There are very few metroidvania titles that genuinely change the formula. Some try with different power-ups while others explore different themes and stories. But there is only one that centered around the idea of digging (At least until the sequel came out) and creating your own map of sorts, and that brilliant title is SteamWorld Dig by Image & Form Games.
This is a Nindie Spotlight that deserves all the brightest torches to shine a light on one game’s impact on the indie world. My name is Jason, and this is your Nindie Spotlight for this week – SteamWorld Dig.
SteamWorld Dig is a very unique metroidvania that puts you in control of Rusty, a high-tech mining robot, as he enters an old mining town that is in desperate need of help. Using his unique gifts, Rusty begins to dig his way downward in search for riches, valuable rocks, and upgrades en route to uncovering the ancient threat that lies beneath the town.
There is something truly special about this game. From the characters and their lively, robotic personalities to the dusty old Wild West setting, everything about this game oozes with charm, personality, and intrigue.
The game plays, in many ways, like your average metroidvania where you explore and explore until you earn progressive upgrades that allow you to explore some more. But there is one unique mechanic that Dig uses that completely separates itself from others in the genre, and that is the dig.
Rusty goes below the town to find dirt under his feet. With his trusty pickaxe, our hero digs through that dirt to discover gems, enemies, water, and rooms that only make more sense the more you dig. Since digging further down depletes your light source, finding your way back up to the town is something you do regularly to cash in your precious metals to purchase better equipment.
It is a metroidvania experience unlike any other, and it is absolutely exhilarating from start to finish.
Digging Never Felt So Good
You would think that a game that requires you to continually dig down, return to town, and dig down further would get boring after a while, but that is not the case with SteamWorld Dig at all. Each layer you dig through exposes more things about this world, and it feels so good to create your own paths. Unlike other metroidvanias that have established maps with very clear directions and accesses, SteamWorld Dig gives that power to the player who is able to dig to their heart’s content while also creating something that is so easy to remember because… well, it is their creation.
And diggs expose so much. Precious metals are spread everywhere, and their value increases as you go further down. Early in the game, your pouch is only big enough to carry a handful of these, which limits your digs and makes you return to town quicker than you would like. However, after upgrading your pouch and strengthening your pickaxe, more of these metals become available to you and you’re able to make even more money when going back.
But this is a steampunk world, so water is involved, right? Absolutely! Rusty gains access to water very early in the game, and water allows for some exciting movement options that are required to progress further. Learning how to balance your health, light, and water levels as you travel deeper and deeper into the mysterious underbelly of Tumbleton is one of the toughest things you will learn, but again, this is what makes SteamWorld Dig a first-of-its-kind game.
Unique Platforming Puzzles
Another area of SteamWorld Dig that is loads of fun are the puzzle rooms spread throughout the game. To take a break from all the digging, there are occasional doors while moving downward that give Rusty a bit of jumping practice while simultaneously requiring some puzzle solving.
These puzzle rooms aren’t necessarily difficult, but they are a fresh break from the mold that add so much more value and life to a game that is already filled to the brim with originality.
Normally, these puzzle rooms come after Rusty obtains a new powerup so that you can learn how to do interesting things with your recently obtained ability. As you progress, these puzzle rooms begin to combine the different abilities to make for more complicated puzzles and challenges, and this really helps to keep your platforming game at check in the midst of digging, since boss fights usually expect players to have a decent understanding of how to use powerups in multiple ways.
I found these puzzle rooms to be one of the most important things in the game, because they feel like mini-tutorials and necessary ventures at the same time. Finding a way to both instruct and challenge over and over again is a feat of its own, and it is just another reason to love this game.
There is just so much to discover and so much to do that it is impossible for me not to call SteamWorld Dig a classic. If they ever make a Mount Rushmore of indie games, Rusty will absolutely be one of the faces on that mountain, and he deserves every bit of that recognition. Image & Form’s SteamWorld franchise wouldn’t be where it is today without the success of SteamWorld Dig.
And since Dig, we have been graced with not one, not two, but three more brilliant SteamWorld games that all deserve their own Nindie Spotlight in the future. For the time being, though, SteamWorld Dig is the one that needs to be recognized first, because it not only provided a one-of-a-kind experience, but it also set a very important bar for indie games after it.
There is your Nindie Spotlight on SteamWorld Dig. Join us next time for another brief look into the Nintendo Switch’s best Nindie titles. What are some of your favorite indie games? Let us know in the comments below! Thank you for visiting Nintendo Link. Happy gaming, everyone!
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.