I firmly believe that one day in the not-too-distant future robots will rule Earth. When you look at how far technology has advanced over the last 20 years, it's not that hard to imagine a world governed by metal and motherboards.
What will happen to the human race at this point remains to be seen. In SteamWorld Dig the species is long-extinct, and one plucky robot is determined to excavate the planet in search of archaeological evidence of humanity.
His journey is so exciting, so action-packed, so pleasingly deep, that SteamWorld Dig will soon be your new favourite Nintendo 3DS game.
Dig dig dig
You play Rusty, an old mining steambot who has been given the deeds to an old mine out in the Wild West. You start digging into the ground, finding gems and treasures and returning them to the town of Tumbleton on the surface.
Tumbleton is a community in need. There are only a few robots living there, but as you bring more and more gems to the surface the town prospers and additional shops and citizens begin to pop up.
But it's the action beneath the surface that you'll spend most of your time engaged in. Rusty starts the game with an awful pickaxe that can barely clear dirt out of the way, but as you progress you'll unlock upgrades, new digging tools, and additional equipment to keep your descent on course.
The best way to think about SteamWorld Dig is as a sort of mash-up between Metroid, Terraria, and Spelunky. You'll unlock new abilities as you dig that help you reach even further downwards, and all the while it's essential that you keep safe as there are plenty of enemies who want to harm you.
And the further down you go, the harder it gets. By the time you reach the bottom you'll be fending off some seriously difficult competition. Of course, you'll also have unlocked plenty of abilities along the way that help to keep you safe.
He ain't rusty
Your digging exploits rely on far more than just holding the A button and pointing in the direction in which you want to go.
Some of Rusty's abilities need water to work - he's a steam-powered robot, after all - and so every now and again you'll need to hunt down an underground cavern full of water, or maybe just kill a few baddies until they drop some watery loot.
And you'll need to watch Rusty's lantern levels, too. If he runs low on fuel, you'll no longer be able to keep your lantern burning and the area around you will fall into darkness, which is seriously harmful to your health.
In other words, there's plenty for you to be getting on with in SteamWorld Dig, and it's incredibly good fun throughout. Your world is randomly generated, so the levels that you're digging through are completely different from those of your friends.
And everything that you do is remembered. If you leave an enemy trapped in a certain area, or dig up some gems and then leave them lying in a cavern, they'll still be there when you come back.
This makes potential backtracking later in the game rather fun, since you can explore the path that you took through the game.
There are plenty of reasons why SteamWorld Dig is going to be a Nintendo 3DS game that you remember for a long time.
The controls are absolutely spot-on, and with each new ability that you unlock you'll find more and more ways to get around the caverns and enjoy them to their fullest.
The story is mainly told through the areas that you discover, and the civilisation you uncover. It's genuinely entertaining to find the secrets below the surface, and I found that I just wanted to keep on digging and digging to find out what came next.
The visuals are gorgeous, with layered backdrops and some gorgeous lighting effects.
The only element that comes even close to being less than great is the game's slow start, but this is arguable necessary in order to get you into the groove before the really difficult stuff starts happening.
At around four hours, SteamWorld Dig is a concise game that deserves credit for not outstaying its welcome. That said, if you griped about the length of Portal and Journey then you may find cause for complaint here too.
SteamWorld Dig is an utterly phenomenal video game, with layer upon layer of remarkable gameplay to be found. This isn't simply the best Nintendo 3DS game you've played - it's one of the best games you'll play this year.
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