Playtime: about 5 hours your first time playing
Download size: less than 200 megabytes
Steamworld Dig is a mining game similar to the old in-browser game Motherload from X Gen studios. If you haven’t played that before, it’s worth your time to try. Some of the key differences though, are in Steamworld Dig there is a storyline, there are enemies, and there are special power-up items that you find in your mining adventure.
The game’s story is pretty simple and not particularly good or bad. You play a robot (every NPC in the game is a robot) that comes to a mining town to take over a mine left by your dead (destroyed?) uncle. The goal of the game is just to dig deeper and deeper, mining out all the precious minerals and selling them to upgrade your equipment. On your way down you’ll discover ancient sleeping enemies, many of which behave like the enemies in the Super Mario games (most of them just run back and forth in their little sections). You take damage if you touch them, so you have to use your trusty pickaxe to hack them to death.
The game’s controls are pretty simple as well, you use the directional keys to move (the game is 2 dimensional) and a few other keys to either swing your axe or switch your weapon. You have very limited inventory space (upgradeable) to store the precious minerals that you mine so you’ll find yourself climbing back to the surface every few minutes. Unlike Motherload, you cannot fly. You climb sort of like in the Megaman X games where you do little jumps against walls. This means you can’t dig around willy nilly because if you dig too big a space, you’ll make it impossible to climb back out. Fortunately you don’t have an air/fuel limit so the only real drawback of being stuck underground for long periods is you run out of light from your torch (can be upgraded). If you get stuck, just keep digging downward and eventually you’ll find a portal back to the surface.
As you progress and sell your minerals you can buy upgrades to your pickaxe, which let you dig down deeper since the ground gets harder the farther down you are (more pickaxe swings per block dug). If this is your first playthrough, I recommend buying the upgrades as soon as you can. You can’t “skip upgrades” and save money to buy something better. For example, to buy the gold pickaxe, you need to buy the silver first, or the gold one won’t unlock. Along your way you will also find special “body parts” like running boots, a hand drill, and other equipment items that give you special abilities. The hand drill is awesome for digging, but not so great for killing enemies. I actually missed one of these upgrades (a ranged weapon) until close to the end of the game, and it was required to proceed, so the game gave me a waypoint telling me which direction to go. After the first half of the game you’ll find yourself doing a lot of digging puzzles, so it’s not a completely casual game. It can actually get frustrating near the end. Don’t worry too much about deaths though. If you die, you respawn on the surface with half the money you’re carrying being confiscated. If you followed my earlier advice and bought everything as soon as you could, you probably won’t lose too much. Just bear in mind that there is a finite amount of resources. You cannot “reset” the world, and minerals do not respawn.
+Fun game to kill time with. There’s an autosave so you can play in small time windows if you want, but you should probably play in 30 – 45 minute intervals at least, so you don’t forget where you’ve dug for minerals. Very small download size too.
+The puzzle solving starts off easy (how to dig to a mineral patch without touching enemies or getting crushed by rocks) and becomes very challenging near the end (how to get past laser walls).
-The game is pretty short, only about 5 hours to beat. This isn’t too big a problem, except that I didn’t acquire enough money to buy all the upgrades and items. There were a few consumable items that I never got to try (ladder, teleporter).
-There’s a chance you might quit in frustration near the end of the game when you keep dying at the same places. When you respawn, you don’t have full health, and all your water is gone (water is the fuel for your steampunk equipment). This means that after a death, you don’t just need to go all the way back to where you died, you also need to find a place to refill your health and water.
Overall, the game is a decent mix up of various game genres, and put together make a pretty good game. If you have time to kill and don’t want to get into anything too serious, give Steamworld Dig a try. You’ll need to use your brain, but most of the game up until the end is pretty easy.