Review: Steamworld Dig

SteamWorld Dig has finally made it on to the both the PS Vita and the Playstation 4 this month, this around six months after it was released on the hugely successful Nintendo 3DS. Now I’m going to admit to having not played this game on that platform or on the PC so this is my first experience of Swedish Indies Image & Form’s 2D Mining based platformer. This game is set very much in the same universe as SteamWorld Tower Defence, which was released in 2010.

Steamworld Dig is based in a small western mining town called Tumbleton and you play the part of Rusty who is a steam powered robot. Rusty is a visitor to this town, primarily there to collect the deeds for his late Uncle’s mine. This is about as much story as there is to go on when you start, and as expected for a fairly short indie game the emphasis is on the gameplay far more than the text read story.

The first tool you attain in this game is your pick axe, it is a mining game after all, and you must use this tool to navigate your way around the mine digging ever deeper in a quest to mine the various minerals, elements and metals and sell these back in the town so that you can upgrade your mining equipment. There are various other upgrades that can be made such as your health, pouch size and water tank capacity. The water is used to fuel your more powerful tools you will collect as you progress, and you will need to upgrade to mine through the harder rocks the deeper down you go, this essentially means that you will have to find as many minerals as you can.

Steamworld Dig 3_oldworld_acid_cave

It is this searching and upgrading that gives this game a really fun and slightly addictive style. Many games fall into the trap of making the finding, selling and buying a dull grind but not this. I was always wanting to upgrade and enjoyed drilling or axing my way through the rocks to find more valuable minerals so that I could improve Rusty.

No platformer is complete without enemies to fight or avoid and in this game you have a nice variety that you encounter as you explore the underground world, initially starting with small bugs and gradually building up to much larger and difficult bugs, miners and advanced robots, again this ensures that you actively upgrade the deeper down you go or else you wont stand much chance in a fight against these various enemies. To go with enemies you need puzzles and again Steamworld Dig provides, the puzzles aren’t frustratingly complex but they aren’t stupidly easy either and I found this a really nice balance that kept up the fun gameplay.

As this game is available on both the Vita and the PS4 I was curious to see how it compares graphically from the sharp small screen of the Vita to the full HD world of the new Playstation console. I am delighted to say that this game looks incredible on both platforms, I have always felt that the Vita is perfectly suited for Indies and this is yet another game that enforces that. It also has to be said that this game also looks impressive on the PS4, and importantly it doesn’t feel as though the image has been stretched to fill the larger screen I imagine you have plugged into your console.

Steamworld Dig 6_drill_cave

One major problem and disappointment I had with this game though is that it doesn’t allow cross play on the consoles, so you cannot transfer your save from the Vita to the PS4 or vice versa, but on more research it appears that this isn’t solely exclusive to SteamWorld Dig, with the PS4 instead seemingly needing a firmware update to include cross saves like the PS3 has enjoyed with compatible Vita titles.

On my first play through of this game it took around four hours to complete, a decent amount of time to spend on a game that is fairly cheap on the Playstation Store. When I did finish the story it did leave me with want more, which is never a bad thing when playing a game, and the best part is the randomly generated mines mean you never get the same experience twice – a pretty neat touch. I really enjoyed my time in the mines of Tumbleton and was very impressed with this game from Image and Form, so much so that I am going to actively find out what other games they have developed , and I’m not sure there’s much higher praise in this business than that is there?

If you’re after a fun, enjoyable and slightly addictive 2D platformer then I would highly recommend you give this a go, especially on the Vita.

Reviewed on Vita/PS4

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