Review key provided by Image and Form International AB.
A diamond in the rough? No wait, an old jewel that still stands the test of time. Steamworld Dig doesn’t require much introduction, as a beloved indie game from 2013, now coming back on the Nintendo Switch just as its sequel arrives on the same console. With that in mind, let’s have a look at this blast to the past.
The game’s story starts off pretty much instantaneously, thrusting you (as the steampunk robot Rusty) into the nice but otherwise deserted town of Tumbleton to explore a goldmine belonging to your uncle (robots have uncles?). After finding said uncle’s dead body, inheriting his pickaxe, and then moving on so quickly from said revelation that it almost feels like an afterthought, you’re ready to dig a tunnel downwards.
The gameplay is remarkably simple: dig downwards, kill enemies, collect minerals, return to the surface for upgrades and to recharge your light source, maybe buy an upgrade or two, rinse, repeat. It’s a gameplay style reminiscent of the old Flash game Motherload and it’s 2013 sequel, Super Motherload. What mainly sets Dig apart from Motherload, though, is the Metroidvania style upgrades. When you dig downwards, you’ll come across doors to areas that when explored, reward powerups like drills, super jumps, a speed booster, and double jumps, to name a few.
These are upgrades you need a lot, as the exploration gets tough later on. Going deeper is simple at the beginning as to be expected, but you’ll need a plan to get back up; if you can’t wall jump back up because you carved something wrong, or can’t super jump because you ran out of water (to power stuff like your drill or double jump) you’ll die, losing half of your loot as a result (which you can easily recover, thankfully).
That being said, the game is built around exploration in a way that never feels tedious. It’s never hard to get right back to where you were with access to teleporters and any upgrades you’ve acquired. The controls are spot on and can be reassigned with multiple functions on a single button, a rarity for console games. The map is quite informative and can show you where to go, but it’s never mandatory to go immediately and you can just farm materials for a while until you feel like it. These aspects make the game still fun to play even after four years.
And much like the gameplay, the aesthetics still hold up. What little music there is cements the feel of an Old West era rather well. The bright color pallet focused on yellows and browns evokes the same feel with little effort, supported by the great designs for the other NPCs and even the enemies. Of course, the visuals aren’t a mind blowing achievement, but they are still great for being a port of an old 3DS game.
Overall, it´s just a pleasure that the original Dig was rereleased on the Switch so soon after its sequel, giving players a chance to experience the series from the beginning on the same console. It’s not without faults, such as the rather disappointing ending and the lack of incentives to keep going afterwards, making it a one and done game, but it’s still worth checking out. For ten dollars, getting ~5 hours of play is a fair trade.
Normally, this would be a video review, but I’ve been left without my actual computer for a while since the internal fan had a problem.