(Wii U eShop)

SteamWorld Dig (Wii U eShop)

Game Review

SteamWorld Dig Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jake Shapiro

Groundbreaking!

The two hottest properties in indie gaming right now are Sweden and spelunking. From Amnesia to Hotline Miami to Goat Simulator to that DotA song, a hugely disproportionate number of big independent releases the last few years have come from Swedes; whether it's Cave Story, Shovel Knight, The Cave, or Spelunky, we've also seen a renaissance of titles about digging and caverns. The synergy of Sweden and spelunking has even come together for a few big Swedish games about spelunking, like Knytt Underground and perhaps this decade's biggest indie game: Minecraft. Of course.

So it comes as no surprise that Gothenburg-based studio Image & Form's subterranean adventure, SteamWorld Dig, is absolutely fantastic. After hitting the 3DS eShop last year to roaring critical and commercial success, it's Wii U's turn to get in on the Dig Dug-meets-Metroid action. You play as a robot named Rusty, with a voice like a goofy unintelligible Transformer, who arrives in the tiny town of Tumbleton to claim his mysteriously disappeared uncle Joe's goldmine. After finding Joe's rusting remains with a surprisingly nonchalant reaction (they're robots after all, we suppose), Rusty plunders his uncle's body for his pickaxe and takes off on a steampunk digging extravaganza.

SteamWorld Dig risks getting lost in the over-saturated shuffle of endless steampunk indie games, but the unique aesthetic manages to stand out. If you couldn't tell from the game's subtitle — A Fistful of Dirt — SteamWorld wears its spaghetti western influences on its sleeve; the memorable soundtrack is a fittingly haunting mix of Ennio Morricone-influenced tracks with tinges of electronica, all with a heaping dose of reverb to reflect the acoustics of the underground caverns you're exploring. The cartoony art style is fairly unremarkable, but the meticulous attention to detailed animations makes the characters come alive, and the sweeping western colour palette of oranges and browns gives a distinctive feel to the game world.

The basic gameplay loop of SteamWorld Dig consists of exploring a vast mine to harvest minerals that you sell to the general store above-ground so you can purchase upgrades. All the mines are procedurally-generated, which means no two playthroughs will be alike; procedural games risk getting repetitive, but SteamWorld's mechanics are rewarding enough that you'll want to keep coming back for more. There is some basic combat against cave-dwelling foes, but SteamWorld's focus is squarely on exploration and puzzle-solving, so for the most part it's a relaxing, stress-free adventure. The controls themselves are intuitive and reliable: rather than toy with touchscreen shenanigans, you control Rusty with the left analogue stick and face buttons.

There's not much to do at the beginning of your adventure aside from swing your pickaxe to dig deeper and defeat enemies, but the developers have found so many unique uses for this simple set-up that it never gets old; new items and mechanics are slowly introduced, but it's never overwhelming. You have to keep track of how much light you have left in your lantern, and there's a constant cycle of digging just deep enough that you have time to return aboveground to refuel. This backtracking lets you re-evaluate areas you've been through before with your new items — in a Metroidvania style — but teleporters and shortcuts keep it from feeling like a slog. Since Rusty is a steam-powered 'bot, you also keep track of your water level, which lets you use steam-powered drills and high jumps – these abilities are useful for navigating the world, but if you run out of water completely you'll still have your trusty pickaxe and basic jumping ability to get you through until you can find more.

This is essentially the same game that appeared on 3DS, so most of our thoughts from our review of that version will apply here as well, but there are a few obvious upgrades: the gorgeous HD visuals look crisp on the GamePad, and they absolutely pop if you've got a nice flatscreen TV to play on. While many developers seem to struggle with how to adapt their controls to Wii U without feeling gimmicky, Image & Form completely understands the console – on default settings the gameplay is displayed on the television screen (uncluttered by UI elements) while your map and menus are down on the GamePad. You can easily switch to off-TV play with a touch of the Select button; far too many Wii U titles either display the exact same content on both screens, or ignore the GamePad screen altogether. To hit this one out of the park, SteamWorld also supports the Wii U Pro Controller.

