SteamWorld Dig from Image and Form is an unexpected tribute to an often forgotten generation of games.
Playing as Rusty the Robot, the game takes influence from cult classics such as Metroid, urging the player to explore the deepest, darkest parts of an underground mine. Exploring further into the mines will make Rusty stronger as he discovers new abilities, giving him access to new areas that were previously inaccessible. Unlike Metroid, the game places significant emphasis on platforming with the tight controls encouraging the players to explore new areas. Your first trips into the underworld are painfully short and uneventful; your lantern only lasts for a few minutes and Rusty’s equipment can barely make a dent into the world around him. You’ll be making frequent trips back up to the over world trading in the handful of cheap inexpensive ore you’ve gathered for cash, which can then be spent on better equipment.
The game dramatically picks up pace once you gain access to Rusty’s drill. This allows Rusty to get through the underground mines at a significantly faster pace, allowing you to uncover secret mines, full of ore and further upgrades. It’s here that the similarities with Metroid are at their strongest, with upgrades such as the double jump allowing players to go further into previous explored areas. The joy of SteamWorld Dig is that the entire premise of the game is built around exploration and the upgrades available to the player do a stunning job of encouraging players to venture further into uncharted territory.
The game also does a brilliant job of making the player aware of the dangers in the underworld; there’s nothing quite like spending half an hour digging further into the mines with barely any light left, hoping that you’re going to stumble across a secret area. Do you keep on digging, with barely any light left to protect you from falling objects or enemies? Or is it better to return to the surface and try again later? It’s this great sense of risk verses return that makes SteamWorld Dig such a compelling experience.
Finally, as with many titles that have been ported to the Wii U, SteamWorld Dig gets a few handy upgrades. Compared to its 3DS counterpart, the game looks absolutely fantastic and the HD graphics brings life into the players surrounding. Off-TV play is also available, as well as an option to display the world map on the gamepad during normal play.
SteamWorld Dig might be a short experience but it’s a fantastic one whilst it lasts. It has a strong core mechanic and engrossing atmosphere, and much like the games it’s inspired by, it lends itself to multiple playthroughs. This is easily the best game available on the Wii U eShop and one you’ll find difficult to put down.