Monday, July 6, 2015

Rustic Robo-Adventure: Steam World Dig Review

Hi ho! Hi ho!  It's off to the depths of earth we go!


When Rusty the Robot rolled into the dusty old mining town of Tumbleton, things looked pretty bleak.  His uncle had died and left him a mine, but it looked like the town wasn't in the habit of welcoming strangers and they were ready for him to leave.  For that matter, the town looked like it was about ready to get up and give up the ghost itself.  Will Tumbleton fold in on itself or will it grow and prosper as Rusty gets rich?  It's up to you and Rusty to plumb the depths of the mine, uncover secrets and more importantly--treasure in Steam World Dig by Image and Form.  With a heaping of western and steampunk and a dash of robot, this game takes on the "Metroidvania" genre in a refreshing and engaging way.  How so?


Solid as steel but pliable and easy to work with.  How is that for a metal metaphor?  That said, the translation from PC to Wii U is fantastic on Steam World Dig.  Swapping out tools and using items flows naturally.  Using the various drills and pickaxes feels satisfying and almost "hearty" in its own way.  Yeah, it may take a few seconds more to hack your way through a bit of earth than another, but it actually feels satisfying to take time to dig down to the lower levels of the mine.

Graphics and Style

Time to get upgraded!
Some might find it a tad too cartoonish, but I like that many of the games ported from STEAM have this look.  It makes me feel as if I'm playing a picturebook or cartoon.  It does not make the game "kiddish" but instead gives it an ascetic appeal that has more charm to me than the 15th iteration of whatever cover-based shooter passes for gaming on an XBONE.  Give me pop-up book looking steambots and their odd western town any day.  Sure, there's a war going on, and Fallout looks pretty enough, but gosh darn it, I just need something charming every now and then, and the blend of goofy and the clever character design for every robot from the protagonist to the shopkeepers to the mutated humanoids leaves me eager to see and meet new creatures in this game.  What's that?  There's a perfectly rendered visual of a guy with military garb?  Sorry, that feels old hat to me.

Music and Sound:

Main Theme

Its safe to say that the blend of rustic and robotic works great for the game.  After all, with an 1800's-esque mining town, a bit of western themed music that reminds you of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" what else could you need?  Yes, the music varies from level to level as you descend further into the mine and discover dark and wondrous technological upgrades--but they never lose the over-all tone of the game.  There are many atmospheric and haunting melodies in here, and I would certainly recommend finding a way to rip the soundtrack if you like western music with a twist or Steampunk music.

No annoying bleeps and bloops here to hear, rather the robots chatter to one another in a manner that feels both like real speech and what you would expect a steam-powered/electro-charged bot to sound like.  The chopping sounds and whirring noises that accompany the use of your digging items not only suits the game well, but further adds to the feeling that not only are you actually hacking away at something solid and real, but that you can get a bit of satisfaction from it.  


You shift rock in search of treasure and power ups in a familiar Metroidvania fashion.  I still marvel that this has become a sub-genre of gaming, but I love nearly ever entry into it.  Other aspects of thsi game reminded me of blend between two classic games:  Dig Dug and Boulderdash.  Whether you hack your way through or drill your way through the mine--there's a visceral satisfaction you get from going through the rock.  Its a good thing too because you'll be going through your fair share of rock to get to the bottom of the cave and the bottom of the mysterious happenings in the mine.  Throughout the game you'll find it necessary to go up and either recharge various items or upgrade them to progress further in the game.  If you have a long session of gaming going on, this can grow a little tedious, however if you plan on not just trying to plow through the game in one sitting, it doesn't feel that bad.  The game may lack that many boss battles, but it never felt short on fun.  

However, one of the annoying things that can happen along the way is you die.  Yeah, it happens in games.  

When you die in Steam World Dig, you drop all of your loot and respawn in the town and are charged a repair fee.  While this isn't really too far off the rails, after all most games punish a loss in some way or form, it can get a bit wearying to work your way back down to the level of the mine where your death occurred.  While there are teleporters and various other methods of quickly getting from the surface to the depths; if you aren't near one of these or are out of teleporters you might feel like quitting for the night. 

Final Thoughts:

Good grief, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wanted to dig some more!  A game like this could have gone on much longer, but I completed it in just about 8 hours, or three late-night, insomnia sessions worth of gaming.  I never got tired of chopping and drilling through rock.  I never got weary of trying to figure out the best way to reach the most gems, or trying to figure out how to go back and nab the ones I missed.  Even after beating the game, I thought about going to my last save and seeing if I could clear the entire mine before going to the end boss.  For some this game may offer a bit of replay value in that you would want to see how much money and how quickly you could power up your droid.  For me, Steam World Dig has left me eager for more and I look forward to Steamworld Heist.

Control:  10/10
Music/Sound:  10/10
Gameplay:  10/10
Fun Factor:  It's like Dig-Dugging your way through a puzzle game meets adventure quest--with Robots!!!
Sad Factor:  I want more bots!  More digging!  More drilling!  More odd robotic talk.  It all goes by too fast.

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