Game Review: SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt [3DS]
I had originally planned to write this review as I played through the game, just to note down what I thought worked well, what didn’t and to give impressions, as you would expect from a game review. Here I find myself after six hours, having completed the game and I’ve not penned down one word, this isn’t a criticism, the opposite in fact. SteamWorld Dig (Full title “SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt” had me hooked, I was so engaged that I completely disregarded any other activity as I continued to play. It’s about four o’clock in the morning now and, while probably not very good for my eyes, my 3DS screen is projecting SteamWorld Dig in its finished glory. I absolutely loved it.
There isn’t a major story to SteamWorld Dig because there doesn’t need to be. You control Rusty, a steambot, who is travelling towards the town “Tumbleton” to claim a mine left by his uncle. After a quick cutscene, you are introduced to another character, the setting is made and you’ve acquired the first item you’ll be need, a pickaxe.
The term “Metroidvania” is thrown around a lot when describing games like SteamWorld Dig, rest assured that it manages to not only imitate the games of old, but gives them a run for their money. A mix between a platformer and puzzle game, you are tasked with paving your own path through several mines in order to obtain minerals, upgrade your items and abilities and take on messy situations while defeating enemies.
At first, you’ll start off slow, slowly making your way into the depths of the mine, obtaining minerals worth very little and gradually upgrading your abilities. Your light gauge will deplete quickly and you won’t last that far down in the first half an hour or so. The pace picks up once you get Rusty’s drill, which will require water to work, adding another gauge to look out for. The drill will make quick work of dirt and other materials under the earth’s crust, where you’ll eventually find yourself finding new abilities, such as speed boots, a mighty steam punch and a charge jump. All these and more will allow you to explore the mine and collect minerals worth a higher value, which can then be used to upgrade your equipment.
As you make your way through mines and collect expensive minerals, more steam powered robots will find their way to Tumbleton, bringing with them different items, allowing you to extend how much water you can hold or upgrade your lantern to have more time excavating the mines below. This, primarily, is the entire game. Go down, mine up some minerals, take them back up, upgrade your equipment and repeat.
Repetition does not mean “easy” though, you will fall victim to tackling enemies you thought you could take on with your pickaxe, but you’ll soon realise you will need to upgrade its damaging power to enemies once you’ve reached into the depths of the mines. Later on in the game, the mines have several hazards you’ll need to avoid in order to get further down and occasionally you will mine yourself into a dead end, with no way of escape, only death. However, there was never a moment I thought to myself “That wasn’t fair”, all mistakes and deaths I had were the result of my careless actions, which gives the game a challenging feel, along with one that makes you say “Ok, just one more time…”.
I have one complaint with the game, I felt that it was too short. But for an eShop release at £7.99 ($8.99), I really can’t fault the game for its length. Your first play-through will approximately take you six to seven hours and the game provides you with gameplay relief roughly every half an hour. So you can finish a section, save and continue another time, instead of saving halfway through a section and forgetting what you were heading for the next time you pick it up.
Image & Form have proven they know how to take a simple idea and execute it perfectly. Praise should also be allocated in other areas too, Rusty’s animations look brilliant as does the lighting, something you wouldn’t normally expect from a 2D game. The atmosphere created by the game’s aesthetics along with its music really come together and invest into the setting. Randomly generated levels will also ensure that the game can be played through several times and it’s an adventure that speed runners are certain to enjoy.
SteamWorld Dig is developed by Swedish team, Image & Form, available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. The game stands out, shining in between Pullblox and Mighty Switch Force!, if you’re thinking about downloading something on the cheap, it should be this. It takes elements from Metroid, Minecraft, Terraria and Spelunky. A fantastic game suited for the handheld platform.