This is a series that I’d heard a lot about for a long time and during a sale on the Switch a few months ago, I picked up this gem for just a few quid.
The game was made by Image and Form, an independent studio based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and was met with critical acclaim when it came out in 2013.
The game is a sequel to SteamWorld Tower Defense, but only thematically in the sense that it takes place in a universe inhabited by steam-powered automatons. Rather than being a tower defence game, SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt has you inherit the deed to a mine belonging to an Uncle Joe that you weren’t even sure you had.
Your job is to basically mine, return to the surface, get cash for your exploits. You use your money to pay for upgrades, allowing you to spend more time in your mines, delve deeper, get better resources, carry more resources, mine more effectively, and fend off nastier beasties and those living in your mines. This gave the game a touch of Metroidvania as I got more powerful the more I played and explored.
This is a fine gameplay loop that I found enjoyable enough to keep my attention for between 30 minutes and an hour each session. Unfortunately, this did mean that the game was completed within just a few sittings. Sadly, as fun as this game is, you’ll only get between 6 and 8 hours out of it before you’ve finished it.
The game sort of has a story, but there’s very little to it. In fact, the story is really just there to give you a reason to go into some mines. That said, Steamworld is interesting enough that Image and Form would go on to make several other games that all take place in the same universe. The inhabitants of Tumbleton, the town where your mine is located, are also well written and I enjoyed my brief spells on the surface chatting to the locals.
In terms of graphics, the visuals are clean enough to have stood the test of time and it has a nice aesthetic that is clean enough to even enjoy in the Switch’s handheld mode.
The controls are solid and I can’t really complain about them. In fact, the controls were so solid that time that every time I died, I was fairly certain that I couldn’t blame the controller (no matter how much I wanted to).
The game looks good, controls nicely, is fun to play, and is generally a charming little game. The main problem with it is that just as I started getting really engaged, the game was finished. Guess I have to pick up SteamWorld Dig 2 now!
Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is available on the Nintendo 3DS, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, and the Nintendo Switch.