Review: SteamWorld Dig (Wii U)

Image & Form’s 3DS eShop classic resurfaces on Wii U. How does the game fare on a home console?

By Iain Farrell. Posted 09/15/2014 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
A great port to the Wii U and good use of the facilities it offers.
Poison Mushroom for...
The difficulty ramps up a little harshly with little warning. Be ready!

The old west was a dusty dangerous place filled with traders, beauties, rogues, and villains. If that’s what the human old west was like, imagine how dangerous a robot old west is! Filled with exploding wildlife, dangerous dripping chemicals, and mind-bending puzzle rooms which will require every one of your mechanical abilities to be cranked up to 11 to survive. Oh, and there’s digging. A lot of digging. This is the world of SteamWorld Dig.

SteamWorld Dig for Wii U is a port of the brilliant 3DS indie title of the same name and is actually the same game, albeit in glorious 1080p at 60 FPS. You play as Rusty, a robot who comes to a distant and bedraggled desert town in search of his uncle. Sadly he’s too late, but his dearly departed relative does at least leave him a pick axe, which is lucky because you’re trapped in a mine where you have to quickly get to work to dig yourself out. Along the way you happen upon valuable extracts from the rocks which, on your return to the surface, you trade for new abilities and tools to help you on your way. SWD does a good job of explaining what you need to do to get you going and takes its time in doing so, something that the developers were worried enough about to mention in the literature that they sent us for the review. I don’t think they need worry– I didn’t find the game’s opening slow at all, and I’d played it before. If anything, it bought me into what the game was doing. SWD doesn’t have one of the all -time great stories, and I imagine that wasn’t the developers’ intent in creating this game. It serves a purpose and provides a context. That’s great, that’s all I wanted it to do.

The Town of Tumbleton

On the face of it the structure of the game is very simple. You’re working your way down from the surface, Mr. Driller– or Boulder Dash-style– ask your parents about that latter example. Initially you’ll find areas you can’t quite get into, rocks that are too hard for you to smash your way through, and puzzle rooms you can’t solve, but over time as you backtrack to the surface to offload your loot and buy more gear you’ll gradually work your way further south, unlocking more skills as you go. The upgrade to a home console has been a boon for SWD’s visuals. It looks right at home in HD and I’ve really enjoyed visiting this world again. The game is as challenging and enjoyable and perhaps a little less hand crippling now that I can play with a more sensibly sized controller. It doesn’t feel like so many shoddy mobile ports appearing on a home system in the hopes that their developers can make a quick buck– this is a robust indie release for our favourite home system.

To sum up, in brief: If you’ve played or come across SteamWorld Dig on 3DS or PC, then the Wii U version is exactly that, a perfectly executed cousin to those other versions. There. Done. You can go and get it now. If, for you, the sole purpose of reviews is to make sales decisions then you’ve got what you came for. However, if you stick around, I’ll tell you why in my opinion it’s the only version you should want to play.

The clever folk at Image & Form developed a game which, whether they meant it to or not, came out first on a platform with two screens. Many have described SteamWorld Dig as a retro title because some of the mechanics it uses are ones familiar to anyone who was playing games in the ’80s. An art style that’s uncluttered coupled with demanding platform gaming, it’s fair to say if I’d time traveled forward to now from the ’80s and had seen SWD I’d have said “Well, yeah, that’s what games in the future look like.” However, to describe it solely in those terms is a bit lazy and ignores that big bright second screen that is constantly displaying useful information to you. There aren’t many systems that can do this and don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly playable on the GamePad, but using my Pro controller while glancing over at the glowing screen to my left to see how much more I could carry was a fantastic experience. It’s engrossing, I love having it, and wouldn’t want to go back. I really enjoyed the same setup in Pikmin 3 or, as I liked to call it, “Project Manager: The Game.”

I’m in love with SWD and really can’t wait to see what this talented bunch turn their hands to next. As with all good indie releases, let’s show it some love and we’ll hopefully see more like it on Wii U in future.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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