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Review: SteamWorld Dig 2 (Nintendo Switch)By Adam Riley At 08.10.2017 16:49

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Starting up SteamWorld Dig 2, you might be forgiven for wondering what has actually changed. After all, despite the main character being Dorothy rather than Rusty (she is on the hunt for her missing friend, you see), it is pretty much business as usual, with the aim being to talk to people in town before diving into the mines below, digging deeper and deeper, discovering treasure galore before your trusty lantern's light gives out and returning to town is required to resupply before venturing south once more. It is a very basic concept at its core, as it was first time round, but the way it is executed is simply astounding.

For this sequel, there is a stronger feel of classic Metroid or post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania releases, with expansive areas to explore using a mere pickaxe at first, hacking through the dirt to reach new places, before hitting certain roadblocks that require upgrades or extra pieces of kit, which can all be acquired in exchange for coinage. That means gathering as many jewels as possible - either from despatching enemies or unearthing them along the dig route - in Dorothy's rucksack (tiny to start with, but expandable as the game goes on) whilst making as much progress as is reasonable given the lifespan of the lantern's flame (rummaging around in the dark is possible, but also potentially lethal, and again, the life of the lantern can be extended further into the adventure - the scope for kit advancement is vast indeed!).

The game allows for traversing the underworld in all manner of ways, with so many forms of equipment expansion that some might be forgiven for being overwhelmed by it all. However, the beauty of SteamWorld Dig 2's construction is in how the development team gradually drip-feeds players with what they need when they least expect it. Starting to get frustrated that heading back upwards always involves tiresome wall jumping? Well, here is a handy grapple hook to drag you towards the nearest structure it can extend to. How about getting fed up of only being able to dig through certain types of dirt at a slow pace? Well, here comes the handy pickaxe upgrade and additional powerful fist-punching mechanic to break tougher dirt swiftly and even burst through brick walls!

Exploration is rewarded, and then some. There is a chance of powering through the main story in a few hours, if so desired, taking shortcuts and upping the challenge by not methodically obtaining the array of hidden cogs that can be used to unlock new features of weaponry and armour. However, those wanting to get the most out of this masterful adventure will want to savour every last second. Image & Form is a very talented group and this is its baby, and you can definitely tell. From the intricately detailed gorgeous visuals that make you feel like actually being down in the depths of the Earth, to the sumptuous soundtrack that evokes such strong emotions when progressing from area to area, backed up by sometimes chill-inducing sound effects, and the way the map has been expertly crafted - every inch of SteamWorld Dig 2 is sheer perfection.

Just one of the many fantastic elements that stands out as an absolutely amazing inclusion is the slew of challenges for finding new cogs that allow for objects to be augmented. The development team has gone to town on crafting some devilishly enticing treats for those that love uncovering every possible corner of the gaming world, no matter how tricky it is to do so. Just as Metroid: Samus Returns recently proved, an intricately crafted landscape filled with secrets will grab the attention of keen gamers, and this Dig sequel has them aplenty. Some easy-to-find caves will be home to crafty courses that must be navigated, whilst other areas are invisible to the eye, with only a soft sound of cogs turning being a hint that something in the nearby vicinity is lurking, ready to be exposed. How to get to it, though, is another matter entirely. So much of SteamWorld Dig 2 leaves you with a fantastic feeling of wonderment and joy!

The narrative may be one of the weaker elements, along with the small selection of boss encounters that are a touch too easy to overcome, but these are miner…sorry, minor qualms. Overall, though, despite hinting that this will be a short escapade downwards, find Rusty, stop the earth tremors, and that is that, the truth is totally different. Do not be deceived as there are depths to Image & Form's latest waiting to be discovered by those brave enough to do so. Uncovering new areas, discovering warp points to bring Dorothy back to the surface to deposit jewels before delving back into the mines, navigating the labyrinthine underworld to seek out cave networks filled with treacherous hazards, both natural and of the monster variety, and more - the game can just go on and on for intrepid explorers. There is also such a massive sense of satisfaction spotting what looks like an area that can be mined but is just out of reach, and then finally figuring out how to blow it to smithereens to gain access. There are so many 'wow' moments that it is hard to think of what the team could have packed in to make the whole experience any better, other than the aforementioned story and boss battles. SteamWorld Dig 2 is not just a labour of love, it is an absolute masterpiece.

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Final Score
[i]SteamWorld Dig 2[/i] is no mere sequel by numbers, instead taking everything that was loved (and critiqued) about the original and building upon it considerably in every way possible. The sense of exploration is phenomenal, and those willing to dig deep will find the world down in the mines has so much to offer that a good 10-15 hours can easily be spent uncovering all of the secrets before even bothering to finish the main story. This almost out-Metroids Nintendo's venerable series - [i]that[/i] is how good Image & Form's latest adventure is.

9

/10

User Comments
#1 Adam Riley (News Editor) - on 11.10.2017 at 00:02

Gabriel - I'm intrigued to hear your thoughts on this after you've had more time playing it. Did you start to enjoy it more as it went on?

#2 Gabriel PVJ Jones - on 11.10.2017 at 00:15

Oh most definitely. It was just the first hour or so that was a little off-putting, mainly due to how similar it was to the first game.

It came into its own shortly after that point and turned into quite an exceptional adventure.

#3 Adam Riley (News Editor) - on 11.10.2017 at 00:27

Yeah, that's how I felt. I did enjoy the first one, but nowhere near as much as this. Seems like this was perhaps the team's original idea, and only now after the success of the original could they bring it to fruition.

What did you think about the bosses? I did enjoy them, but thought they were 1.) too easy, 2.) there weren't enough of them.

#4 Gabriel PVJ Jones - on 11.10.2017 at 00:35

I thought the bosses were great, even though like you said, they're too easy and too few. I like them because they're designed with respect to the game's design. While SteamWorld Dig 2 could be described as an action-platformer, it does its own thing, and the bosses reflect that. The last boss especially was very inventive and fun.

( Edited 11.10.2017 01:36 by Gabriel PVJ Jones )

#5 Adam Riley (News Editor) - on 11.10.2017 at 00:47

Yeah, true, very inventive. I think perhaps because I jumped into this coming off the back of the Metroid II remake, I felt there were so many parallels in the exploration and revelation stakes that I then went on to compare the boss fights, as well. A bit unfair, because you're right - this does do its own thing and the bosses fit around the tools Dorothy has to hand at that particular time.


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