SteamWorld Dig review: Most fun with a pickaxe since Minecraft
Minecraft has already proven that mining and smashing things with a shovel or pickaxe is fun. Now it's time for a robot to venture into the ground beneath us, accompanied by an awesome steampunk western theme. After Rusty -- the character you play as -- inherits his Uncle Joe's mine, he picks up his trusty pickaxe, plunges into the depths of the earth and begins to build up Tumbleton.
At first glance, the game is simple -- dig, collect minerals, sell those minerals to buy upgrades for your equipment, dig down deeper, and collect better minerals. Rinse and repeat. And somehow, it doesn't get old. You constantly want to delve deeper and unearth whatever might be hidden in the rock.
There are obstacles in your way in the form of enemies, falling stones and acid drips. Still, you have a set of tools to deal with these obstacles. Outside of a pickaxe, you get items like dynamite and a drill arm that will help you make your way through rock that your pickaxe can't penetrate. Meanwhile, if you upgrade your pickaxe, you'll be able to mine blocks more quickly, and you can upgrade your pouch to hold more ore, buying you some more time underground.
You'll also get some abilities -- also upgradeable -- to help you navigate the underground maze that you make for yourself. A super jump move will allow you to get to tough-to-reach places, and sprinting will make sure you don't get crushed by falling rocks. Not only do you manage a health bar, but you have a light meter that constantly drains, lowering the amount of vision you have. Returning to the surface will refill that and allow you to see better. You also manage a water meter, which gets used when using steam-powered abilities like the super jump and the drill arm. The way to refill this is by soaking up water in underground pools, which are few and far in-between.
What's great about SteamWorld Dig is that no two players will take the same path. It's up to you to choose the layout of your series of tunnels. The decisions you make while digging will affect what you discover and what minerals you can get to. Don't dig straight down, because you'll miss out on a ton of ore, and it'll be difficult for you to return to the surface. It's best to explore and be curious; take your time and unearth precious ore.
While I simplify SteamWorld Dig to a robot and his trusty pickaxe, the game is so much more. You constantly revisit previously mined tunnels -- kind of like a Metroid game -- but there's plenty of platform, planning and strategy involved. While you do face off against enemies, it's best to avoid confrontations or use other means of conquering the baddies. This isn't an action game. It's a game of discovery. You're like the robot version of Alan Grant with some of Indiana Jones' traits sprinkled in.
SteamWorld Dig is also available on PS4, and I can happily announce that the game is just as good as the PC version. From the smooth HD visuals, to the steady framerate and the top notch controls, it's all here. Now you just have another platform to experience this game on, and I welcome that.
While I absolutely adored most of SteamWorld Dig, it is quite short. You could probably beat the game in one sitting. Also, constantly having to return to the surface hampers a game that begs you to explore. I've also screwed myself on a few puzzles and had to restart at an earlier location. Outside of those minor complaints, SteamWorld Dig is a great game that you should definitely play.
[Reviewed on PC]