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Nintendo 3DS Review: ‘Steamworld Dig’

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Three people, or rather three robots, make up the population of Tumbleton. Eloquently named after the drifting knots of dried weeds which make up its homely landscape, Tumbleton crumbled after its mining lifeblood stopped pumping. An elderly gentlebot hoists up a sign for his general store, and an empty saloon seeks vagrants to boost its numbers. Commerce, or lack thereof, has ruined this Western keepsake.

Enter Rusty, with the gleam of adventure in his glass eyes, venturing forth to ransack piles of Tumbleton’s dirt after his uncle’s untimely passing. Indifferent but promised riches buried underground, Rusty hoists a pickaxe for a two-dimensional quest into the great southern void of the planet’s core.

Unearthing gems of often comical names, Rusty invokes capitalism’s central style: supply and demand. The more Rusty finds, the faster his demand grows for increasing dig technology with swooning shop owners willing to oblige. Soon, Tumbleton will find itself reinvigorated.

Steamworld Dig is a world of robots, and also ours. Or actually, it was ours. Rusty’s thrust into the inner sanctums of Earth reveals humanity’s foils. The touch left by people are items deserving of burial. Toxic waste barrels seep into reservoirs, discarded tanks lay disheveled from forgotten conflicts, and what lies deeper holds Steamworld’s foretold secrecy. On 3DS, the punchy stereoscopic effects laminate background and foreground pieces to overcome a visible loss of available resolution.

Reaching the planetary core is not difficult. In roughly six hours, Rusty shatters enough dirt squares with an evolving pickax to discover the dismal fate of his uncle and will have mined enough riches to satisfy a thirst for greed. Steamworld Dig is thus a reason for festivities, a video game in 2013 which is wise and abbreviated enough to be satisfying without shuttering doors toward wanting more. Perfectly spaced, unlockable abilities boost Rusty’s capabilities with considerate frequency. Plus, Steamworld Dig offers the time to utilize and master each.

Central to the appeal is not directly the Western theme, bolstered only by the limited steam driven, robotic personalities. Rather, Steamworld Dig is mechanized and sure. Rusty’s hearty swipe of available tools and brisk jumping ability would fit outside game parameters; toss the character into a traditionalized platform setting and he could butt heads with Mario. The level of available polish and sheen (even into the coding of randomized caverns) is unheralded, courtesy of Swedish developer Image & Form.

Were Tumbleton holding the promise of Rusty’s adventure to all robotkind, the lonesome desert with humbled wooden shacks would become a beacon of tourism. As it sits, Tumbleton is designed to host 3DS and digital PC players willing to crack through its seemingly quaint surface. Steamworld Dig is built for any stray, curious passer-bys, and deserving of all of them. Image & Form unequivocally earned their player base.

Steamworld Dig is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence. This game can also be found on: PC.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.