SteamWorld Dig (PC)

Sugar Rush

By Daavpuke, Posted 05 Dec 2013

SteamWorld Dig, PC, Port, Review, Steam

Sticking to a specific platform can be hard when the reception seems overwhelming. Most games eventually try to branch out, if possible, which is also the case for SteamWorld Dig, coming to PC from its Nintendo 3DS beginnings. This short adventure that digs holes in the ground, for glory and profit, introduces players to a varied mixture of gameplay elements to grab the attention for quite some time. Its only misstep is that it doesn’t actually go the distance with that idea.

SteamWorld Dig, PC, Port, Review, Steam

Viewed from side to side, the story takes us to the sands of the old West. Beneath the brightly colored, yellow sands lurks a deep and dark mystery of sparkling gems, creepy crawlies and increasingly bizarre contraptions. Hand drawn assets use thick, cartoonish outlines paired with a wide variety of earthly colors to create this underground atmosphere, surrounded by darkness, wherever light does not reach. Through use of these even, bold textures, visuals remain clean and distinguishable, even in its bigger scope. Music stays in the background, with a few twangs beating in the repetitive cowboy spirit ever so slowly.

Environments are switched around two main places, with the first being a town above ground, where the protagonist, Rusty, can sell off mined minerals and use currency for goods. By trading, the robot can reach new levels that unlock more equipment, which in turn costs more money and pushes a deeper descent. As the story progresses, new shops and periodic hubs will show up, allowing Rusty to switch to different areas.

SteamWorld Dig, PC, Port, Review, Steam

Still, most of the action happens downstairs, in the depths where the only road ahead is down. Digging starts with just a pickaxe and a small lamp that rapidly runs out of potency. Some loose blocks can be cleaved to dig a hole, in order to find better minerals to sell for gear that will break through denser rocks. Eventually, a small arsenal will diversify this approach, by offering quick-fire possibilities that require water to operate the steam apparatuses. Finding a path below, whether it’s towards new dungeons filled with puzzles or just to more loot, has an explorative feel to it, seeing as view is limited. There’s usually only a few ways down, but it contains a lot of variations on how to get there, which may or may not contain additional goodies or replenishing possibilities. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to try a different direction, just to see what can be found there.

Repeatedly, these caches will be lined with enemies that run, throw or shoot, which may cause some disaster in the unstable ruins. Running time bombs can shatter an entire façade, while angry giants stay back and lob hindering bottles of acid. It doesn’t stop there either. Lasers slice through floors and spikes emerge from trap floors. There are perils, down below. Quick wit is needed.

SteamWorld Dig, PC, Port, Review, Steam

To overcome obstacles, Rusty can jump at first and later finds tech to get outfitted with the latest gadgets. This introduces a new gameplay element at certain intervals, which gives excavation some lasting power. Where movement is restricted at first, running will add momentum, bigger jumps will allow more reach, which eventually results into a nimble fighting machine. There are some adjustments required to really nail the velocity needed for certain level designs, but it rarely involves frustrating trial and error; just some good, old elbow grease. Designs are presented in a simple way, such as jumping higher or taking out faraway blocks to clear a certain puzzle, but it sets the mind in active mode to start thinking what else can be done with these tools.

Outside of this varied blend of platform sections and action settings, Rusty can make use of consumable items like a teleport device to go back to the surface or dynamite to throw at faraway enemies. When really in a pinch, like times where water for steam appliances run low, these last effort items can make or break a robot. Failing means destruction and reassembly at the surface costs valuable cash. There’s a trove of utilities to choose from, it’s simply a matter of making the right motions. Optimizing both use of goods and acquired minerals can be a challenge in itself, since some later catalogs start putting up some impressive price tags.

SteamWorld Dig, PC, Port, Review, Steam

Managing prowess and ability runs smoothly enough, given there is just the right amount of activity possible at one time. When chasms are important, running and jumping is the focus and using weapons is not possible, so there’s always a choice between the two that keeps controls simple to handle, even with added content. Furthermore, digging can be its own strategy, since destroying blocks with enemies usually means victory. It’s a piece by piece banquet of well-planned little effects that pile up into one engaging adventure that eases players forward.

With that amazing sense of a time sink comes one sizable downfall. Rusty can complete the entire gamut in just a few hours. Since level design is fixed to implement puzzles and secrets within, there is also less reason to drop by again, outside of an end tally. In fact, with more abilities added up until the end, it doesn’t feel like the story should end after its brief introduction. A taste for more grows as potential for skills is left unfulfilled. It’s a blast while it lasts, but it comes and goes like a sugar rush. An endless or random mode is the big absentee here. That would’ve put the game to new heights.

SteamWorld Dig, PC, Port, Review, Steam

At just a day’s worth of entertainment, SteamWorld Dig feels light. Yet, that time will be spent in glee, as its spaced out gameplay elements drive the action down into the digging depths, searching and uncovering more and more, to play in more varied ways. It will astonish, now and then again, but then nevermore. It is, however, definitely worth the thrilling ride of helping Rusty’s plight, as the robot grows into a machine of the ages with more powers at hand to crush soil and foes alike.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Image & Form
Developer(s): Image & Form
Genres: Actoin, Adventure
Themes: Platform
Release Date: 2013-12-05

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