I feel I’m going about the SteamWorld Dig series all wrong – kicking off with the excellent sequel last year before working backwards to the first game and now back to the second once more with the Nintendo 3DS version all within a matter of months. Wrong way or not though, Image & Form’s Metroidvania-style adventures rank as some of the better examples the genre has seen. While I loved my time with the Switch version of the sequel though, how does it fare when released on the… let’s face it no longer spring chicken 3DS hardware?
Let’s get the most important question out of the way first of all. What’s different about the 3DS version? While the game simply cannot compare to its bigger brother in terms of visuals, the vibrant style still looks the part even on the smaller screen. The chunky cartoon look and bright colours feel like a great fit. And even though Nintendo seems to have abandoned the use of 3D in their games as of late, SteamWorld Dig 2 not only offers this feature but does so while running at 60 frames a second. While not exactly a game changer, the style certainly pops a little more when the effect is turned on. The second screen is even put to good use displaying not only the map but also all the stones and gems you’ve collected on your travels.
So what about the game itself? In SteamWorld Dig 2 you play as a steam-driven robot called Dorothy who is on a search for her friend and main protagonist from the first game Rusty. With pickaxe in hand, her journey will take you to deep underground realms chipping away at the earth block by block.
What helps SteamWorld Dig 2 stand out from an already fairly crowded genre is its constantly rewarding sense of exploration. Just like the original, the same loop of digging, searching mines, gathering gems and returning to the surface remains intact here but thanks to some well-placed transport tubes you’ll rarely have an issue getting to and from the above-ground town. Special hidden rooms also litter the underground, each one offering a challenging series of obstacles to overcome with a worthwhile reward at the end.
These require precise and smart use of the tools at your disposal and offer some of the toughest moments the game has to offer. Likewise, the pacing too is spot on. Just when you feel like you’ve exhausted the idea of hammering away at rocks with your pickaxe, the game will throw another toy your way to master including a Jackhammer or Hookshot. The latter tool, in particular, makes traversing even more fun, as you’re able to zip around Spider-Man style. Even as you retread old ground these handy little instruments make doing so less of a chore even allowing you access to previously blocked off areas.
Enemies will pop up on your travels both big and small making things a little tougher on you. How you dispatch of them is entirely up to you, each tool effective in their own way. Destroying foes will net you experience helping you level up and raise your earnings from any gems sold. It’s a small incremental reward for raising Dorothy’s experience level however it’s arguably not the focus either.
Gems and other precious stones litter the underground realms almost everywhere you venture which can be cashed in and put toward new upgrades such as a larger water tank, extra health or a stronger pickaxe. Along with money, you’ll also need to be on the lookout for golden cogs, tough to find collectables that offer those willing to go out of their way extra mods like deflecting projectiles or less fall damage. Your choices here are not permanent leaving you free to switch and swap cogs around depending on what you might need at the time.
Weighing in at roughly four to six hours, the game’s main story feels a little short and even with many more treasures and unlockables still unearthed, I felt little incentive to go back and find them. Without the main narrative carrying you forward the pull wasn’t there for the missing upgrades. Still, your time spent playing the main adventure is an excellent one and something I could easily see myself returning to for a repeat playthrough at a later date.
Image & Form have continued to impress with their output on Nintendo’s newest toy as of late, however, it’s nice to see the developer hasn’t forgotten its handheld roots either. SteamWorld Dig 2 on 3DS is a great version of the excellent sequel making it an ideal alternative for those that have yet to take the plunge on a Nintendo Switch.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Image & Form