SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful Of Dirt 3DS Review
Not Afraid To Get Its Hand Dirty
I’ve heard nothing but positive things about Image & Forms 3DS eShop title, Steamworld Dig. Aside from Mario Kart 8, there is nothing new and compelling to play for Wii U and the 3DS, so I decided to fork over the money to try this peculiar title and to my surprise it wasn’t half bad.
In Steamworld Dig, you play as Rusty, a young robot that has inherited the deed to his dead uncles mine. The primary objective of Steamworld Dig is to explore the depths of the mine – uncovering the secrets of what lies beneath and along the way gain riches by excavating precious materials. Digging through hundreds of meters of dirt is made simple with an uncomplicated control scheme. The use of the pick axe (or the excavating tool of choice) is assigned to the A-button, press B to jump and switch between items with the L or R buttons. Overall, I found controlling Rusty fairly responsive.
As the name may already suggest, the root premise of Steamworld Dig is to dig, dig and dig some more. On paper, it certainly sounds like a monotonous task, but in reality this is further from the truth largely thanks to the intelligent game design choices from Image & Form.
To mask the weary nature of digging, Image & Form has intelligently layered the experience with quasi-RPG elements as I like to call it. “Growth” or “Progression”, whatever term tickles your fancy, is effectively used as a tool to encourage players to dig a little deeper during a play session. All the precious material that you excavate can be merchant for coins which then can be used to purchase upgrades for Rusty. I often found myself motivated to jump right back into the mines to search for more metals in order to afford additional upgrades for Rusty. There’s something hugely satisfying about spending your hard toiled money on an expensive item.
Furthermore, there is a Metroid-esque sense in Steamworld Dig. By this I mean, that exploration and the manner in which your progress in Steam World Dig is heavily dependent on gaining new steam abilities (much like how progression is achieved by gaining new items in Metroid games). Rusty’s steam abilities, like the name suggests, require the power of steam in order for them to be used. Though limited by the amount of water left in the tank can, steam powers grant Rusty the ability to jump abnormally high, drill into hard stone or even steam punch (which has poor utility). Often obtaining a new ability allows you to overcome an obstacle that was once impeding your progression Essentially finding and beating these key sections (marked red in the map) are the main objectives in Steamworld Dig. When it comes down to pinpointing why Steamworld Dig is so fun, I believe it effectively mimics the Metroid-esque formula, managing to capture the addictive nature of discovery.
Unfortunately, I do feel that some design choices in Steamworld Dig were detrimental to the experience. For example, I wasn’t fond of the bag limit for the precious material. Sure, you can purchase additional pouches to extend the number of stones and metals that you carry. However, especially earlier in the game, having to go back up to Tumbletown to trade your goodies, then travelling all the way back down to resume your excavation felt superfluous, and frankly broke the pacing. Also, having to recollect my loot after dying (similar to the system in Dark Souls) annoyed me to no end. I understood why Image & Form decided to include this game design, but it just did not work in Steamworld Dig. Steamworld Dig shines when it promotes exploration and discovery through digging – ruining the players momentum by limiting the players bag capacity or effectively forcing them to recollect their loot detracts from what makes the game fun.
Closing Comments. Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt took an estimated 6 hours to beat, so there is plenty bang for your buck here. Despite its few flaws, I would still highly recommend Steamworld Dig for any 3DS owners. You would be mistaken to think that Steamworld Dig is a game only about digging, in fact, if you excavate a little deeper, you will surely find a gem of a game.
TL;DR (Too long; Didn’t Read) Review
- Digging is suprisingly fun
- Collecting precious materials to upgrade Rusty adds additional depth
- Exploring and excavating the mines are addictive
- A few superfluous game design choices