Review: SteamWorld Dig for Wii U

You’ll dig this.

Life is a funny thing sometimes. I completely missed SteamWorld Dig when it came out for the Nintendo 3DS due to being indisposed at the time– either sick or at Otakon, I don’t remember which. As a result, it ended up flying completely under my radar for some a while before I saw it pop up in Nintendo Force magazine. Between that and some reviews, I knew I had to try this game out– a mix of robots and a wild west backdrop? How could I say no to that?

So when it happened to go on sale, I wasted no time grabbing it, even though I had no time available to play it. Before long, word was that it was coming to the Wii U, and once the opportunity for me to work it into my review schedule arose, I grabbed it. So admittedly, I’ve gone into this game with little takeaway from the Nintendo 3DS release, except that it was supposed to be good.

I was not disappointed.

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As Rusty, a mining steambot, you arrive in the town of Tumbleton, where the population has been ever-dwindling. With the deed to his uncle’s mine in hand, he heads down beneath the surface in search of the many treasures to be found and secrets left behind.

Overall, the game is relatively short– as least, when compared to some of the days-long epics that many releases strive for these days. However, this does not work against the game for a few reasons, not the least of which is the game’s tight design. For the most part, no effort feels truly wasted as you dig your way down, down, and further down into the depths of the Earth(?). There are some slight issues of needing to return to the surface, either to restore the meter which affords you light down beneath (keeping things from getting too dangerous), as well as to empty your pockets of the jewels, ore, and other valuables found on your journey.

Even then, that feeds into the game’s constant sense of progression. Rarely do you ever feel like you’re killing time or simply going through the motions. Every block chipped away takes you closer to your goal, and every piece of ore you find allows you to purchase upgrades and tools (better pickaxes, drills, rocket-punches… you know, the usual) that make the going easier– at least, for a time. Teleporters and new tools left by your uncle help improve your options, and as you grow in power and ability, so too does the town grow little by little as others hear of your exploits and come to claim their piece of what appears to be a small resurgence of Tumbleton.

Beyond the tight design, there is also the fact that the emergent world is randomly generated as you venture further and further through the four main areas of the game. As a result, even if you finish in a relatively quick time, starting again keeps things interesting.

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Of course, being on the Wii U, one would naturally expect some improvements above the Nintendo 3DS game. The most obvious, of course, would have to be the 1080p high definition facelift the whole thing has gotten. Everything is smooth, polished, and well-animated, with plenty of character. It features a nice soundtrack, too– not so much catchy as it is ambient, but it works really well as you tunnel deep down into the mines below and doesn’t distract you from figuring out your next move.

Other features added include smaller things, such as animated character portraits and a bloom filter, as well as greater, like the ability to utilize Off-TV Play on the Wii U’s GamePad. The Pro Controller is another option, though I held fast to the GamePad, thanks to the handy display of a map and how much ore you’re carrying. Plus, for those who need them, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Russian join English in the available languages.

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SteamWorld Dig is admittedly a little slow to start, but picks up soon enough with a sense of momentum as you continue to build and improve Rusty over the course of the game. In that regard, it’s very much like a Metroid or other such title (“Metroidvania,” if you will). It’s very solid, and any complaints I have are relatively minor– being able to move the map around would have been nice, for instance, and you can’t attack while jumping, though that just means you often just have to think in order to find a different solution.

If anything, my biggest regret is that the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U games don’t work together– that is, I’d have loved (or would still, for that matter) to be able to play on the Wii U, transfer my progress to the Nintendo 3DS version, and continue it there (and vice-versa). Sure, the GamePad offers a limited form of that functionality, but it doesn’t work as well when riding down the street on a bus.

SteamWorld Dig is the second in Image & Form’s SteamWorld franchise (2010’s SteamWorld Tower Defense for Nintendo DSi being the first), but it’s the first to get me into the series hook, line, and sinker. Another game, SteamWorld Heist, is on the way in 2015.

However, aside from the general theme, it doesn’t really seem to tie into SteamWorld Dig that I can tell. As such, my fingers are crossed that the developers return to Rusty’s cliffhanger story and style of gameplay at some point in the future.

steamworlddigthumbSteamWorld Dig was released for the Wii U on August 28th, 2014 at a price of $9.99.

A review code was provided by Image & Form Games.

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About the author

David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.