SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt
Sidescrolling action games use to be my go to genre, growing up. Super Mario Bros. Metroid. Contra. Now, with the graphic capability of consoles reaching near realistic heights, 2D graphics are fading in lieu of 3D models. Luckily, not completely. Like Valdis Story, SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is a sidescrolling action game, brought to you by wonderful indie developers.
You are a lone, wandering robot, named of Rusty. You stumble toward an old west, steampunk, town --known as Tumbletown-- and crash into the depths of a mine! Here, you meet a little, pigtailed robot, named Dorothy. After a short conversation, you learn of Rusty's claim to the mine. Then, you pry a pickaxe from the lifeless hands of Uncle Joe, and SteamWorld Dig truly begins!
SteamWorld Dig is a platform mining adventure with strong Metroidvanian influences. Take the role of Rusty, a lone mining steambot, as he arrives at an old mining town in great need. Dig your way through the old earth, gaining riches while uncovering the ancient threat that lurks below... -steamworldgames.com/dig
As Rusty, you have the ability to run, jump, leap off walls, and dig. Once you enter the mines, located underneath the town, you start off with a simple pickaxe, which allows you to dig down, left, right, or destroy small holes above. You can destroy square-blocks of dirt, by pounding away at it. In the beginning, you can only destroy, or dig through, the softest earth. You eventually create an elaborate labyrinth of tunnels.
As you dig further into the mines, there are patches of dirt that look like they have gems embedded within them. These take a bit more effort to dig through, but they also yield precious jewels. This shiny loot, and other ore, are used as currency. In order to cash in on these precious stones, you must make your way topside, and talk to Dorothy.
Not only can you use the cash to buy a whole myriad of upgrades during the game, these gems also level you up. Each time you visit Dorothy with a pile of loot, you gain experience based on the value, and amount, you bring to her. Each time you level up, you unlock new items in the shops, like stronger pickaxes, that will become invaluable to your journey.
There are a handful of NPCs located above ground. The topside of the town serves as the main hub, where you buy, cash in loot, and upgrade Rusty, by visiting the many vendors. There's Dorothy, that takes care of any loot that you find. Cranky, Dorothy's grandpa, takes care of the main inventory, like ladders, teleporters, lanterns, and other upgrades. Biff, a round, happy cowboy, sells items with a bit more power, and Dandy, a rather dapper robot, sells the best items in the game. Then there's the lovely Lola, that serves as a spawn point, where you revive after you die.
You start off with a small inventory. Three simple slots. Each slot can hold up to four less valuable gems, while the most valuable jewels will take up a single slot! Needless to say, you'll find yourself traveling topside often, cause when you run out of room, you can't pick up anymore loot.
Embedded along with the shiny gems are small creatures. The first enemies you encounter are three eyed, maggot looking monsters. When you get too close, they spark, and eventually explode, creating a hole in the rocks. They crawl around, and cause a bit of damage if they touch you. Sometimes, once you pickaxe them to death, they will drop items. If you take too much damage, Rusty falls to pieces, and it's game over.
Items show up in the form of hearts, water droplets, and flames. Hearts refill your health bar, water droplets serve as a power source for secondary weapons --like the fist or drill-- and flames refill your lanterns. Water can also be replenished by stepping into pools of water, located in various points in the mine.
Light is scarce, and you have a finite amount of flames. Your lantern is denoted by an orange bar on the top right, and slowly depletes over time. Once it runs out, you're left in darkness. The only way to replenish the light is to head into the sun, or gather flames from fallen enemies.
Along with normal items, there are also electric contraptions, located deep in the mine, that bestow Rusty with new moves. From a double jump, to new weapons, you continually upgrade your robot, gaining new, unexpected abilities.
The goal is to reach the bottom, gather loot, explore, and ultimately reveal the truth behind Uncle Joe, and this mysterious mine.
The Flash animation in SteamWorld Dig is really nice. Every character has their own personality, design, and none of them look or feel like generic, robotic knock-offs. There's a truly unique feel to the characters, the world, and all the environments. Characters and enemies have some great animation. Rusty has a lot of subtle animations, as well, from his idle, to leaping, digging, falling apart during death, and taking damage. It's a visual treat to watch.
The art is cartoony, stylized, and quirky. I really enjoyed the colors, the characters, and the overall deign and feel of the artwork. A lot of time and effort went into the details of the animation, stages, creatures, power ups, and it shines through. Everything comes together cohesively, and the look of the whole game is one of my favorite parts of SteamWorld Dig.
The controls are responsive. Very responsive! Every action was fluid, and I never found myself struggling against the game, as I maneuvered Rusty through the labyrinth of tunnels. And with every amazing upgrade, Rusty became more and more agile, and leaping, or dashing through the level became more of a treat!
The music is amazing. The old western tunes set a great atmosphere, and along with the controls, and stunning visuals, it made playing through the game close to perfection.
The level design was well thought out, and extremely satisfying to explore. Every level had it's own identity, and there were never any recycled stages or wasted artwork. It always felt new, and I never got tired of traversing the mine. I was actually really surprised with the way the game unfolds.
When you die, you lose 50% of your money. It's really not fair. It lends itself to you trying your hardest not to die, but you will eventually die, especially during the final stages of the mine. It broke my heart every time I died, and watched half of all my loot vanish. Seriously. I cried a little.
When I turned off the game, it would freeze. All the time. Not sure if it's my system, or not, but I haven't been able to turn the game off, completely. I usually have to force it to shut down.
The ending is abrupt. I was expecting it to continue, or have an extra mission, or something. But it doesn't. You have a boss fight, which is the one and only battle in the game, and then it ends. There's very little closure. The game is brilliant, beautiful, and the ending just doesn't hold up to rest of SteamWorld Dig. Which is a shame, because it's really fun.
SteamWorld Dig is nearly a perfect game. If not for the abrupt ending, I would have given it a perfect score! Up until then, I couldn't find anything wrong. I have nothing but praise for SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt. The art direction is beautiful, animation is fluid and quirky, controls are really responsive, and the story will surprise you. I enjoyed every moment, and have almost nothing to complain about. I hope there is a sequel, or some DLC, because, you know? That ending! Definitely check it out. It's worth your time.
SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is an indie, adventure, platforming game developed and published by Image&Form. It was released for Steam, on December 5th, 2013. It was originally released for the Nintendo 3DS. It's available on Steam for $9.99.