SteamWorld Dig for Nintendo 3DS
Have I mentioned how much I love the 3DS eShop? SteamWorld Dig is a compulsive, complex and deeply fun little game, which is nonetheless held back by an abrupt end and a distinctly dodgy pace.
SteamWorld Dig takes place in a distant future where the Earth has reverted to a Wild West-style society…populated by robots. The protagonist is Rusty, a ‘steambot’ who inherits his uncle’s mine, and sets about digging deeper and deeper, reviving the village of Tumbletown as well as discovering the secrets hidden beneath the earth.
SteamWorld Dig is one of those games which combine a whole bunch of unoriginal ideas to make something which feels entirely fresh. The main objective of SteamWorld Dig is to…er, dig. Downwards. Rusty’s main aim is simply to keep digging, unlocking new upgrades which speed up the process. Rusty starts out with a basic pick-axe, but this can be upgraded until Rusty can hack his way through the ground with satisfying speed. Rusty gains a wide range of gadgets, such as drills and boosted jumps, which are also upgraded as Rusty makes his way down.
There’s a harvesting element, as Rusty collects materials which he then sells up in Tumbletown. These have the double effect of introducing new traders to the town and allowing Rusty to upgrade his gadgets, weapons and water capacity. There’s a strong sense of resource management, as Rusty can only carry back a limited amount of materials, as well as being limited by his oil levels for his torch as well as water levels, which are needed to use the drill and a boosted jump. At first, you’ll only be making brief trips, but they get longer and longer as the game goes on.
It’s hugely satisfying, and the movement mechanics make the basic act of moving downwards entertaining for the entire length of the game. It’s a game with a strong sense of rhythm, which is easy to lose yourself in. For all the time it lasts, SteamWorld Dig shows all the signs of standing as one of the best games on the eShop…and then it ends.
Now, I’m never usually one to complain about a game being too short. If not overpriced, a short game has narrative possibilities that an epic doesn’t. A game like Portal wouldn’t have benefitted from doubling in length. SteamWorld Dig is too short though. Just as interesting new mechanics, and interesting plot points, are introduced, they’re wrapped up suddenly. SteamWorld Dig feels like half of a great game, leaving us simply with a good game.
If SteamWorld Dig had the time to extend and follow through its good ideas, it would have been an instant, easy recommendation. As it stands, it’s a frustrating glimpse of what it could have been. I can only hope that a sequel is made which develops this game as it sorely needs to be.