Dig Dug is a name that any retro-gamer should recognize. It was a simple game of digging tunnels and popping bad guys with a super-tire-pump, but it was incredibly addicting, and fell victim to multiple knock-offs. So it’s no surpsrise that with the love of everything retro these days that Namco would once again unearth their heroic little character for a new title. This time around, it’s not the dog that Dig Dug Deeper was (a total stinker for the PC), rather, Dig Dug: Digging Strike is a mildly fun title that mixes gameplay from several Namco titles along with a cute crossover storyline with another Namco classic character, Mr. Driller.
While most of the time, storyline means bunk in a retro-rehash, but with Dig Dug: Digging Strike, it actually adds a lot to the game. The story begins with Dig Dug feeling left out of the hero game since his son, the now famous Mr. Driller, is doing all the Fygar butt-kicking. When the world needs a subterrainean hero, they call on Driller, but in this instance, they get Dig Dug (aka “Taizo.”) Throughout the game, you’ll be presented with humorous cartoon interactions between Mr. Driller and Dig Dug, which keep this game from being an exercise in mindless digging.
The game focuses on classic Dig Dig gameplay (digging holes and popping enemies with an air pump), but throws in a new twist – spike dropping. As Dig Dug traverses the surface of an island (shown on the Nintendo DS’ top screen in a sort of top-down minigame format), he has to avoid bosses while picking the right hole to drop into. Once he drops into a hole, the action begins underground, and on the bottom screen, as classic Dig Dug play begins. However, it’s up to Dig Dug to dig tunnels underneath huge spikes that are partially embedded in the map. Dig deep enough, and the spikes create cracks in the island. Link the cracks together, and the island shears off in sections, hopefully taking a top-screen roaming boss with it.
In Digging Strike, Namco throws together a ton of minigames based on their classic arcade titles. These minigames really save the day at times, especially when you can’t take one more round of digging. My favorite was the Xevious styled minigame, where you cruised over the islands and dropped bombs on bosses while blasting Pookas and Fygars.
While Digging Strike is enjoyable, it’s certainly not without flaws. First and foremost is the incredibly cramped action on the DS’ bottom screen. When the game switches to classic Dig Dug mode, you’ll need a magnifying glass to make out any details on the screen. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that there are now two types of Fygar (dragons) – one gray and one pale green. With the cramped visuals, it becomes hard to tell which Fygar you’re chasing – and one is indestructable, so you can guess how frustrating it can be to attack the wrong one. The second big issue is the controls, which can frequently be very inaccurate. If you don’t hit the D-pad directly on the four compass points, you’re going to run into more than one Pooka, Fygar or magma ball as you play.
Even with its control and visual issues, Digging Strike’s a moderately enjoyable game. If you’re into the retro scene, it’s worth checking out. If you’re a more modern gamer, you’ll probably want to borrow this from a retro-loving friend, or check it out at a discount, since if you don’t have a background with both Dig Dug and Mr. Driller, the cute storyline will leave you scratching your head, as will some of the gameplay.
Visit Namco.com for Dig Dug: Digging Deeper Screenshots
- Gameplay: 7
- Classic Dig Dug with some fun minigames
- Graphics: 5.5
- Decent cutscene quality is marred by teeny-tiny character models in “digging” mode
- Sound: 6
- Cute and retro
- Replay: 5
- Fun for a bit, but not fresh enough to keep you playing beyond a week
- Overall: 6.5
- Fun for fans, others might want to borrow a copy first
— Craig Falstaff