Conclusion

At a relatively low price point, Image & Form's SteamWorld Dig provides nearly endless hours of spelunking fun – it even keeps track of how many metres you've dug altogether so you can marvel at how much of your life you've wasted away caving deeper. You've seen most of the elements of SteamWorld in other games, but very few titles bring them all together with such a high level of polish and focus, and a simple gameplay loop that will keep you coming back for more. With tight controls, a lush Western soundtrack, and beautifully animated sprites, SteamWorld Dig is one of this year's best games on the Wii U eShop, joining Ittle Dew in the "gorgeous Swedish indie adventures" category.

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User Comments (69)

thetanimal

#1

thetanimal said:

Bought this for my 3DS and was addicted!! Gonna have to wait for me to purchase on my WiiU though- really wish this was a crossover buy-

Laxeybobby

#2

Laxeybobby said:

Me too. I had completed this on the 3DS. So I don't feel the need to purchase it for the WiiU if it's the same bar HD visuals.
Great game though and recommend it if you haven't played it.

luke88

#3

luke88 said:

Already have it 3ds so won't buy it for wiiu. Urge everyone to get it though if they haven't played it yet; fantastic game.

BinaryFragger

#5

BinaryFragger said:

Excellent game. I won't be getting this version because I already have it for the 3DS and Vita, but I strongly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t played it yet.

Goginho

#7

Goginho said:

Dat pun :P
Imo though, this game is suited better for a portable. Besides, the 3D on the 3DS is more a selling point to me than the HD for this game.

SavoirFaire

#9

SavoirFaire said:

Fun game and like many I got it on the 3ds and won't be double dipping, yet I would recommend it to anyone that never tried it.

DarkLink95

#10

DarkLink95 said:

It is a really good game but I would not say endless hours of digging as it took me about 6 or 7 hours to unlock everything.

sleepinglion

#11

sleepinglion said:

Holding out for cross-buy or a nice discount as I have and love the 3DS version already. Nice review!

unrandomsam

#13

unrandomsam said:

I don't think I will be getting it a 3rd time. I have still only played the 3DS one but I got the Steam one at 50% off.

C-Olimar

#14

C-Olimar said:

Will be getting this as we have a discount in Europe. NoA need to get their act together.

123akis

#15

123akis said:

So which version is better, Wii U or 3ds version? Which one should I get?

epicdude12302

#16

epicdude12302 said:

I loved it on my 3DS! I won't be getting it on Wii U though since it's pretty much the same
@123akis : The Wii U version because of the HD graphics, although the 3D effect on the 3DS version is pretty good!
@C-Olimar : Agreed.

DarkCoolEdge

#17

DarkCoolEdge said:

I have it on my 3DS too and I'm planning on buying it the WiiU version to enjoy the HD visuals and show 'em some love.
Sweden makes awesome games (play Brothers: A tale of two sons, do it).

TrueWiiMaster

#18

TrueWiiMaster said:

"SteamWorld Dig provides nearly endless hours of spelunking fun"
Unless they added a new mode, that's quite an exaggeration. The game took me less than 8 hours on the 3DS, and I collected pretty much all of the treasures. It's a great game, but in no way is it "nearly endless".

MoeTheDestroyer

#19

MoeTheDestroyer said:

I bought this once for my 3DS, once for my son's 3DS, and once for my daughter's 3DS. The game is so good and we all loved playing it, i was glad to purchase it 3 times. It really is one of the best games I've played in a very long time. I'm very tempted to buy it a 4th time.

I beat it twice and will be going back for a 3rd run to try and get all gold medals at the finish. So while the game is about 8 hours long, you can get 15+ hours if you go for the best scores at the end. And it's not just for completionist nuts; it's fun just to play through again no matter what.

R_Champ

#20

R_Champ said:

I held off on the 3DS when I heard it was coming to Wii U. HD > 3D every time in my book. I'm glad they decided to upgrade.

RougeLeader

#22

RougeLeader said:

this game is utterly compelling, in part the controls which are perfect and the setting and dig dugish/mr driller mechanics of wanting to go deeper and deeper. very close to perfect in my book.

