Today’s review check outs a fantastic Indie game from Image & Form studios out of Sweden. Image & Form has been around since 1997, consists of 14 people, and have put together a great game here. Now, I’ll be covering Steam World Dig: A Fistful of Dirt from the Nintendo 3DS XL perspective, though the title is also available via Steam for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS, 2DS, and Wii U consoles, PlatStation 4 and Vita. Yeah, that’s a lot of platforms. In fact, you can purchase a cross-platform, DRM free version on their website for $9.99.
So what is Steam World Dig: A Fistful of Dirt? Well, to use the developers’ own words, it “is a hardcore platform mining adventure game”. That really is the best way to describe it in a single sentence. In this game, you play as Rusty, a steambot. You’ve inherited an old mine from your uncle who’s been missing for some time. The plot of the game follows you as you mine deeper into the depths of the dirt. Along the way, you uncover minerals that can be sold on the surface for equipment upgrades. This quite literally, steampunk style game brings a ton of uniqueness to the equipment you can use. While upgrading your pickax is an option, you’ll have access to teleporters, explosives, shielding and drills. As the digging level gets deeper, you’ll uncover special areas where strange, fantastical items can be obtained. These items provide new, intense ways to smash the harder rocks deep in the dirt, like a drilling arm or steam powered fists. It’s not all smash and grab down below. As you dig deeper, dangerous and powerful enemies await, ready to attack and protect the secrets of the underground.
What I love about this game is that it is not a money grab in any sense. As I noted earlier, it can purchased for $9.99. All in-game item purchases are done by selling the minerals collected during digging and no real money is ever used. That’s right, you buy the game and everything is in the game, no outside purchases. In the world of free-to-play and micro-transactions, this is a relaxing relief.
Let’s meet some of the characters of Steam World Dig: A Fistful of Dirt. First, there’s Rusty, the player you control. In the town above you can sell your minerals to a lovely female steambot named Dorothy. Her father, Cranky, is nearby ready to sell you basic items, health, and upgrades throughout the game. Later, you’ll be introduced to Biff. He’s a competing equipment dealer with some more advanced (and expensive) items. There’s a few other characters you’ll meet along the way, but I want to save a few surprises.
The mechanics of the game are complex but surprisingly user friendly and easy to pick up. There are a few metrics that are very important. First and most obvious is health. Rusty has a health bar and it can be increased as the game progresses. Healing can be done on the surface with Cranky or by getting health from killing enemies. Later, a water meter will be added. Some of the more advanced abilities require steam power and therefore, water. Things like the steam jump, drill, and steam punch all require water for power. Water can be found underground in patches. Enemies will sometimes provide some when killing as well. Then there’s the light. Since the vast majority of the game is played underground, the sun doesn’t help out much. There are some lights planted in the depths of the planet but additional lights can be placed by you and purchased from Cranky. On top of that, Rusty has some light of his own. This light diminishes while underground and is replenished immediately after returning to the surface. How long the light lasts can also be increased throughout the game. With that said, don’t forget about the teleporters. Early on in the game, these will be discovered. One sits on the surface near the mine entrance. Additional units can be purchased from Cranky and they can be placed underground. This allows Rusty to jump back and forth from the mine to the surface instantly. Trust me, this will become very important. You’re going to end up very deep. In the two times I’ve played through the game, I hit 400 meters after just 3 hours of play. You do not want to hike all the way back up on foot every time you need to sell minerals or regain light and health.
Selling minerals is a cornerstone for this game. Certain rock blocks contain minerals that can be easily seen. In fact, you can see a few of them in the “Old World” screenshot above. Some minerals are worth more than others and the deeper Rusty gets, the more the minerals found are worth. Rusty has a pouch that he uses to carry minerals. This pouch is limited in size, though larger ones can be purchased from Cranky during the game. Once the pouch is full, it’s in your best interest to return to the surface and sell them to Dorothy for the in-game currency.
As I noted at the beginning of this review, I am playing Steam World Dig: A Fistful of Dirt on the Nintendo 3DS XL. The two screen experience is perfect for this game. The top screen, which is 3D enabled provides a brilliant universe to play in with depth, color and incredible detail for a handheld game. I’ve played with the 3D on and off and honestly, either way is great. If you’re a big fan of the 3D experience then you’ll gain a slick sense of depth but if you aren’t a fan, you won’t be missing out on much. The second screen, which is touch enabled, provides access to in-store items, and, most importantly, your digging map when underground. I can’t imagine playing this game with just a single screen. It truly feels like it was made for the 3DS/3DS XL/2DS market.
Overall, this game is just a ton of fun. Its unique steampunk style is exciting, new, and just plain interesting to watch. The characters are fun and entertaining, while the story continues to expand. At the beginning of the game, Rusty is a simple miner looking for his uncle but just a couple hours in, a new world is being uncovered. This world isn’t exactly new. In fact, you might find it surprisingly familiar. I’m not going to give any more away here, but what I began to find deep in the dirt is not what I was expecting.
If you like platform games, steampunk, and the 3DS two-screen experience, Steam World Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is the game for you. But don’t forget it is available on Steam and PS4\Vita. The game is even available via Gog.com and Humble Bundle.
Fans of this game will be happy to know that another SteamWorld universe title is set to come out this year, SteamWorld Heist. The new title takes place in the same universe but it’s a space adventure set to release for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Vita, Xbox One, and Steam Fall 2015.
For more information on this title and their developers check them out here:
*Please note that the game play screenshots are based on the Steam version for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Have you played this game before? Are you looking forward to the new one? What are you excited about? Let us know in the comments.