A Deep Dive into Dig!
Dig! builds on a classic foundation set by another game with a three-letter title: Taito’s 1981 arcade classic Qix. While that game was an abstract tale of battling geometric shapes, Dig! applies a little real-world context to the territory-claiming gameplay. Your character is digging out areas at an archeological site, with special treasures unveiled as you clear away sections. That’s amusing in the way a miniature zen garden can be, but that calm atmosphere doesn’t last for long.
A mummy named Nigel soon starts to roam in the middle of the area, and his touch can be rather fatal. He moves around slowly for the most part, unless he should stumble upon one of your digging lines in progress. If that happens, he’ll become enraged and make a beeline directly for you. If you’re not close to one of the safe edges of the site, you probably won’t survive. Still, his movements are simple enough that you can generally work around him if you keep an eye on where he is at any given moment.
But then the moles show up. Now your safe edges aren’t so safe, so you really need to keep moving and try to dig out areas that will temporarily incapacitate the speedy little fellows. It’s getting a little tense at this point. Then the tentacles show up. And the garden gnomes. And… well, suffice it to say that you’re going to have to think quickly and carefully if you want to last long enough to reach the next checkpoint. Playing it safe is no longer a viable strategy as your enemies will end up boxing you in if you aren’t bold enough.
You have some ways to fight back, however. The museum’s gift shop sells an assortment of items that can help you out in a pinch. Decoys will attract Nigel, giving you enough time to get away. Teleporters can whisk you out of a tight situation to a safer spot. Hats allow you to take a precious extra hit. There are tons of items you can buy if you have enough coins, and your options will only increase as you progress through the game and open up more wings of the museum. Each section of the museum has a major exhibit that you’ll need to put together by digging up artifacts found at the site.
What truly makes this game compelling is the same essential conflict at the heart of that 40-year-old arcade game. You know exactly how much of the area you need to remove to finish the stage, and you always know how much you’ve already cleared away. Do you want to edge closer to that goal by cautiously stripping away smaller pieces, reducing the risk of angering Nigel? Or do you want to make big plays to finish the stage more quickly, increasing your rewards and cutting back on the number of trips you have to make into the deadly center of the site?
Since you can change your course at any time while digging, you’re in a constant battle against your own nerves. Is Nigel coming this way? Should you quickly tamp off your digging line, or do you have enough time to see your original plan through? There’s no one correct answer, and every player is going to approach things a bit differently. The addition of items to the formula gives you a bit more wiggle room to take big risks, but careless play isn’t going to end well no matter what cool gadgets you’ve got with you.
By taking a proven concept, adding some interesting new elements like new enemies and items, and dressing it all up in a very tongue-in-cheek premise, Dig! offers a fresh yet familiar feeling that suits mobile gaming to a tee. You can jump in for a few quick stages or settle in for a major excavation. Either way, you’re in for a tense, white-knuckled experience that will keep you coming back even as you fail again and again.