I’m really blogging the backlog now – I don’t typically blog about free games, but let’s get into it.
I played Steamworld Dig about 12 months ago, which means this will be a short post. It was free on PS Plus – I played and finished it because I was up late at night looking after my kid, and for some reason he liked watching me play it.
Which was fortunate, because I quite enjoyed playing it.
The closest analogy I can draw is a mix of Boulder Dash, Spelunky and Miner VGA with some RPG elements thrown in. (Miner VGA is a 1989 freeware game that I will blame no-one for having never heard of).
You’re a miner, tasked with mining the valuables out of your father’s mine, directly below a town in the old west. Because this is 2018 and it’s called “Steamworld” you’re not just any miner – you’re a steam-powered robot, and so is everyone else. Makes an interesting tweak to the established formula.
The game is displayed in a side-on 2D grid view. You swing your pick-ax to mine out squares of dirt and gradually make your way down, avoiding/killing monsters as you go and gathering valuable metals and, occasionally, super powers from certain challenge rooms. You can only carry so many valuables, and your light only lasts for so long. You can sell valuable metals at the town up top, and use the money to buy upgrades (a stronger pick-ax, more “mana” (water) to use super powers, longer-lasting lamps, etc).
It’s a bit weird that a society is technologically advanced enough to make steam-powered sentient robots, but not enough to have, say, a drill. But never mind.
Dirt that you remove is permanently removed, so you need to plan ahead to avoid traps, monsters, etc and also to be able to get in/out of the mine easily.
Boulder Dash, Miner VGA, Spelunky and Steamworld Dig
The game experience is pretty consistent from beginning to end – go down, dig dirt, go back, sell stuff. The additional powers shake things up a bit, such as “steam dash”, “steam punch” and so on. But the central conceit is much the same. The biggest change probably comes from new monsters, who go from crawling bugs at the top to laser-firing security systems down the bottom.
Fortunately the central conceit holds up. Working your way around the map, finding the best path to the valuables and killing/avoiding the various monsters is a fun challenge that remains engaging all the way to the end.
I’m keen to try Steamworld Dig 2, but my final comment on Steamworld Dig is this – I am surprised that it’s taken this long for someone to pick up the old Boulder Dash concept and give it a modern twist. It was so much fun back in the day and it spawned a legion of imitators – there was totally room for one more.
Release date: 7 August 2013
Purchase date: free off PS Plus in approx 2016
Complete date: August 2017
Time spent: Approx 20 hours
Developer: Image & Form International
Lead Designer: It doesn’t say! 😦
Recommended if: You enjoyed Boulder Dash or its imitators, or you’re in the mood for a light puzzle/platformer.
Not recommended if: You want a hard challenge or something with a fast tempo.