By: Casey Curran
The PlayStation 4 has only been out for four months and already there are games starting to blur together. This is not even a case of military shooters seeming too similar, it is a case of games about going deep underground to mine and bring treasure back. While SteamWorld Dig unquestionably pulls off this concept better than Super Motherload, it still encounters a few stumbles along the way.
The controls to SteamWorld Dig are very simple. “X” is used to jump and can infinitely be used to propel you higher when used against a wall, exactly like in the Mega Man X games. The circle button is used for your pickaxe, while other buttons are used upon gaining powers, such as holding square to run. Running, incidentally, gave me my only issues as the difference between a running jump and normal jump are significant, yet it is hard to tell when you pick up enough speed to pull one off, especially on short platforms.
Although simple, SteamWorld Dig has a very charming style to it, especially with the character models. I am not even entirely sure what I can compare this game’s visual style to, as it has a fairly unique steampunk look. Colors pop out very well on here as well thanks to its bright and cartoony aesthetic. My only real issue graphically is that, since a large amount of the game is spent in underground caverns, it gets boring fairly quickly. The secret areas help offset this, but it’s not enough.
The sound effects blend in well here, but the music was so forgettable; so much so that I actually had to double check and make sure it was in the game.
My initial impressions of SteamWorld Dig were just awful, as the gameplay consisted of nothing except mining for treasure and then going back up to the surface to sell it for money. This is done by hitting adjacent blocks with a pickax until you find one marked as containing some unknown mineral. The money you gain from this can then be used to buy new items such as a pickaxe that can destroy stronger blocks.
The gameplay initially felt tedious at best. There is no real challenge in getting deeper underground while constantly going down to get treasures then back up has no compelling draw. To make matters worse, picking itself was very tedious; it takes multiple hits to destroy the strongest blocks the pickaxe can break, while only weak ones can be taken out with a single hit. Considering that a good chunk of weaker blocks were taken out as well, the vast majority of the game feels like it requires striking blocks too many times to get past them.
As time passed, however, and I dug deeper down into the area I started to discover the real selling point of the game: secret areas. There are many doors that hold special new abilities and treasure only obtainable by getting past fairly challenging platforming bits or waves of enemies. These sections, however, feel too few and far between. Not to say there are barely any of these areas, it is just that the other parts are so monotonous that I was only really having fun when I located a secret door.
While occasionally having some very fun moments, much of SteamWorld Dig is a slog, digging down until I could find a new secret area. While these secret areas did give a decent amount of fun, it was not enough to completely offset the more uninteresting parts of the game.