Reviews March 20, 2014

SteamWorld Dig

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Reviewed By: Ricardo Benitez
System: PS Vita (Also on PS4, 3DS, PC)
Genre: Platformer/Adventure
Rated: E10+
Players: 1
Cost: $9.99
Release Date: 03/18/2014
Publisher: Image & Form
Developer: Image & Form
 
It seems as if exploration has been taken for granted in video games as of late. With the obvious exceptions of Minecraft and Terreria (where exploration IS the game), most developers take the easy way out by leading the player to the next level without allowing them to be fully engrossed in the world that was so painstakingly created. SteamWorld Dig is not one of these games. Image & Form accomplished what a lot of developers strive for. They provided a rich and beautiful world that gamers can get lost in.  

SteamWorld Dig starts you off as Rusty, a steam-powered robot, as he arrives at the dusty old ghost town of Tumbleton. He’s received a deed for a closed down mine and ventured there to find out why. Upon entering the mine, Rusty learns about his uncle (the person that left the deed) and the finical state of the town. From here he’s tasked with exploring the mines for precious gems and ores needed to resurrect Tumbleton – and make some money on the side. The deeper he goes into the mine though, the more the mystery (the game’s story) begins to unravel.

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The game moves at a slow pace in the beginning in order to allow the player to become used to controls and mechanics such as the necessity of light. Rusty has a built in light generator that slowly dwindles when underground. If you are lucky enough for a drop to be found, the fire can be relit; however the quickest way to recharge back to full strength is by going topside again. Also your inventory is almost cripplingly limited in the beginning, but it seems the developers did this purposefully to get you used to going topside for saving purposes. Later on you can upgrade your pickaxe, inventory, light, and also purchase helpful items such as dynamite and teleporters. Depending on your play style, you also upgrade yourself by finding items in power up modules housing the ability to run, double jump, and boots that eliminate fall damage. Once acquiring the drill, the gameplay picks up tremendously and what would have originally been thought as possibly laborious becomes a downright addiction ; I found myself playing for hours trying to find as much as I could so I could upgrade to the fullest.

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Beyond collecting gems and ores with your trusty pickaxe, you’ll have to deal with enemies living in the mines. While they are a threat, how you traverse the mines is more of a concern. You will quickly learn that the path you choose is permanent and a bit of planning will be your best bet to get the most out of the mines without trapping yourself. A lot of time is spent attempting to figure out the best way through. Helping in this regard are the fantastic controls -nothing feels sluggish as you continue into the depths.

SteamWorld’s art style is outstanding. The characters are rich with life and color, a rare fact considering desert settings usually feature a drab color palette. Here, they all fit well with the game’s post-apocalyptic steampunk world. It’s also a treat for the ears. Every clink of your axe, drill clawing through dense rock, explosions of lasers and dynamite – all of the sounds travel extremely well.  The music is reminiscent of the old spaghetti westerns. When the main screen loaded, I thought the great Ennio Morricone had decided to compose the soundtrack; meaning, big props to the actual composer, Mattias Hammarin, on delivering great music and sound effects.

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There is an end game, which is a single boss. I found the boss very satisfying to beat, but somewhat left me wanting more. Thankfully, because of the procedurally generated mines, you’ll never play the same game twice. There is talk of a sequel though and I hope to be one of the first to play when it releases. Image & Form may not have done anything groundbreaking and brand new, but they did provide relative perfection that breathes fresh life into a genre that can easily become tiresome!
 
Gameplay: 10
Tight controls and familiar mechanics make it easy to pick up but hard to put down. Don't be surprised if you find yourself playing at every free moment.
 
Graphics: 10
Beautiful art and parallax backgrounds brings a sense of 16-nostalgia, while keeping a modern feel that makes the HD upgrade candy for the eyes.
 
Sound: 10
As mentioned, the sound is up to par with, if not surpassing, the graphics. Put on your headphones. You won’t be disappointed.
 
Replay Value: 10
Each playthrough is different, making for a new journey each time. The campaign is short, but to the point where it would feel like a waste of time and money.
 
Final Score:
 
10

Medal of Honors Award