SteamWorld Dig is a stunning little 3DS eShop title with a lot of ambition. Set in a Wild Western, Steampunk – and perhaps even post-apocalyptic – world where robots rule the roost, it offers a brilliant adventure-platforming experience with a hefty dose of style.
There’s not much to the overworld: at first there are just two or three buildings and a well in this desolate shanty town, with little to no exploration. That might seem quite limiting, but it’s the underworld – the mines, sewers and everything else – that are at the forefront of SteamWorld Dig.
Imagine if Mario went down a pipe and then, instead of coming up out of another pipe, just kept going, all the way to the dark and mysterious depths below. Now you’re on your way to understanding what SteamWorld Dig is about. It’s almost like Terraria in a sense, but more focused and with more of a purpose, a unique style and plenty of great features.
The goal of SteamWorld Dig is not only to mine for various minerals but to reach new depths, solving puzzles and fighting enemies as you go. There’s no crafting here: items and power-ups are collected by completing various puzzle caves, which give the game a sense of focus in among the relatively open mines. These items and power-ups push the game forward (and downwards); while at first you’ll only have a shovel, you’ll soon get a manner of digging and exploration tools, including a drill, which helps you in your quest to reach the very bottom.
It’s a grand quest, and one in which you’ll stumble across plenty of minerals, which can then be sold at varying prices in order to level up, grow the overworld and gain the ability purchase upgrades for items to quicken your descent, as well as one-use items such as teleporters and ladders, to quicken navigation to the surface.
The interplay of all these different features is what makes SteamWorld Dig so great; it’s not only about the digging, but about returning to the surface and reflecting on the progress you’ve made down below, allowing you to dig down even further into the ground with more powerful equipment.
While it’s not the most developed story, the game will make you constantly ask “what’s next?” as you drive your drill further and further down through the square blocks, and that’s really all that’s needed to make this an entirely compelling adventure.
Where SteamWorld succeeds the most is with the presentation; the game’s style and tone is spot-on, with the blend of Western and Sci-fi fully realised and reflected in every aspect, from the music – the game has a really memorable and well-suited soundtrack – to the visuals, the story and everything in between. Each of the characters are quirky, memorable and wonderfully designed.
Visually, it’s a really polished and distinct title, with the subtle 3D effect offering parallax backgrounds and the colours reflecting the current mood of each section brilliantly.
SteamWorld is a really fun game to play – while the main story may well end after five or so hours, I found myself going back for a few more in order to dig up the minerals I had missed, enjoying every second of it. It has an addictive quality and is ultimately really deep, never becoming repetitive and always introducing new enemies, obstacles and power-ups at perfect moments. There’s plenty of replay value, with no two play throughs being the same due to the procedurally generated environments.
There’s not much to complain about then, except perhaps the slight lack of puzzles found throughout – more caves could have been added, perhaps offering extra bonuses, but there’s plenty of stuff to collect and upgrade already.
SteamWorld Dig is a genuine surprise; I hadn’t expected to find such a fantastic indie title on the 3DS eShop, but I’m extremely glad I did. It’s easy to see that the developers, Image & Form, have put a lot of love and care into this game, delivering one of the best indie titles this year, completely worth the asking price of £7.99.