Wednesday, June 28, 2017

LTTP review - Steamworld Dig

Well, this is embarrassing, I tapped on that dusty old Steamworld Dig icon, and got straight back into this amazing predecessor to Image and Form's Steamworld Heist. Then, I wondered what I had scored it, only to find that I never got round to putting up a review. Well, let's fix that right now.

Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is part homage to the endless digging/mining titles that litter gaming history, and part Metroid-style. Whatever that means in this day of a million games taking that idea in a million different directions.

Dig's hero is Rusty, a robot who has been bequeathed an old paid-out mine by his predecessor Joe. In a hot and barren land, it is about as welcoming as a snake in your boot. Finding Joe's rusting hulk and a mystery to solve, up above is the town of Tumbleton where the local droids can provide some advice and basic supplies.

Dig works as a game because you need light, water and health, which aren't easy to find at the bottom of a mine shaft. So, you pop up and down like a tourist at a major tube station, replenishing your resources, selling off the gems and minerals you find to fund some better kit. These quick bursts of activity keep you moving and pushing on, with some finely balanced gameplay making the underground gloom a joy to explore.

The soil at the top is pretty easy to hack through with a regular pickaxe, but the deeper you go, the more powerful your equipment needs to be. And the deeper you go, the stranger things get. What are the strange creatures in the Old World, and what is all that metal in Vectron? There are also plenty of little grottos to explore with switch or jumping puzzles where you can find extra goodies to buy better equipment.

Cutting a different path each time you play makes the game a challenge too, will you go for speed over loot, or caution over a potential trap that will leave you needing to use a teleport? With Rusty rapidly getting uparmoured and upgunned (or uphanded) to fight off the nasties, you can also choose to fight your way through or take a more passive route. All interesting choices that open the game up to a range of play styles.

For a game set in a mine, Steamworld Dig is gorgeous on an OLED with glowing crystals, sparks flying as you hack through the rock and subtle glimpses of the wider world in the background. The robots all come with stacks of charm, and its easy to see why Image and Form wanted to take them further in Steamworld Heist, which does make me wonder what they can add in the upcoming direct sequel, Steamworld Dig 2, which will hopefully also get a Vita release.

So, apologies for not getting a review of this great game up earlier, a genuine oversight, and if you have a few pounds, do throw it at PSN on this game. With a trophy for finishing in under 2:30, it isn't exactly massive, but is finely constructed to offer coal sacks of gameplay.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £7.39 (PSN)
Size: 80MB
Dev: Image and Form
Progress: Assimilated

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