With trusty brown hat, gleaming green goggles and sharpened pickaxe in tow, we return to the dusty town of Tumbleton to see what’s good, bad and ugly in SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt’s Steam release. When compared to the relative quality of most eshop only 3DS games, SteamWorld Dig stood head and shoulders above the rest, but does that continue to be the case when released into the frontier landscape that is the Steam digital marketplace? Does a ridiculously charming game that draws inspiration from DigDug, boasting a hooky loot hunt and platforming that harkens back to the days of precision make a name for itself all over again with a much bigger audience? The answer in an emphatic yes. Yes, it does.
With the resurgence of incredible platformers like Guacamelee! and Spelunky, it’s hard to imagine another one could come along and be a strong a contender for your increasingly valuable time. SteamWorld entices you to never stop diggin’ and lootin’ with it’s carrot on a stick gameplay design, but it’s the precision controls that make the game hard to put down. Everything from the wall jumping and thwackin’ bad dudes to digging is tight and responsive, what more can you ask for? In fact, the only game I can claim to have better controls from recent memory is Rogue Legacy; and seriously, that game is tiiight. Playing with a gamepad felt completely natural and while the 3DS experience never felt particularly hampered by the size or controls on the device, SteamWorld certainly benefits from the ergonomic design of traditional gamepads.
The fantastic experience from the 3DS is here, but I dare say better than ever. The minerals, upgrades, the menagerie of baddies and the clever narrative; everything in the mine generated randomly, enabling another fantastic foray into the fast paced world dirt extraction! I may have played and completed SteamWorld Dig a few times previously, but that didn’t deter me one bit from digging in again and enjoying every moment of it. Much of this can be attributed to the full HD treatment and controller support, negating niggling issues the smaller 3DS form factor caused me and my man hands during longer sessions; you can also use a keyboard if you’re strapped for a controller, which is nice.
I have to admit, I thought SteamWorld already looked great on the 3DS, but Image & Form have truly brought their charming world to life with the HD Steam release. Bluntly, 1080p makes SteamWorld burst magnificently from the screen. It brought me back to a time when games were colourful, less self serious and we collected puzzle pieces. All of the extra work is easy to appreciate, the animated character portraits, in particular, add a vibrancy and sheen to a world already oozing charm from every fissure. A bloom filter has been tossed in, jazzing it up even further; it is a sight to behold for those who played the 3DS forerunner and anyone who might have missed it alike. The whole aesthetic package tickles me in a way shared by Oddworld and it’s bonkers art direction and I would willingly hang a still frame or two from this game around my home, in poster size, if they were available, call me crazy, but I enjoy it that much.
It is a little unfortunate no additional content outside of Steam Achievements and Trading Cards have been added to provide something new for veterans of the depths, but I can hardly fault the developers for releasing the same content to a different crowd for the sake of parity. This means the shorter run time remains, but for better or worse, I would always take a tight, focused experience that wraps up in under eight hours over extended sections of padding to draw whatever game out for 20-30 hours. As it stands, SteamWorld Dig hits a sweet spot with it’s runtime, it’s the kind of game I’ve had a blast finishing during my free time over a weekend. Admittedly, the achievements do tickle some part of the completionist in me, and I’ll no doubt joyfully spend the time to attain them all. The trading cards are icing on an already delicious cake, so if find yourself in the position to craft one badge on Steam this year, make it SteamWorld’s.
I almost can’t lavish enough praise on Image & Form for creating something so darn wonderful and then making it wonderfuller. SteamWorld Dig is still an addictive loot hunt married to incredibly satisfying platforming controls and gameplay. The narrative is sparse enough that I would spoil too much by talking about it. The tweaks made are well worth the price of entry, and while it might not be worth while to pick it up again if you have already played it to death, but at least you can feel content knowing many people are experiencing the joy of discovering SteamWorld Dig with popularity of online sites
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