You don’t have to dig too deep to unearth the raw inspirations lurking in the empire of dirt in SteamWorld Dig. Minecraft, Terraria, and Metroid all come to mind as you pick away the layers, but this name checking shouldn’t deter you from one of the eShop’s best offerings to date.
With pickaxe in hand and the promise of riches in the soil below, robot hero Rusty must plunder the depths to exhume treasures that will keep the struggling town of Tumbleton in business.
Though its residents will flesh out the story, the trenches and paths you carve out of the randomly generated earthy column in SteamWorld Dig will tell much greater tales of your legendary excavations.
An oil lantern grows dimmer if you don’t regularly return to the surface, water sources that power your more elaborate tools are scarce, and falling foul of the underworld’s monsters and troglodytes will send you back to square one minus your mined spoils.
The difficulty in SteamWorld Dig teaches you to tread lightly while checkpoints, precious metals, and curious caves are dangled in the way of your descent. You’ll also need to consider an exit strategy. A single misstep could leave you trapped or left digging to reach one of the game’s few teleporters.
The elements are against you but it rarely feels unfair over the steadily paced campaign. The more you adjust to this harsh world, so do your digs, rewarding you with new tools such as drills to decimate rocks and steam-powered jumps drip-fed along your descent.
Your findings meanwhile can be traded for upgrades from the merchants setting up shop on the surface. Here you’ll find pickaxes with extra swing, ladders for extra reach and makeshift teleporters for an emergency escape.
Long after you’ve scraped the bottom of this barrel, SteamWorld Dig’s charms linger in those carefully planned out furrows rather than its western-inspired presentation. For a game centered about hacking away at blocks of dirt, it’s something truly special.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Image & Form