Sweden, birthplace of Abba, the girl with the dragon tattoo, IKEA and apparently fantastic Indie games. Hotline Miami, goat simulator and Minecraft all came from Sweden. Can Steamworld Dig live up to the very high bar set by other games to come to us from this wonderful country?
Steamworld Dig starts with your character, Rusty, arriving in Tumbleton, after his now deceased uncle Joe informed him to come and claim the mine that he owns. In true robot fashion, Rusty takes off and deals with the matter at hand. As soon as you traverse into the mine you find the body of your now dead uncle and nonchalantly claim his pick axe. Obviously robots are devoid of emotion, Rusty doesn’t differ from his fellow robots in that sense. Barely acknowledging the chunk of now scrap metal in front of him. But on the back of that death lies great news, your adventure begins here.
You meet a few of the locals, who will give you a little back story and peak your interest about the mine. With that you set off into the depths of Tumbleton. The general premise of the game is to discover treasures and minerals. You harvest these items and sell them at the store above ground for money that you quickly use towards upgrades and items. Developer image and form have stated that the mines are procedurally generated, meaning that your game will differ from a friends, or any future playthroughs you wish to enjoy. The treasure won’t be in the same place, nor will any enemies you encounter during your descent. The overall look of the game is like something pulled out of a western. The colours of orange and brown that are so heavily used really drive that home. Also the subtitle of the game, a fistful of dirt and the town name of Tumbleton. The western feel is something developer image and form are going for and executed marvellously.
With this game being released almost a year ago on the 3DS, I was hoping to see improvements from that version. Fortunately, the 1080p visuals and upgraded graphics give you this feel. The sound is also sharper so you can hear that axe hitting rock in surround sound, if you so wish. Other differences from the 3DS version are unique to the Wii U. Off TV play leading the charge here. As well as that though, the game offers 3 different ways to play. 1 HUD and map displayed on the gamepad. 2 everything displayed on the TV. 3 everything displayed on the gamepad. After trying all 3, the one that was easiest and felt most natural for a game of this kind was number 2. For everything to be right in front of you on the TV was much easier. It’s not like Zombi U where the task of looking down to your gamepad adds an extra element of realism depth. This game benefits more from being simple and easy to understand. It also meant I could use the Wii U pro controller whilst I burrowed through the mines.
The controls are very simple and easy to master. There is no complicated “Beat em up” style combinations to be able to use the tools you have acquired. A simple scroll through your inventory and press A, couldn’t be easier. The audio is very fitting for roaming around an unmanned mine, creepy and mysterious. The only annoying thing about the sound is the robot speak. Its a tiny portion of the game, but when you’re talking to the shop owners above ground for a while, it becomes very annoying and begins grate on you.
Steamworld dig borrows from Super Metroid, like most 2d side scrolling adventures do. But this game is digging downwards for treasure and discovery. The combat and maneuver elements are where the game takes a leaf out of Super Metroids book and does so extremely well. It will make long time gamers feel at home and up and comers feel like there’s an easy learning curve. The deeper you get in the mine, the harder the rock you’re coming up against. This will mean hitting it more times to finally get rid of. Sometimes into the double digits. You have to make sure you upgrade your axe regularly to avoid this becoming a problem. There are 3 vital stats you need to survive in the mines (no, not canaries) light, water and health. Being able to see what you are about to hit, or where you are going is vital. Water is also needed to use a few power ups you discover along the way. Health…well you know why health is important. A vast portion of the game is you hitting dirt and descending. Though this doesn’t get old in the slightest. With an abundance of treasure, secrets and enemies in this procedurally generated dirt haven, there is enough to keep you entertained for hours.
The game isn’t incredibly long or deep when it comes to story. (No pun intended) but the unique take on a game of this type will keep you intrigued and always wanting more. Steamworld dig is definitely worth your time. You won’t regret getting covered in the mud and dirt that this indie title wants to throw at you. It took me just over 5 hours to dig my way to victory and I will be doing so a few more times to unearth more secrets and surprises that this wonderful game has to offer.
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