Does the sequel outdo the original, or is it stuck in a sophomore slump?
By Robert Marrujo:: Metroidvanias are a dime a dozen, these days, with numerous marquee and indie developers playing around with their own takes on the subgenre. Titles like Axiom Verge have demonstrated that there's plenty to mine from the formula, where players accumulate a variety of new items and abilities that allow them to traverse to and fro around the game world to uncover previously inaccessible areas and secrets. For a game to really stand out amongst the crowded pack of me-too Metroidvanias in the contemporary gaming scene, it needs to be something special.
Steamworld Dig 2 is something special.
Developer Image and Form has cranked out two exceptional video games in recent years. Steamworld Dig and Steamworld Heist both represent very different play styles set in the shared Steamworld universe. Steamworld Dig 2 is a return to the world of Rusty, a robot who inherited a mine from his uncle Joe. Ultimately, it's implied that Rusty has disappeared by the end of the game, though an after-credits teaser shows him walking through a desert, his eyes glowing blue. The change to his blinkers' hue suggested that Rusty had assimilated with Voltbot and become immortal. This is more or less where Steamworld Dig 2 picks up.
Rather than bring Rusty back as the protagonist, Image & Form switches things up by bringing in Dorothy from the first game as the new star. Rusty made all of his trades with her in the last adventure and she's now on a quest to figure out where the miner disappeared to. Not only is it fun to see the character return, but it's also nice to see a female lead, robotic or not. She's easy to root for further invested me in the game's storyline. I won't spoil any of it, but I will say that Steamworld Dig 2 dovetails nicely with the original and that there's even a connection between it and Steamworld Heist.
Steamworld Dig 2 is significantly larger in scope than its predecessor, with a much grander world to explore and more things to discover as you dig. There are tutorials of a sort to get players up to speed, but it's nothing even remotely invasive as some titles are wont to do in this day and age. Rather than announce that the player is about to learn something new, the game instead places them in situations where they have utilize a fresh ability in order to move on. Abilities, by the way, that keep getting more and more awesome as time goes by. It's astounding how much more there is to do and see this time around, including everything from a grapnel to a jackhammer-esque device to fool around with and dig deeper into the mine.
What's even better is that virtually all of Dorothy's gear is upgradeable. There are also Cogs that can be discovered that add even more variety to how to power up her load out. Players are given the freedom to choose where they want to allocate and focus on upgrading. If you want to boost Dorothy's strength over opening more slots in her satchel to collect gems, you can. It's all about figuring out what works for the individual's play style. It becomes addicting going down below ground, mining and exploring until your light runs out, traveling back up to trade resources and level up, and then repeating the whole process. Throw in some simple if fun combat and boss battles and this is one heck of a winning formula.
Steamworld Dig 2 is also extremely easy on the eyes. The hand drawn look of the game is gorgeous, making what would otherwise be dreary and boring caves in real life into miniature art pieces, instead. I played the game both in portable and docked modes and enjoyed my time with both, though if you really want to give the visuals a chance to shine, get it up on your TV. I also really appreciated how Image & Form isn't lazily throwing "Steamworld" in front of its games in order to make a buck. This is a fully realized world and the connections are genuine. Those who have played the original Steamworld and Heist will get a kick out seeing it all entwine over the course of the game.
Switch is home to some excellent indie titles, but this is easily amongst the best of them. A delightful campaign is made better with the incentive of replayability. It's also delectably crafted with stunning visuals and delightful character and level design. I can't recommend Steamworld Dig 2 enough and anxiously await word of the next title from Image & Form.
SCORE: 9.0/10 (Excellent)
Positives: Captivating presentation; ties to other Steamworld games provides excellent world-building and incentive to play them all; mechanics are tight and new abilities make exploration even funner; upgrading; Dorothy is a solid lead.
Negatives: The game ends; narrative is tight but it is a little predictable.
Binx was provided with a copy of this game by a third party for review purposes, but this in no way impacted our recommendation. For every review, Binx.News uses a standard criteria.