£7.99 on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, SteamWorld Dig was another game that was just a little more expensive then I care to pay for a downloadable version of a game, and as such I ignored it for a while.
As time went on, I kept seeing more mentions of the game around twitter and gaming sites. It was getting 90%+ reviews in a number of places and people seemed genuinely excited by this new game in the SteamWorld universe (there was just one previous, SteamWorld Tower Defense, a strategy game made for DSiWare). And after developer Image & Form bothered to reply to a tweet I made about feeling intrigued by the title, I decided to take the plunge and support a friendly developer along the way.
I was definitely glad I did.
Set in a Old West meets Steampunk one horse town, you take the role of Rusty, the son of a minor recently missing down the mines in Tumbleton. It starts of gently enough, with a mix of Platforming meets Metoroidvania style exploration meets Boulderdash, chipping away at the rocks to obtain gems to get cash to upgrade gear to chip harder rocks, to get gems to get cash to upgrade gear and so on...
Very quickly, it becomes very intriguing. The map you make will be truly unique as you dig through the Earth creating your own levels, and with only a small backpack and oil lantern to begin with, as well as some water powered abilities later on, it also very much becomes about resource management and deciding when to return to the surface to sell your finds and refill your lantern. You may have just reached a really exciting looking cave, but have absolutely no room for any more loot.
Luckily, instead of trawling back to the surface every time, Image & Form have included teleports which are sometimes found, but can be bought and placed around your mines for easy access back to the surface.
As you dig further and further down, through the varied environments which change when you reach the next 'level', you discover more and more about your dad's disappearance, learning that he'd been tinkering with steam based machinery and inventions, all of which is, luckily, tailored to Rusty's exact fit, meaning you can equip exciting power-ups for more varied exploration and combat. Yes, there are indeed monsters down there with you, some of whom are fiendishly difficult especially when supplies are running low. There's also a big variety of the bad guys, from hard shell turtle like creatures, to suicidal zombies.
The story and gameplay are excellent in this game. It is a little short, but seeing as the map is pretty much unique every time there's great opportunity for a replay or two down the line. It also looks fantastic - the videos on the eShop just don't seem to do it justice. The way Rusty moves and reacts to different abilities is superb, and the environments and the rest of the characters are all just as exquisitely designed and drawn.
Another 'buy' then it would seem for the eShop, which has been a little slow of late. I look forward to more games of this caliber popping up, as well as the next entry in the SteamWorld series.
(Pictures taken from the official SteamWorld Dig site at http://steamworldgames.com/dig/)