SteamWorld Dig Not-A-Review (Wii U eShop)

The upcoming Wii U version of SteamWorld Dig has some nice cosmetic upgrades, sure, but the core game has been left completely intact. Since we’ve already tackled the title once on this site, no point in repeating what’s already been said, right? Instead, I’ve created a companion piece to our original review–highly recommended, by the way–that covers familiar ground while unearthing some fresh insights.

To keep things brief, I’ve made a list of my points in no real order. They are numbered though. Clear as mud? Good, let’s get started then:

1. The Mega Man X wall-climb is a smart choice. It offers a quick way to vertically ascend whereas a Super Metroid-style wall-jump would require much more skill to execute. SteamWorld Dig prides itself in its accessibility and I can tell the devs spent a lot of time ensuring their game wouldn’t be catered solely to speed-runners and the like.

2. The first 10-20 minutes are sloooooow. Between mining for minerals and repeated backtracking, I was half convinced that this game was going to end up being another shameless Terraria clone. Thankfully, I was proven completely wrong, but it’s a shame that the Swedish studio couldn’t figure out a better way to grab the player’s attention right from the get-go. Symphony of Night‘s opener pits you against Dracula and Super Metroid literally begins with bang, yet SteamWorld Dig starts with digging followed by some more digging. I’d call that a missed opportunity.

 3. Despite the lack of variety, power-ups are extremely pragmatic. While Rusty’s mining gear might be lacking in the pizazz department, it should be commended for its indisputable versatility as each tool boasts multiple functions. As such, excavation, combat, and exploration all feel integrated into one another which makes the game a satisfyingly cohesive experience.

4. Some of game’s best bits are the puzzling mine shafts. Rather than bulldozing your way through obstacles, these sections require a finessed approach and are clearly designed to stump the player. These rooms would be right at home on the planet Zebes as they’ve been crafted with much of the same visual rhetoric of Super Metroid. There’s always some cleverly hidden loot or area in SteamWorld Dig that’s been tucked away where you’d least expect it.

5. The absence of boss encounters. Outside of the game’s finale, there are no bosses lurking throughout the depths of Tumbleton. It’s a bit weird that the mining gear has so many offensive capabilities since it’s only used to eliminate the occasional obstructive enemy here and there. If SteamWorld Dig ever receives a sequel, I hope the developers incorporate boss fights to add some additional gameplay variety because this game could have definitely used it.

6. HD is the definitive way to play. Maybe you’ve already bought Rusty’s dusty tale on the 3DS, but dat 16:9 ratio with crisp visuals, adjustable interface, off-screen play, and Pro Controller support makes the Wii U version real hard to resist. Not only can you see more of the dangerously dingy mine, but exploring it is a heck of a lot more comfortable in comparison.

7. The goal is always clear. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time with Metroidvanias in general because I’m spending half of the time figuring out where I should go next. In SteamWorld Dig, I never had to worry about this because I knew right away that my destination was below me and that never ever changed. Talk about an ingenious way of preventing disorientation. This is just another way the game manages to be accessible for general audiences. Furthermore, the intrigue spurred by a player’s curiosity to find what’s at the bottom of the mine will intrinsically encourage their progression, which is also a smart move in terms of game design.

I got to say, I really enjoyed my time with SteamWorld Dig. Even though it got off to a rocky start, it was definitely a hard one to put down once I got a couple of power-ups. At only 5-7 hours in length, it’s a bit shorter than most full-fledged Metroidvanias, but keep in mind it was on the 3DS first. If forced to choose between the console or portable iteration, I’d take the new Wii U version all day long because it’s just that much nicer to play with all the new cosmetics and what not. Either way, you’re still getting one of the best action platformers currently on the market and probably my favorite since Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.

Dig deep with Image & Form’s SteamWorld Dig when it burrows its way onto the Wii U eShop August 28th.



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About The Author

Former Co-Editor

Trace Wysaske lives somewhere in Washington, and when he isn't compulsively hunting Green Stars or felling the Lagiacrus, he's writing about everything from forlorn Japanese teachers to well-mannered crows. He still needs to play Ghost Trick.