longer. SteamWorld Dig quickly becomes a swag and upgrade game where the player finds as much as they can before heading back up to grab the next desirable upgrade, allowing them to find even more swag to sell.
But there is more going on. Y’see, Rusty’s uncle was not just some grizzled, crusty robot miner. He was also something of an explorer and there is some strange technology hidden in the depths of the mine. Players will come across doorways in the dark, either through their own exploration or as directed by the game. Through these doorways, players will generally be faced with some kind of puzzle, maybe having to pull some switches or dig so that blocks fall in a certain way, and the prizes may simply be extra swag, or they could be a new ability.
The deeper that the player goes, the more difficult things become. These new abilities go a long way towards keeping the game from becoming frustrating. A Steam-powered jump, as long as the player has enough water stored, can be the solution to a deep hole, and the steam-drill replacement for the pickaxe, which is also powered by water, makes digging much quicker and easier. Further progression will lead to more discoveries.
The visuals on the Vita seem to be a marked improvement over the 3DS version, and the game really does look beautiful. Although much of the time the player will be underground in the near dark, everything is crisp and well animated. And when the player does find a well lit cavern or heads back to the surface, the colours are vivid and bright.
Coming in at around five or six hours, SteamWorld Dig is not the longest of games. It is also a little lacking in the story department, and there is a certain amount of repetition to keep returning to the surface for light or to drop off swag. That being said though, the randomly generated nature of the mines does mean that replayability is an option, with each new game being different to the last.
SteamWorld Dig may seem deceptively simple, but the game does a great job of pulling the player in, constantly teasing them with more upgrades and abilities that will allow them to explore ever deeper. The platforming is tight, the puzzles offer nice variety and the game runs flawlessly on the Vita. SteamWorld Dig is an easy recommendation for Vita players – Dig it up now!