Swedish developer Image & Form has launched SteamWorld Dig 2 as a sequel to the 2014 original. We focused on the Playstation Vita version for this review, but the game is also available for Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac and PS4. And if you own any of those systems, you need to own this game.
Image & Form’s library of titles is starting to remind me a little bit of the Oddworld titles that first graced the original Playstation about twenty years ago and have since made appearances on numerous systems. Both franchises feature recognizable and beloved game worlds with different approaches between the various games that use them – SteamWorld Heist is very different from the SteamWorld Dig games. But where the Oddworld franchise never quite reached the heights of the original Abe games, Image and Form’s SteamWorld franchise just seems to be getting stronger and stronger.
Narratively, SteamWorld Dig 2 follows the events of the first game, although protagonist Rusty has gone missing and you now follow Dorothy, a robot shopkeeper. Your job is to find out what happened to Rusty, while at the same time getting to the bottom of what’s been happening to city you live in. The entire area has been affected by strange earthquakes – and of course this ties in perfectly to the game’s theme of literally digging for ways to progress in the game.
If there was one thing I didn’t fully enjoy in the first SteamWorld Dig title it was that the digging sections felt a little too “Minecrafty” to me. I’m not a big Minecraft fan and enjoy when my games have a little more of a (linear) purpose to them and generally don’t want to spend tons of time aimlessly searching for what to do. SteamWorld Dig wasn’t nearly as “bad” as Minecraft in this regard, but SteamWorld Dig 2 is a real delight in how it features much more tightly designed underground sections, puzzles and pathways. I’m sure that, as a matter of personal preference, that won’t apply to everyone – but it certainly felt like a big improvement to me.
Mining and finding loot means you have funds to spend back in the city, and this allows you to upgrade your character and skillset. Skills can be turned on/off according to what you need for upcoming challenging, though special cogs that you can find will allow you to enable more and more customizations at once – which makes exploration fun and functional, and very rewarding when you find one or more of these cogs. Puzzles (and platforming challenges) generally communicate quite well what the general idea behind them is, so this makes the process of choosing how to equip yourself feel very purposeful.
Once you have a ton of ability unlocked and active, your options for exploring the world go up as well – this should please completionists looking for all the hidden nooks and crannies in the game. For those who don’t SteamWorld Dig 2 is relatively short – with about six hours of playing time if you’re just looking to complete the story campaign.
For a Vita title, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a gorgeous, colorful and detailed example of a 2D game. As is the case with the gameplay, the game’s backdrops and locales have a more “designed” feel to them this time around, and this adds to the diversity and unique character of the various locations you’ll come across. The audio/music track is relatively unremarkable by comparison, although more melodic parts do swell up when you enter certain locations.
After the new Ys and Danganronpa V3, September was already a pretty good month for Vita owners. Image & Form shows that September isn’t just good for big productions like that, but also for indie gems like SteamWorld Dig 2.