Almost five years ago, 3DS owners were treated to the debut of a delightful mining 2D platformer. Rusty's little adventure has been ported to many consoles since and now you can join him on your newfangled Switch so let's head to the mines.
I'm sure you're already familiar with SteamWorld Dig and possibly its incredible sequel but allow me to explain what it's all about in case you're new to this charming indie series. SteamWorld Dig has you control a robot named Rusty as you unearth minerals from a seemingly endless mineshaft. You unload your materials at the town of Tumbleton to earn cold hard cash that you can use to purchase items and upgrades. As you dig deeper and deeper, you'll uncover many interesting things such as new enemy types, secret areas, puzzle-oriented challenge rooms, and permanent upgrades that'll help you reach further depths. The 2D platforming controls are spot-on which makes digging through the mines and fighting the odd enemy feel all the more rewarding. Overall, the gameplay loop is engaging and addictive and had me hooked from start to finish.
When it comes to graphics, SteamWorld Dig still looks fantastic. The detailed character sprites, natural-looking animation, and intricate environments hold up beautifully. Meanwhile, the quietly atmospheric music adds a layer of mystery as you dig which contrasts with the much louder and immediately gratifying sound effects to create a varied and full soundscape. It's surprising that after so many years, the sights and sounds of SteamWorld Dig rival even the best indie games on the market.
Besides just digging and fighting, Rusty has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. As you progress, you'll learn how to dash, double-jump, use a powerful drill, super-jump, and utilize a wide array of tools such as teleporters that create handy shortcuts, dynamite, ladders, and lamps. Each one of these abilities and items creates a new wrinkle to the gameplay formula and it all adds up to make a satisfying and constantly evolving dynamic. On top of all these, you'll regularly upgrade your pickaxe, drill, life meter, water meter (that you use for your drill and super-jump), and light meter. Being able to survive much longer because you decided to enhance these aspects results in a significant sense of accomplishment for frequently unloading all of your precious materials at Tumbleton.
Although SteamWorld Dig is definitely an enjoyable game that's still worth playing in 2018 and beyond, there are a couple of substantial downsides that take away from its shelf life. First of all, the campaign is very short. For the record, I completed my playthrough in just over four hours. After you beat it, you can keep playing to acquire more goodies and upgrades but doing so feels kind of empty since you already completed the game. In the end, I wish there were more tangible replay incentives.
Finally, there certainly isn't much variety in SteamWorld Dig. Whereas the sequel is full of awesome things to see and do, this debut title feels flat in comparison. All you do is mine and dig over and over again. There are puzzle rooms that reward you with bonuses once you figure them out and secret areas to uncover but there's not nearly enough to make up for the simple core gameplay.
It's fantastic that some indie games hold up after years since their debut. Now that you can play SteamWorld Dig on Switch, it's definitely a good idea to give it a try if you're completely new to the series or even if you recently enjoyed its sequel.
- + Addictive mining gameplay with tight 2D platforming controls
- + Charming visuals and audio
- + Rewarding upgrades to find and buy
- - Rather short campaign without any substantial replay incentives
- - Overall lack of gameplay variety besides the odd puzzle room