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Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt Review

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On 08/25/2013 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

I really dig this gameā€¦

For fans of old school platformers and unique 2D games.

SteamWorld Dig is one of those completely out of left field games. Before it hit the market, I had no idea it was even a thing that existed. Shortly after witnessing a small sample of the gameplay, my interest level shot through the roof; rightfully so, as it turns out. This mining action-platformer is innovative, interesting, and fun from end to end.

If you’re into obscure Nintendo games, you might remember a little gem on the Gameboy Advance called Drill Dozer. While not totally parallel, it’s the first game that came to mind as I began my adventure in SteamWorld Dig. That and Terraria, of course.

As it turns out, your character, Rusty, has inherited a mine from his late Uncle Joe. The mine sits below the town of Tumbleton and is rich with resources. Unfortunately without Joe around, they’ve got no one to extract the goods to help this flailing town thrive. Rusty literally falls into his new mining responsibility as he approaches the town and begins digging down through the earth with a trusty pickaxe.

Digging through the mine has permanent consequences; if you destroy a block in the mine, it’s gone forever. As such it’s imperative to make smart pathways through the mine to reach the various treasures that lie beneath.

While digging in and of itself can be a chore at first, it’s the progression loop that makes this experience so engaging. As you collect these minerals from the earth, you’ll slowly (or quickly) fill up your pouch, which will force you to the surface to sell off everything you’ve collected. These funds should be properly reinvested in new equipment for Rusty that will make it much quicker and easier to progress through the mine.

However, it’s not a game that's just about collecting loot to make it easier to collect loot. Moving further down the mine, you’ll eventually uncover hidden caves that each pose a unique challenge. Some are more focused on pure platforming mechanics, while others are more of a puzzle – naturally, there are plenty that sit right between, giving players a taste of both. Not only do these caves provide some of the most valuable minerals, but they also house stations which will grant Rusty with either new equipment or new abilities.

Like the Metroid games, these abilities and equipment will grant access to new areas both in and out of caves. The story is wrapped around finding these caves and uncovering entirely new worlds that were only rumored to exist in the folklore of Tumbleton. This sense of discovery and exploration is absolutely enamoring and it helps to continuously drive the experience.

Even better, SteamWorld Dig is no walk in the park. There’s some legitimate challenge to be found and a strong possibility, especially early on, that you’re going to perish in the mines. Thankfully your loot is dropped at the site of your death and can be retrieved a la the Souls games. You also have to contend with a limited and ever diminishing water supply for some of your tools and abilities, as well as keeping your torch lit so you can see the contents of the blocks in the mine.

It’s hard to pinpoint anything that’s really wrong with the experience. While it only clocks in at around five hours, I was absolutely glued to my 3DS from beginning to end. I’d say it’s a bit on the short side, but the developers knew the appropriate time to call it quits, because it’s likely the mechanics would wear thin if it were any longer.

At only $9, it’s hardly a question of why you should buy SteamWorld Dig, but rather why you shouldn’t. This is yet another gem in the 3DS eShop that should be mined immediately.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




08/25/2013 at 02:48 PM

I see what you did at the end there... It's nice to read this review. I was just perusing the eShop, and I wasn't really sure of that game. Maybe I should pick this up after all.

Nick DiMola Director

08/26/2013 at 10:12 AM

Nothing like a good pun! But yeah, this was a really great game. It's this kind of stuff that makes me really love the 3DS eShop.


08/25/2013 at 04:45 PM

Good things about this game keep popping up all over the place.  So, I just downloaded it. Also, 5 hours seems very respectable any game in the Metroid vein.  I look forward to digging deep into this game.

Nick DiMola Director

08/26/2013 at 10:13 AM

Cool! Glad you're going to check it out. Be sure to share your thoughts after you "dig" in!


08/27/2013 at 09:59 AM

I spent about an hour with th game whis morning and loved it.  I spent most of my time digging deeper into the mine without doing the actual "missions."  Exploring was plenty of fun in and of itself.


08/26/2013 at 02:55 PM

I was on the fence about getting this game.  I didn't know much about it.  After seeing this review, I think I'll get it.  


09/01/2013 at 12:15 PM

Going on my list. Love them graphics.


09/11/2013 at 04:30 PM

I missed your review when it first hit but Transmet kept saying how great this game is, so here I am. Based on your review, I think I'd like this a lot Laughing

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