Rusty makes his way onto the Nintendo Switch in this port of Image & Form’s popular action-adventure game, SteamWorld Dig.
Originally released back in 2013 on the Nintendo 3DS to critic acclaim, SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt has finally made it to the Nintendo Switch. While the graphical update is immediately obvious, not much else has changed. And why should it? Why mess with perfection? Having played SteamWorld Dig on the 3DS shortly after falling in love with SteamWorld Heist this HD remake was welcomed with open arms.
Players take control of an old Steambot named Rusty who has recently inherited the deeds to an old mine from his long-lost uncle, Joe. The mine sits under the town of Tumbleton and it’s here that the game takes place. The main objective is to mine as deep as possible. The further underground that Rusty travels the more he uncovers about the mysterious creatures that inhabit the subterranean worlds. By digging through the dirt and rubble players create their own platforms while collecting precious stones and gems that can be sold on the surface to Dorothy for cash.
As the player progresses and collects more and more cash, various tools are unlocked to help dig deeper into the unknown. Players also discover various puzzles during the course of the game which also yields unlockable abilities. From a sprint ability to a drill attachment to a double jump – most abilities can be upgraded on the surface. For a price. Unlocking a new ability often makes Rusty’s journey easier.In addition to new gear, as Rusty hauls more loot from the ground the town of Tumbleton grows, adding more residents who can provide better upgrades. Being a Steambot some of these upgrades require water to function, so using them when needed becomes paramount, adding an element of tactics when using certain tools.
The beginning of the game is fairly slow to get going. Having limited space to store loot and with relatively quick burning lamp players are forced to return to the surface to unload their wares and to refill their light source on a regular basis; making for a disjointed feeling when it comes to gameplay. But this is quickly overcome by digging, exchanging plunder for more storage space and repeating. I soon found myself digging deeper and deeper which made returning to the surface more of an annoyance than anything else. Fortunately, among the number of upgrades players can purchase a teleporter which can be placed anywhere in the mine. Activating this returns Rusty to the surface in an instant and likewise returns him to the place of use on the way back.
Narrative wise, I felt SteamWorld Dig be a little thin on the ground. Much of the story is conveyed through chats with the Steambots of Tumbleton once you return to the surface. Lengthy text interactions for some can be daunting and if you’re not interacting with them on a regular basis I fear it is possible to miss some elements of the story. Players who mind their own business and focus on digging will find that all of a sudden the game is at its end with little to no warning.
But with this being said, SteamWorld Dig doesn’t hold your hand like a number of modern games do. Many a time players are prompted to “Continue exploring” before a red pointer shows the way to progress further and players are still free to explore their mine as they see fit. Navigating the custom-made platforms can be perilous at first but you progress through the game you learn the little tips and tricks to ensure Rusty’s regular visits to the surface are event free.
Progressing deeper into the mine will test even the sharpest of players. Enemies become more frequent and dangerous as the terrain itself becomes a hazard. Acid drips from the ceilings of some parts of the cave networks while loose rocks can fall and crush Rusty. Crazed humans throw dynamite and bottles and mechanical turtles launch spike projectiles. Oh, and of course, I can’t forget to mention the lasers! At some points, it gets a bit much but finally making your way past a particularly tricky section is reward enough. If Rusty succumbs to the dangers of the deep the game over screen rears its ugly head, Rusty is rebuilt on the surface and loses half of his well-earned fortune. Ouch.
Making the leap from the 3DS to the Nintendo Switch is an obvious choice for SteamWorld Dig. Not only does it allow fans for the series to own all three games in the series on the one console but opens up the franchise to a plethora of new users. With the launch of SteamWorld Dig 2 on the Switch many players may feel put off by the fact the original was not available; while now they have the chance to play through the series in order. In addition, SteamWorld Dig looks fantastic on the bigger screen. while the 3DS did it justice, the Switch version looks much crisper, brighter and smoother. In both handheld mode and docked mode the game performs well with no visible slowdown. In fact, despite playing SteamWorld Dig before, I found it hard to put down.
To conclude SteamWorld Dig is a fantastic entry to the eShop collection of games available on the Nintendo Switch. It’s fairly short – around 3 hours – if you just gun through the storyline but it has a unique charm to it that until SWD2 came along, hadn’t been done before. Finding and using new upgrades is genuinely fun while digging for gems has become an obsession of mine. The improved visuals over the 3DS is also a welcome touch. Though, if you’ve played the game on any other platform, Image & Form have been clear to say that nothing has changed or added.