Rocking up to Tumbleton to claim a mine left to him by his now-defunct uncle, lone mining steambot Rusty’s curiosity gets the better of him as he looks to unearth its undiscovered secrets. Armed solely with a worn pickaxe, SteamWorld Dig was nothing short of a sensation on Nintendo 3DS, letting players carve out their own adventure in Image & Form’s Metroidvania-inspired excursion.
Its reemergence on Wii U is more resplendent than ever, the realm of HD visuals helping to accentuate the carefully woven Wild West setting that Rusty and pals inhabit. That Uncle Joe’s mine is procedurally-generated means that your haphazard descent will differ between playthroughs, a welcome inclusion for those returning to relive the goggle-eyed steambot’s quest.
SteamWorld Dig isn’t a toilsome experience but is certainly one that will require steady consideration throughout. Tumbleton has fallen on hard times and your early excavation is relatively carefree, as you dodge critters and tumbling boulders you will uncover rare minerals and ore that can be traded with the townsfolk to aid its recovery. This, in turn, rewards you with a currency that can be spent purchasing upgrades at Cranky’s store, whether that be sharper pickaxes, portable teleporters for a quick retreat, sturdier armour to take more damage, or a larger pouch to carry more spoils.
Rusty’s fairly agile and can wall-climb with ease, although heavily relies on the light of an oil lamp to brighten his surroundings. This dims over time reducing your field of vision, so it’s important to plan out your next move. With limited inventory space, you’ll be regularly journeying back to the surface to sell what you’ve found although shortcuts expedite your toing and froing.
Your exploration is largely guided by directing you toward underground caverns, presenting you with platforming challenges that ultimately reward you with lucrative technological advances. Whether that be the Speed Boots, Steam Jump, Steam Punch, Drill or Fall Dampeners, these not only substantially aid your efforts in digging through the dirt but vary the experience enough for you to continually change your approach.
As you delve deeper underground the difficulty steadily ramps up with lasers and acid pools threatening your early demise. Death isn’t final, with players being able to partly sacrifice their hard-earned cash to have their robotic corpse lumbered back to Tumbleton. Your collected loot remains wherever you fell, so you have the chance to recover the ore that you previously gathered.
The Wii U GamePad emulates the setup as it was on Nintendo 3DS, allowing you to manage your inventory and keep a track of your bearings with the map on the touchscreen, while Off-TV Play can be enjoyed whenever necessary. The Wii U Pro Controller is also supported, for those that prefer using the more traditional controller.
A cross-buy promotion, skillfully negotiated with Nintendo to be available across Europe, Australia and New Zealand is a welcome opportunity for those that ‘dug’ Rusty’s adventure on a handheld to transition that experience to the big screen. That Nintendo of America can’t yet match such discount mechanism is worrying, although is hopefully something that the developer can soon offer in the months following launch.
It is SteamWorld Dig’s length that sadly lets the game’s otherwise stellar accomplishments down, with most players burrowing through to its conclusion in a matter of hours. But this remains an experience to wholeheartedly savour and is a welcome chance to witness one of the greatest additions to the Nintendo eShop in an entirely new light on Wii U.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Image & Form