SteamWorld Dig ReviewReleased in September 2017, Image & Form's SteamWorld Dig 2 was exceptionally well received. I even gave it a perfect score! (You can read my review of that game at the link!)
SteamWorld Dig 2 has been an enormous success, but the game saw the most success on the Nintendo Switch.
Reports show that the game sold ten times as many units on the Switch in comparison to Steam. With this in mind, Image & Form wasted no time in porting the original SteamWorld Dig to the Switch.
While not as impressive as the sequel, SteamWorld Dig (initially released in 2013) still holds up well on the Switch. The game stars Rusty, a robot who returns to the western-themed town Tumbleton because his Uncle Joe left him the deed to a giant mineshaft.
After talking with the village locals, the player will adventure down into the mines. Equipped with Uncle Joe's old pickaxe, players can dig, explore, collect treasure, and discover Uncle Joe's hidden secrets.
Digging through mines, unearthing treasure, avoiding traps, discovering upgrades, and purchasing new item enhancements is as addicting as it was in 2013.
Players are limited on how much time they can spend down in the mines, as their lamp will only keep things lit for a few minutes. This results in a ton of backtracking throughout the game. And unfortunately, the game is not as forgiving as the sequel. In SteamWorld Dig 2, players would regain health and water every time they returned to the main town. In SteamWorld Dig, the player must instead buy health refills from the local merchant. Fortunately, it's not very expensive.
At first, players can spend very little time down in the mines. Rusty's bag will only hold so many treasures, so the player must continuously return to the surface to exchange them for money. The more money you bring to Dorothy (the star of SteamWorld Dig 2), the more upgrades you will unlock. You can eventually buy larger bags and expand your lamp light source to spend more time exploring with fewer trips back to the surface. Players can also upgrade their pickaxe making digging easier and attacks more damaging.
One area that is a bit lacking in SteamWorld Dig is the small range of enemy variety. Throughout a good portion of the campaign, the only enemies in the game are the Trilobite, and it's bigger cousin the Turtle. Trilobites appear most frequently and can be killed quickly if the player can get to them before they hatch. Most of the damage Rusty receives is by having enemies run into him. However, the Turtle can fire spikes out of its big shell. Later in the game, players will come across Shiners and Boozers which are mutated humans often found very deep in the mines near toxic waste. I won't spoil too much, but the final area of the game changes things up drastically, and a few new enemies appear because of it. The game also features only one boss fight at the very end of the game, which is something SteamWorld Dig 2 improved upon.
While the game does lack enemy variety, it is helped by the fact that the player must also watch out for traps. Sometimes, the player can dig too much and block the exit, forcing the player to self-destruct. In my experience back in 2013, this happened once or twice, but I was able to avoid it during this playthrough. Besides that, players must also watch out for sharp spike traps and falling boulders. The player will sometimes dig through a patch of dirt that will then send a large boulder down to crush poor Rusty. This can be a fun challenge as the player must destroy the dirt above the trap to collect treasure, but must also get out of the way of being crushed. As the player explores further down the mineshaft, they will also encounter acid pools and dripping acid from above. And at the very end, must avoid laser beams.
One of my favorite parts of SteamWorld Dig is upgrading components to make Rusty more advanced, stronger, and given new abilities. Upgrades include speed running shoes, a Drill - my personal favorite - a rocket-arm punch, and more. This upgrade system reminds me a lot of Mega Man X or Super Metroid. The more abilities Rusty acquires, the faster it is to explore the mines and collect more loot. The upgrade system is very rewarding.
Most of these new abilities like the jump boost, Drill, and Rocket Punch all use water and steam, limiting how often players can use them. There is water spread out throughout the mines, but it's not always easy to come by. I often found myself returning to a specific area near a warp pipe from the main town to refill my water meter. Like health and lamp light, water upgrades are crucial to progressing through the game.
Most of the shop's upgrades require money. But some, especially further into the game, also need a specific amount of orbs to upgrade items. These orbs are a lot harder to find than basic treasure and are often hidden in special caves. At certain times during my playthrough, I found myself short on these orbs.
Another downside to the original SteamWorld Dig game is the lack of a full-fledged map. There is a mini-map that is very helpful in the top right corner of the game screen. However, there is no way to bring up a full map or verify that the entire cave is completed and everything collected. This is something Image & Form made a considerable improvement on in SteamWorld Dig 2. This isn't critical to finishing the game but is a feature that would have been great to have.
One downside to this quick port to the Switch is that the game is the lack of new enhancements or additions to the game. There are no new bonus chapters or mines to explore in this release. Lack of any Switch specific additions like HD Rumble support is somewhat disappointing. With that said, the game is very appropriately priced at $9.99 (half the cost of SteamWorld Dig 2). And the game in its original state still holds up very well to this day.
Even with a couple of things lacking, SteamWorld Dig remains an excellent indie game adventure that is worth playing.
Who Should Play This Game?
If you loved SteamWorld Dig 2 on the Switch, but never played the original. Or if you enjoyed it so much the first time, you want to double dip and have both SteamWorld Dig 1 & 2 on the same portable HD console (Nintendo Switch). Gamers that enjoy Metroidvania type exploration and progression will find a lot to like.
What Makes the Game Worth Buying?
SteamWorld Dig is a very fun game worth exploring. The Nintendo Switch version retails for $9.99, and that's an excellent price point. While not as great as SteamWorld Dig 2, there's still a lot to like in the 4-8 hour campaign.
The gameplay of exploring the mines for treasure is very fun.
Cool upgrades and a rewarding progression system.
Beautiful 2D art
Nintendo Switch version is excellent for portable or on the big screen.
No way to bring up a full map and no check marks for cave completions.
Not much in the way of enemy variety or bosses.
Limited fast travel pipes compared to the sequel.
Health or water doesn't refill when returning to town.
No HD Rumble support for the Switch.
Disclaimer: We received a Nintendo Switch review code for this review.