The SteamWorld series is quite an interesting franchise. Shifting genre’s for every new release, it’s a series that is always fresh and creative. It’s second installment blends elements from titles like Spelunky and 2D Metroidvana’s in creating a one-of-a-kind experience. Does this fresh take on old concepts result in an enjoyable title? Let’s find out!
The game opens with Rusty (the main character) entering a coil-mining plant a family member owns and is their to inherit it. But he discovers his family members passing and takes his pick-axe. With the goal in mind to dig until he hits the very depths of his mining plant, Rusty uses tools and supplies he gathers from his digs and his towns population. The story is quite simple and is very front-ended; most of the story is told to you early on and it just ‘stops’ until the end of the game. This is fine, as the strongest part of the game is the core gameplay but it is a bit distracting considering the dialog that is within the game is well written and quite charming.
More story could off added further context to Rusty’s reasoning for going on digs and having extra dialog sections where he reacts to the towns people would have been nice. For what is present though, SteamWorld Dig’s plot is simple but effective.
The Design & Gameplay
SteamWorld Dig is quite interesting, in the sense that it’s blending two styles of gameplay. While you have a little hub to explore where you use money earned from ores/supplies you gather underground to get new tools and upgrades to better your digs, the gameplay blends exploration with mild 2D platforming. Exploring the underground has three unique levels that you unlock as you dig further into the games world. Each location has a specific amount of ore and supplies, so gathering all of them will be a challenge.
But how do you dig underground? You start out with a pick axe that can break most dirt but you need more tools to get further into the underground.
You do this through gathering upgrades to Rusty you get through what I dub ‘mini-dungeons’ that use basic 2D platforming in conjunction with your tools. Completing these unlock new abilities for Rusty like the ability to run, use a powerful fist and a higher jump. These can all be upgraded alongside your axe, which further helps your digging.
Digging and platforming isn’t the only elements of the game; combat has a mild role too. This is not major, as your axe can make quick work with creatures underground after a few hits but Rusty cannot be in combat for long. Resources like health, steam and light are all critical for exploration. You can upgrade how long each resource lasts through buying them from the town but once all of them run out, you die. How the game deals with death is great; where you die is where all your ore/supplies are present. So if you venture back into the underground after death, you can re-gather your resources. It makes death fair and it encourages you to continue exploring.
My only issue with the game is that how many ores/resources you can gather is limited to specific slots. Through repeated runs, you can get all the resources you desire but it’s annoying going back-and-forth to get the one resource you missed. Thankfully, you can buy more slots for resources as you get through the game but it’s one of the few major issues with the game.
Gameplay and design is strong in SteamWorld Dig and its rewarding gameplay-flow encourages repeated runs into the underground.
It will take you about 4-5 hours to fully beat the game but through trophy support, you can extend game lengthy by a few more hours to get every single trophy. The reason the game is short is that three maps you dig through are not randomly generated, resulting in the locations being exactly the same when you start your dig. It discourages replay value but you can play the game again on a higher/lower difficulty if you want to as well. Overall the game is not the longest but still a good deal of content to play through.
SteamWorld Dig is a great looking game on the PS Vita. It has a distinct art style that pops off the Vita screen and animations across the board are polished. Blending mechanical and earthy elements results in a unique visual style I really enjoyed. Music helps add the atmosphere as well, with many of the tracks matching what you do in the game world and making each dig feel ‘mysterious’ to a degree. Sound effects are striking as well, with them having a distinct ‘sound’ unique only to the SteamWorld series. Many of the sound effects you hear in Dig come back in the developers future project SteamWorld Heist. It helps added consistency across the game world; I appreciate that in a video game personally. 0
Regarding how the game runs, it maintains a solid 60FPS and runs at native resolution on the PS Vita. SteamWorld Dig is a great looking and sounding game that runs quite well on the PS Vita platform.
Overall – 9 out of 10
+Story that’s simple but works
+Gameplay that blends genres effectively
+Exploration rewarding and controls are responsive
+Polished Presentation with Unique Identity
+Resource management and death systems well executed
-Game can be a bit short
-Combat can be annoying sometimes
-Ore/Resource Collecting having limited storage until later in the game
SteamWorld Dig is one of the PS Vita’s strongest indie titles, as it accomplishes many goals it sets out to complete. Offering strong core gameplay, polished presentation and exploration that feels rewarding ensures it will have a place in any Vita owner’s library. While the short lengthy and minor issues with resource collecting are present, they didn’t ruin the enjoyment I had playing through this title. Highly recommend this to any fan of exploration-focused games
Platforms: PS Vita & PlayStation TV
File Size: 82 MB
Cross-Buy Support: Yes (PS4 and Vita)
Publisher/Developer: Image & Form Games