Review: SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt (PSV)

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Title: SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt
Format: PlayStation Network Download (187 MB)
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Image & Form International
Developer: Image & Form
Original MSRP: $9.99 (US), €9.99 (EU), £7.29 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is also available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS and Steam. It is a Cross-Buy title.
The PlayStation Vita version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

steamworld-dig-rusty-01I say goodbye to the bright sunshine and warm desert air as I descend into the remnants of my uncle’s mine. With only basic equipment including a small gas lamp and pickaxe I begin to dig a fresh path toward the secrets my relative left. I think back on the conversation I had with the blue, red and gold robot named Dorothy, a goods trader in what’s left of the small town above my head, could her robotic memory really be true and her words of the legends of our creators be beneath us, or has the desert heat eaten away that those fragile circuits in her metal brain? I found a few metal scraps that might be worth something; maybe I can trade it for a better pickaxe? As the light from my lamp began to flicker and fight for fuel I dug on, something was drawing me down.

You’re a mining steambot named Rusty and your adventure begins as he arrives at a rundown, old mining town. With a population of only three it seems Tumbleton is in great need of a gold rush. Dig your way through the old earth, gaining riches while uncovering the ancient threat that lurks below.

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Gameplay:
Controls are simple enough and your abilities slowly upgrade during the course of the game allowing you to dig and mine at a greater rate. The dirt and rock have a greater density the deeper you go so the need for better equipment becomes a must. Combine that with trying to defend yourself against the various creatures and dangers that you’ll find.

When you first enter the mine the layout is randomly generated for that game save, so the location of gems and enemies won’t be the same if you start another adventure. The gems and treasures are part of the strange addiction I have with this game. I see them scattered around as I dig down and end up spending a large part of the game collecting every single one. With almost every return trip to the surface I unlocked more items to buy and better storage for the treasures, which in turn meant I could salvage more riches, so back down I went.

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A nice story accompanies the exploration in the game, normally triggered by a new ability or new type of dirt and rock. It helped the urge to dig further down and unlock the secrets which is what this game is all about. It’s a different experience than your average game and an unexpected pleasure to play.

With my upgraded tools I continued to dig, faster and easier, down I go.

For those of you still wondering what this game is all about, in essence it’s just a digging game. You collect gems and treasures that you sell when you return to the surface, the cash is spent on upgrades to help you dig faster and easier. The whole thing wrapped up in a little story which is told as you progress. There are a few puzzle areas that unlock new abilities upon completion, but that is essentially it. There aren’t any car chases or epic gun battles, but it is a refreshing and addictive change to what I normally play.

Visuals:
A simple side-scrolling mining game with a pleasing cartoon feel. Some nice lighting effects and a charming look to the robots give this game a family-friendly look which is perfect on the Vita. So much so that I ended up playing it exclusively on the little portable. Don’t get me wrong, I think the PS4 version is brilliant and I’m glad I have it, but this game suits the Vita.

Audio:
Nice music and ambient sounds make up most of what you’ll hear unless you whip out the drill to break those large stone boulders, and then the strangely hypnotic pummeling of stone permeates the caverns interior. Any on-screen text is accompanied by some garbled robotic nonsense which only Talkie Toaster, “your chirpy breakfast companion” would understand.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

I’m sure the townsfolk above think I’m short circuiting, when I talk of what I find the deeper I go, maybe I am. Regardless the need to dig overwhelms me, down I go.

Conclusion:
I didn’t think that what is essentially just a digging game could turn out to be so damned addictive. With new abilities, treasures, enemies and areas gradually found or unlocked, this mining adventure never became dull. I probably spent far too long collecting every single treasure I could see, but that was half the fun. SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt definitely isn’t for everyone but you might be surprised by its addictive charm.

It doesn’t have Cross-Save which is part of the reason why I picked the Vita over the PS4. It also suits the quick play style I enjoy so much when using the little handheld, but apparently Cross-Save is planned for a future update.

Score: 
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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  • ruefrak

    This is a game that I wanted to like more than I did. I really was enjoying it, and it was fun, but then I got to the end and it just kind of felt flat to me. I wish the characters in town had some sort of point, but each turns out to just be a store front of some kind. The girl running the saloon had absolutely no purpose apparently. And the ending was just really out of place.
    I hope they add an update that provides cross-save (which was a pain) and new game+ or something.

  • Keith Dunn

    “Would you like some toast?”

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