Steamworld Dig is a 2D platformer for the 3DS eShop that brings the best of Metroid to the best of Minecraft and creates one of the best experiences available on the eShop. The game sets you up as a miner who finds his uncle dead in a mine shaft, takes up his pickaxe and sets out to explore the mines under a town populated by steambots. Humanity is gone and has been replaced by steambots such as yourself and the world has taken on a western themed, post-apocalyptic style.
The aim of the game is to explore the mines for minerals which you can sell to level up and buy new equipment and upgrades. Your XP is based on the worth of what you mine and the things you can buy range from new pickaxes to more dynamite. As you delve deeper you find more valuable resources, tougher enemies, steam powered equipment which grants new abilities, like sprinting or high jumping, and even some remnants of human technology and culture. The combination of Minecraft’s mining and cave exploration, mixed with Metroid’s drip feeding of new abilities gives the game an addictive quality most platformers don’t have. You never know what could be behind the next rock or down the next tunnel and since travelling through pipes or teleports makes returning to the surface and selling goods so easy the only thing to worry about when going deeper is death.
Which leads me to the game’s biggest issue.
The punishment for death is, frankly, savage. You lose half of whatever money you have on you. This means early on the punishment is miniscule but later on dying will cost you hundreds of dollars. This seems unfair to me, most games offer a flat punishment for death but this game punishes you more the further on you are and can create massive amounts of frustration that damages the game’s addictive qualities. It isn’t game breaking but it can cause you to take long breaks which is something a game really shouldn’t encourage. Fortunately though the game only really has one other issue, which is its soundtrack. The soundtrack fits the mood of the game well enough but its far too brief and after about half hour it gets very frustrating. it’s a shame because the other elements of the game’s presentation, the graphics, art style and level design, are all pretty much faultless. Maybe they just didn’t have any money left for a decent composer? I don’t know but it’s a real shame.
These two flaws aside, Steamworld Dig is a great game and for only £8 its very hard to pass it up. It provides hours fun and has plenty of cave for you to explore so if you like platformers or Minecraft I’d definitely go for it.
Verdict: Fun exploration meets crazy addiction but is marred somewhat by savage penalties for death and an irritating soundtrack.