Donutman

#23

Donutman said:

Rebuying it just to have it in HD. But I will end up waiting for it to go on sale. Or just be bored and want to play it on a big screen later this week.

Henmii

#27

Henmii said:

I have it on the 3DS, so no need to download this. I am not a big fan by the way. Maybe because it is procedurally-generated? I hate that. Also, the text in the game doesn't feel right. Bad localisation.

By the way: I thought Cavestory was a Japanese product?

ToniK

#28

ToniK said:

Awesome game. It's a download title so it's not very lengthy but it has replay value. Would like to see a sequel with even more content :) Well done, I&F!

Dragoon04

#29

Dragoon04 said:

For the low price I am definitely getting. My only worry is that my backlog of unfinished indie games are getting bigger.

Pod

#31

Pod said:

Taking into account that I have played and enjoyed all all the games you mention in the beginning, aside from Spelunky, and the glowing review in itself, this just might be the thing I need after wrapping up Knytt Underground. :)

Bass_X0

#32

Bass_X0 said:

This game was seriously difficult for me on the 3DS until I found out you could wall jump like Mega Man X. I'm waiting for a sale since I already have the first one.

WanderingPB

#33

WanderingPB said:

I have it on my 3DS already and though its good i dont feel visuals alone are enough to make me want to buy it a second time. I'll admit i did for Shovel Knight but at least the 3ds had streetpass feature and the WiiU will soon have multiplayer. This is a perfect case where crossbuy should be implemented but who knows if we get a discount for already having the 3ds version maybe i'll cave…but without a question this game is worth exploring…take ur time learn, explore and upgrade and then u'll see why this game truly shines!

shigulicious

#35

shigulicious said:

@C-Olimar I read that NOA doesn't have the system in place where it can tell if you already purchased the game on the 3ds. Same story as the Pushmo deal. So to answer your question, no. I'm not happy with NOA myself. I know Reggie is iconic. But I don't like what he has done here in terms of promotions for games.

MoonKnight7

#38

MoonKnight7 said:

I commented on this subject before, but I'll reiterate. I usually don't double dip, but I think I will for this game. I know they put a lot of effort into this version (remaking artwork and animations), so I feel, they deserve the extra cash.

That said, I may wait a few weeks to see if NOA gives a discount for those of us with the 3DS version. But I won't get my hopes up...

ricklongo

#40

ricklongo said:

Now I wish I hadn't gotten it on 3DS last year. :P

Great game! Get it if you haven't already.

daveh30

#42

daveh30 said:

Played it on 3DS, it was good enough that I played it again for the trophies on Vita. Don't see me playing it again on Wii U.... But I highly recommend it if you haven't played it yet.

TrueWiiMaster

#43

TrueWiiMaster said:

@shigulicious
That was a statement from Steamworld's developer, not Nintendo. I don't know why NOA couldn't do the discount for Steamworld, but they have given a discount on the Wii U eshop based on 3DS purchases before.

aaronsullivan

#44

aaronsullivan said:

Pro-controller support is nice but I wonder if the GamePad screen remains independently interactive while using it. With Wind Waker it's so nice to have a buddy with you who can look at the map, shift inventory around, etc. while you play without interruption. Pikmin 3 blew this as touching the screen stops gameplay. Child of Light blew this with no Pro controller support at all. Anybody know if SteamWorld Dig gets it right?

ted-k

#45

ted-k said:

@Hy8ogen @TrueWiiMaster I was going to make the same comment. It took me about 7 hours to complete on a first play through and I felt little reason to go back and play it again. Don't get me wrong, it's a great game and I really enjoyed it, and totally recommend it to any who hasn't played it, but to say it provides nearly endless hours of fun is a massive exaggeration. If you're someone who's into speed runs I'm sure it's great for that. I'm not one of those people.

WYLD-WOO

#46

WYLD-WOO said:

Bought the 3DS version at christmas and just never really got into it. I must give it another go, based on all the love this game gets.

JJtheTexan

#47

JJtheTexan said:

FANTASTIC game on 3DS. Will buy again. Only complaint, as others have said: it's a little too short. But high replay value!

