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The highly acclaimed SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt by Image & Form is coming to Wii U on August 28th. I had the pleasure of reviewing the title. The following words are based on one complete play through, taking five hours.

What’s new?

SteamWorld Dig for 3DS launched last year to great success. The game scored highly across most major gaming news websites, and I am pleased to report that the Wii U edition does not disappoint either! Compared to its portable relative, SteamWorld Dig for Wii U now has animated character portraits, multiple language support and high resolution (1080p) graphics, running at a smooth 60 frames per second.

The game also has a customisable screen interface and controls. You can choose which interface elements appear on the TV or GamePad, such as your map and inventory. It supports Off-TV play so you use the GamePad exclusively when your TV is in use or switched off. In addition to GamePad, the game also supports the Wii U Pro Controller.

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Gameplay

SteamWorld Dig is a “platforming mining adventure” and shares some similarities between the video game Terraria and metroidvania style games (more on that later). Each play-through is randomly generated, which means that every game you play will be a different experience. The protagonist of the game is a character called Rusty, who has inherited a mine from his uncle Joe in an old mining town called Tumbleton, which has seen better days. After a short introduction, you learn that that there are some unusual things lurking beneath Tumbleton, and it seems your uncle was investigating them. Determined to find out what is happening, Rusty takes his pickaxe and descends below to discover the truth.

The objective of the game is fairly simple, you dig through the ground and collect ores, which can be taken back to the surface and exchanged for cold hard cash, which can then be used to upgrade your equipment. The deeper you dig, the rarer the ores! Rusty has an armour, light and eventually, a water meter, which you should take note of as you play. Light will deplete over time, and can be replenished by reaching the surface. Water is used to power special abilities, and can be refilled by standing in pools of water found underground.

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In the early stages of the game, you will be restricted by your weak tools and limited inventory space, but as you progress, you will find that more stores will begin to open up in town, allowing you the opportunity to upgrade your armour, water meter, light supply and tools. With improved equipment, you will find it easier to break through those harder rocks, or through material that was previously unbreakable.

As you descend into the unknown, you will encounter enemies of various strengths and abilities lurking inside the rocks. By using your pickaxe, you can attack these creatures and collect items to replenish your health, light and water meters. You will also come across abandoned mines, where you can partake in puzzles to acquire more loot, and even upgrade stations to receive new abilities that will prove useful in your journey. Collecting upgrades such as the Speed Boots, Static Dash and an item to negate fall damage (Fall Dampeners), will make it much easier to navigate the mine more freely.

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In my play-through, I found myself becoming a little greedy, and taking risks. I knew I did have a lot of health, but the chore of climbing my way back up to the surface was tedious, so I fought on, only to make a silly mistake and lose all my loot. When you die, you lose your loot and you need to pay a repair fee to reassemble poor Rusty. To make things easier, I purchased teleporters from a shop above ground, which allowed me to instantly transport back if my inventory became full. They are not cheap though, so I had to use them sparingly!

I also recommend using ladders to get yourself out of a tight spot, and ensure you have the maximum number of dynamite to get you out of challenging situations. Collecting upgrades did make me feel a whole lot stronger and there was a point towards the end where I was navigating the mine and destroying enemies with ease.

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So how does the game compare to Metroid?

Image & Form describe this game as a metroidvania style game, and I can understand why people have made this connection. Like Metroid, you will explore a diverse range of colourful environments, backtrack at certain points and even collect similar upgrades to the Speed Booster and Space Jump Boots. There are puzzle solving elements and the way you descend through the earth reminds me a lot of Metroid II: Return of Samus, without the lava and mandatory Metroid destruction.

But that is where the similarities end. While it may borrow elements from Metroid, SteamWorld Dig stands on its own as a unique experience. Even compared to Terraria, the mining of minerals is about as far as it can be compared to. There is no crafting the ores you collect into new weapons, and that’s fine with me.

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The price point for all of this, is a mere £6.99 (€8.99/CHF 10.99) which I feel is very reasonable, considering how much I got from the game. For those of you living in Europe and Australia/New Zealand, there is currently a cross-buy promotion in place. If you own the original 3DS edition of SteamWorld Dig, you can purchase the Wii U version at a reduced cost of £4.99 (€6.49 / CHF 7.99) until the 25th September.


Final thoughts

Gameplay: 89%
Graphics: 92%
Sound: 82%
Value: 85%
Overall: 93%


SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt was a very pleasant and surprising experience that I enjoyed thoroughly. While some people may consider it to be relatively short, in the five hours that it took me to play the game on my first attempt, I was satisfied by the amount of content. If I could change one thing about the game, that would be to have a greater number and variety of enemies in each area. Aside from that, it is definitely a must have title, and at such a low price point, you really have no excuse.

Special thanks to Kieran O’Brian and Torbjørn “Falcool” Brandrud