SteamWorld Dig 2
A joy to play and a perfect introduction to the metroidvania genre
Don’t get me wrong: fans of the genre will enjoy this game too, even if it is a little short and not too taxing. I played it soon after sinking ~200 hours into Hollow Knight, so it was always going to suffer in comparison. I wish I’d played the two in the other order now.
But, for beginners, this is a perfect introduction to a popular genre, often crowded with much more difficult titles. And its bright, joyful world is a welcome contrast to the dark menace throughout the aforementioned Hollow Knight.
First of all, I haven’t played SteamWorld Dig, and — I need to address this — I just can’t shake off the feeling that the main character is a frog. Apparently, you’re a robot of some sort, and there’s a wild west / steampunk theme about pretty much all the other characters … but you just look like a weird kinda frog. There, I dealt with it.
Anyway, this game is not about a moving story or a deep and meaningful plotline: your robotic mission is basically the classic ‘find your friend’ challenge. As the game begins, you’re soon introduced to the main gameplay mechanics: wall jump, digging with your pickaxe (an action that can be traced all the way back to 1982’s Dig Dug), and a ‘sprint’ power-up that is awarded almost straight away. This instant gratification is possibly an indication of how short and easy your task will be.
The main digging mechanic is a fairly unique diversion, but it doesn’t offer quite enough, for me, to really be that interesting or entertaining. That said, the character handles responsively, and the friendly mapping and transport system both help to keep the momentum going.
And SteamWorld Dig 2 does a few key things very well indeed. First, it does a brilliant job of guiding the player; you shouldn’t ever really struggle working out what needs to be done next. Second, the ‘mini-puzzles’ scattered around the main area, and the sub-areas are frequently very well planned and rewarding. And, third, the upgrade system, and extra movements that can be gained are both generous, making for a satisfying learning curve.
Graphically, the game is bright, welcoming, and — fully in keeping with the overall aesthetic — entirely accessible, clearly highlighting objects, enemies, and hinting at secret areas. I guess you’d call it a ‘cartoon’ style, and it’s very attractive, particularly in handheld mode.
I don’t want to give too much away about the final boss, but I found it by far the most challenging aspect of the game. I first encountered it far too early, then returned later after a lot of buffing, before finally vanquishing it. In retrospect, this was probably perfect pacing, it was just a shock difficulty ramp-up when encountered too early.
Above all, SteamWorld Dig 2 is really good fun. Puzzles are aimed at just the right level of difficulty. Enemies can be dealt with easily, and death isn’t usually too much of a problem, so this is a game that you can really relax with. You’ll have very free and easy movement when fully powered-up, too.
Is it all just too easy? I guess so, a little, but in being so, it offers such an enjoyable experience, a really accessible counterpart to some of the more challenging titles in this genre, that the difficulty and length can be forgiven. This is a game you’re meant to stroll through, stopping occasionally to think a bit, enjoying the journey.
I’ve played SteamWorld Dig 2 for about 20 hours in total, all on Nintendo Switch. A small part (maybe 5-10%) of that was handheld.
I paid £10.99; it’s currently priced at £14.99.