When I first dove into SteamWorld Dig: A Fistfull of Dirt, I was expecting to play another Minecraft or Spelunker clone. And, although the comparison is easy to make, I'm pleased to report that SteamWorld Dig differentiates itself in the way that I hoped it would.
Developed by indie Studio Image & Form, SteamWorld Dig follows the tale of Rusty, a steambot miner who receives a deed to an entire mine from his long-deceased uncle. The mine itself is located in the small town of Tumbleton, a population of three residents. The world itself is set in a western steampunk environment with some brilliantly-designed characters, each with unique personalities. In fact, I became so attached to the characters that I wish the developers would have given them voice overs, as it got kind of annoying hearing the same robotic sounds as each dialog bubble appeared.
Still, it isn't for the story or the characters that I truly enjoyed SteamWorld Dig -- it was the addictive mining and upgrading system. Rusty starts the game with a pickaxe, which he uses to dig into the mine that he now owns. As players dig through the world they create their own path however they wish. If players choose to dig straight down, they can; or if they wish to dig left to right, it can lead to a lot of hidden rewards for your troubles. One of the most interesting aspects of the digging is that none of the blocks that the players dig through ever return to the world, so when digging your path it is wise not to dig large wide open areas as it will make it hard to return back to the surface.
The game doesn't leave players stuck or unable to return to town. If you do happen to run into a brick wall, the game lets you simply self destruct and return to town. Players can also use the resources and ore they find to sell for money and use the money to buy ladders and teleporters that they can place anywhere in the environment to return home. Selling the resources and ores also levels up the shops and adds new add-ons to Rusty, while gamers can upgrade their health and their pickaxe allowing Rusty to dig faster and do more damage to enemies.