SteamWorld Dig 2. Everything you need to know is right there in the title, and it’s catchy, to boot! You control a Steam-powered robot, exploring the World by Digging… and because every great game deserves a sequel, this is installment number 2 (3 if you include SteamWorld Heist)! This is our SteamWorld Dig 2 review for Nintendo Switch.
Admittedly, I hadn’t played the original SteamWorld Dig, but I was just as excited to write this review for that same reason. I felt I could provide a critical analysis completely separated from previously formulated expectations and opinions. This does a few things for us: if it’s a good, standalone game, it wouldn’t be necessary to go back and play the original (which, by the way, is not available on the Nintendo Switch); however, if it’s disjointed and requires that background experience, it would become quickly apparent. I’m pleased to say I jumped right into Dig 2, was instantly hooked, and everything about the story flowed sensibly (well, as sensibly as a robot mining platformer can flow).
You begin by taking control of Dorothy, a miner robot in search of Rusty, the apparent protagonist of the original SteamWorld Dig. You’re introduced to simple obstacles to become familiar with the controls and a few robots beep and boop at you to transmit essential story elements. Make no mistake, though, as the handholding ends early in this game. Once you gain access to your first upgrade, you’re set loose to the perils and pleasures of your own curiosity.
Who knew gaining the simple ability to sprint would look so cool?!
The first settlement you come across provides some background story, giving your gameplay direction and purpose. Whether you came for the narrative or the exploration, Dig 2 is structured in a way that makes it feel open-world, despite it becoming apparent early on that you’re actually being coaxed along a strict track. This is important because, even though everything is heavily structured, you still feel like you’re exploring by your own whimsy.
“The world is ending, thus we’re enlisting the aid of miner bots!! Good luck!”
So, I dug down, down, and down some more, coming across underground rodents and riches – vermin that tried to push me off a ledge or trample me, and treasure that compelled me to pursue their glimmer in treacherous directions. What I love about Dig 2 is that the most dangerous, and bothersome, obstacles were the ones I made for myself. While digging around, if you aren’t careful, you can create environments that are difficult to navigate. This is problematic when you inevitably fill up your inventory and need to climb back up to town and sell your loot!
The first time I made it back to town, I earned a few bucks from my hard work and spent it all again on a pickaxe upgrade. Now I could work twice as fast! And here we realize the basic structure of gameplay – explore, gather, sell, upgrade, repeat. It’s simple and it feeds our primal nature to investigate the unknown, hoard valuables, and tangibly improve. What made me gladly continue underground was the desire to visit deeper mysteries. I was compelled to plunder the depths so I could afford new upgrades. And each time I returned to town, it was interesting to see what new capabilities I could earn as a reward for my most recent trek. This simple cycle meant every new journey was a little different than the last – to say nothing of the new environments introduced to you along the way.
I don’t know what this is but it looks important.
Not enough for your curious nature? Well, check this out… as I dug, I came across a seemingly random cave entrance. At first, I hesitated to enter, not knowing what dangers hid beyond. If I walked in and died, I could lose the hard-earned gems I was carrying. No matter – I barreled onward, only to discover an intriguing puzzle.
Nobody’s been down here before but of course there are cave entrances… because upgrades!
These puzzles are commonplace throughout Dig 2 and provide an alluring relief from the grind of grueling digging. You are well-rewarded for each completed puzzle by finding cogs and artifacts in these caves, which help you unlock new equipment abilities in town. After just a few hours of exploring and puzzle-solving, I unlocked enough abilities to hop around on lava, fire explosive pressure ballistics, and grapple onto the ceiling and walls!
Grappling to the ceiling makes climbing way more efficient!
But it didn’t take long for me to realize the biggest drawback of Dig 2 – because the world is so tightly structured, replay value would be minimal once I completed the game. For $20, I knew I was going to get my value out of it, but even after only a few hours, I knew I’d be willing to pay for DLC just to continue my journey. In this way, it’s not really a complaint – just a mere desire for procedurally-generated open-world content or some other way to play onward. There is some post-narrative end-game content, but in a game as fun as Dig 2, it just makes you crave more! Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, though: the best stories know when to call it quits.
And here’s a veiled compliment in the guise of a complaint: when I turned off Dig 2 after my first gaming session, I found myself incessantly humming the background music… I just couldn’t get it out of my head, like one of those annoying top-40 songs you hear on the radio. It’s catchy, memorable, and fitting for each new environment you explore. As time went on, I found myself looking forward to exploring new locations, anticipating what new jingle would get stuck in my head. It’s been a long time since simple, looped, background gaming music captivated me like that. This feeling alone gave me nostalgia for the early days of Pokemon and Mario. Do, do, do, do do do-do. You know the tune. Dig 2 melodies will haunt you in the same way.
I don’t want to get too much into unlockables and narrative because the story is short and I really think you should discover it for yourself. I also want this review to minimize spoilers because you can easily complete the game in a weekend. For $20, Steamworld Dig 2 packs an immense amount of value and fun into a refreshing platformer with an interesting narrative, lots of explosions, and the satisfying feeling of exploration and constant progression. Really, what more could you want from something that costs less than a real-life pickaxe?
Here’s a spoiler: Way less fun to play with than Steamworld Dig 2
So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy!
Note: Our copy was reviewed on Nintendo Switch platform at the writer’s own expense.