Steamworld Dig 2 Review: A Steam-Fueled Metroid

Steamworld Dig 2 does everything a proper sequel should do. It improves upon all of its predecessor’s flaws, introduces new mechanics and ideas while also providing a compelling narrative. It is familiar yet different in all the correct ways.

The sequel to the Image & Form’s 2013 indie mining adventure, Dig 2 stars Dorothy and FEN. Dorothy, a quality steam-fueled heroine, is on an adventure to find Rusty, the main character of the first game. Her quest takes her to the town of El Machino where she hears that Rusty has been seen. Of course, El Machino starts suffering from quakes and mining hazards right after Rusty’s appearance and Dorothy’s journey to find him and the cause of the town’s misfortunes begins.

Dorothy and FEN make a good pair, with FEN providing humor as the story unfolds. FEN’s character is fleshed out as the game progresses, helping you to care about Dorothy and her sidekick.

The first Steamworld Dig was good but had issues with repetition and felt like it ended just as it was really taking off. Image & Form wisely doubled the sequel’s length, clocking in at roughly eight hours. This wouldn’t matter if the core gameplay loop was just as repetitious but thankfully it isn’t.

El Machino is full of charming and often comical characters.

Dorothy is much more capable than Rusty, with several tools at her disposal. The grappling hook, fire pick-axe and other tools make digging deeper an absolute joy. The cycle of venturing deeper into the unknown depths beneath El Machino, collecting resources from resource tiles and returning to town to sell your loot is as satisfying as ever. The variety of enemies (including a crazy cult who worship Rusty) and environments keep everything fresh and exciting throughout. There are hidden caves that represent platforming and puzzle solving challenges, giving players a break from the cycle of constantly going down. These caves are more difficulty than most areas but usually have something worthwhile hidden within them.

The art style was already top notch but Image & Form has provided a slew of environments, each colorful and possessing a personality of their own. This, along with the game’s sublime soundtrack, really keeps any risk of repetition at bay. There is always something new to see and the journey there is always worth it. Progressing downward is a puzzle in-of-itself and a satisfying one at that. Hitting an explosive barrel with your pickaxe and quickly retreating to a higher plane with your grappling hook while triggering a massive explosion, killing enemies and clearing your path is something that never gets old.

There is a plethora of collectibles to discover, including cogs which players can use to upgrade their items and abilities. These cogs could modify your armor to absorb falling damage or give you more resources from a single resource tile. Cogs allow players to customize their gameplay experience, letting you tailor your gameplay style to your own personal preferences.

Dig 2’s story isn’t going to win any awards but Dorothy’s quest to find Rusty has some nice twists and the dialogue is well-written and funny. It has a sarcastic, dark-humor about it that Rick & Morty fans will love, including what I believe is a direct Rick & Morty TV show reference in The Oasis. The cast of characters, including shiners, cowbots and members of the cult of the destroyer all have excellent one-liners and jokes. The few moments where characters aren’t being zany but serious are well done, expertly pulling off shifts in tone that don’t feel out of place. There is enough post-game content (via The Hell Caves) to keep you playing for a while, so your money should net you a 10-15 hours.

There is more visual diversity between locations in Dig 2 compared to the original.

Steamworld Dig 2 doesn’t have many faults. I would have enjoyed more boss fights and there are occasionally some frustrating parts that stretched my patience but this was due entirely to player error on my part. There were times I fought with the controls, forgetting that the run button was mapped to X or accidentally pressing up on the D-pad near an NPC and having to cycle through dialogue I had already heard before but nothing unforgivable.

Dig 2 looks marvelous on the big screen, sporting some of the most impressive 2D art in a game this year. We played the Nintendo Switch version for this review and while the game looks fine on the system’s 720p screen, it really shines on your TV. Portable play does suite the game as its easy on the system’s battery and the saving system makes it a breeze to play in short sessions.

As is, Steamworld Dig 2 stands above most other indie games this year. There are other gems that may be slightly better than it but its hard to hold that against a game with so little flaws. The new characters, abilities and core gameplay loop are all superb. Image & Form iterated on their mining + Metroidvania combination in all the right ways, making a sequel that improves upon its predecessor foundation significantly.

Final Thoughts

Steamworld Dig 2 is everything a sequel should be: bigger, better and with significantly more depth. The core gameplay loop of mining plus Metroid-like adventure never gets old. Nintendo Switch review code provided by Image & Form Games.

Overall Score 90%