Stu13

#48

Stu13 said:

I find the whole 'system is not in place to give you a discount' argument to be rubbish. As stated above, Nicalis did it with 1001 spikes. Also, 3DS games show on your Wii U wish list and vice versa so the systems are obviously aware of one another. Will still buy this again to support these dudes, though. Love the game and can't wait to see it on my television.

shane1228

#49

shane1228 said:

Played on 3DS. One of the funnest games EVER but still haven't really felt the urge to go back and play it a second time around. So in my case I wouldn't give it any merits on replay value even though it is randomized to some extent.

bofis

#50

bofis said:

Loved this game on 3DS, but won't bother picking it up on WiiU unless there's some cross-buy action or even a discount...

jariw

#53

jariw said:

So nice to hear that they did a good job with the GamePad adaption! And according to Image & Form, this game is 1080p/60fps as well. I will absolutely buy this.

ICHIkatakuri

#54

ICHIkatakuri said:

Been looking forward to this for a while now and though I have it on 3DS, I am going all out and support this port by buying it again for Wii U. Games which show so much charm and instant appeal such as this are few and far between. I hope these guys have a long career in game development.

Captain_Gonru

#55

Captain_Gonru said:

@aaronsullivan I agree with you on the need for more Pro Controller support in general, but we'll have to part ways on the touch screen for Pikmin 3. I thought it worked perfectly, and the pausing is essential. With it, you can give nearly simultaneous orders to all your captains. Maybe an option toggle or something?

retro_player_22

#56

retro_player_22 said:

This will be the third awesome indie-dev game I buy for Wii U this year following Child of Light and Shovel Knight.

AyeHaley

#57

AyeHaley said:

Ive waited for this since the day SD came out on the 3DS eShop. Bless you, Image & Form. You guys blew my mind.

I'm not usually for sequels and all but this gem deserves it. If there is any fault to be found its the length of the game and the lack of areas to explore...I'm still thirsty for more :)

aaronsullivan

#58

aaronsullivan said:

@Captain_Gonru
Don't get me wrong. I really love Pikmin 3. My problem is specifically that you can almost play it with a buddy but as soon as they try to explore the map it switches to the mode you are referencing. It's an integral part of the game, I just wish there was a way for a "co-pilot" to look over the map and plot out a plan, maybe even initiate the moving of a character all while the main gameplay is uninterrupted.

As I said, it's works awesome in Wind Waker. Someone on the GamePad can look for islands that match the maps and swap out items into button slots look at messages from the fish all without a hiccup for the main player. Really smooths out the game and keeps it more engaging for both people.

Even in Pikmin my kids enjoy looking up info about fruits and things during some parts of the game.

HAL9000

#59

HAL9000 said:

Day one purchase! I have it for 3DS, but I never got around to playing it a lot because I play on my Wii U more. Looking forward to playing in HD on TV screen.

Razzle

#60

Razzle said:

Steamworld Dig is one of my favourite indie games. I highly recommend if you don't already own it.

Thecoolmana777

#63

Thecoolmana777 said:

@aaronsullivan Having just played it I can confirm that the touch screen on the gamepad is still interactive whilst the pro-controller is being used :) Image and Form have really got the hang of the WiiU hardware

Smug43

#65

Smug43 said:

9/10?? More like a 10/10!!! This is one of the single best games I have ever played and I have been gaming for decades.. I love EVERYTHING about it.. there are no cheap deaths.. always room to improve on speed runs etc..

Honestly if you have the choice I would go with the 3ds version if you own both just due to always being able to play it anywhere and years from now now worrying about compatibility of your old console on TV's etc.. I just like that I can turn it on anywhere anytime!

Desy64

#67

Desy64 said:

This game is too short...took me 7hours to do everything...

I wouldn't give it a 9 based on that.

Pahvi

#68

Pahvi said:

If you intend to finish the game once and then forget it, consider writing this game off altogether. I saw digging outside the hand-crafted dungeons as filler activity (pretty close to grinding, actually) that takes up most of the time spent playing. It took me 5 hours to finish the plot for the first time, and that was taking things slowly. There aren't all that many of those (assumedly) hand-crafted puzzle dungeons either and they're all rather short.

That said, the controls and graphics were spot-on.

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