I Want to Dig!
As the intrepid Dig Dug (who's here on less-than-legal terms) your task is to dig your way through each vertically-scrolling stage and reach the flag at the end. Familiar faces Pooka and Fygar show up to pester you, as well as an ever-dwindling oxygen bar- top it up by grabbing flowers (?) you find along the way. However, it's the way you get through the dirt that makes this game interesting- rather than dig through the dirt, you have to blow it up by using either explosive arrows (which arc slightly, although the exact angle is random) or little blue grenades (which you can either drop down at your feet or lob into the air). You can only have so many grenades on-screen at once, but the arrows are limited only by your trigger finger. Like I said, when you hit the ground with either of these weapons, it'll blow up much like the detructible landscape in the Worms games, leaving a circular hole in its wake (and these explosions can stun/kill enemies too).
It's these explosions that are at the heart of this curious little game, and along with the bouncy physics they bring, they're both a blessing and a curse. You can't be hurt by explosions, so instead you'll be bounced around, and this affects everything else too- watching a clutch of grenades you've just laid down get blasted across the screen as they explode and cause even more damage is a joy to behold. It can be quite chaotic, and that's a big plus. There are times when digging can be frustrating, though, because your weapons aren't that effective at digging straight downwards- this means that a few stages feature a serious lull in activity, where you're just ploughing through a solid patch of soil. To the game's credit, get a bit further in and you'll find yourself fighting big groups of enemies, negotiating strange soil patterns or desparately digging towards a flower as your oxygen meter starts beeping at you to bring the excitement up, but the slight feeling of frustration never quite goes away. The floaty physics of Mr. Dug's movement- a possible necessity to allow for the bouncy feel of the game- are also problematic, as sometimes you'll careen into an enemy when it's not really your fault, and jumping is very tricky indeed. At times, it feels like you're fighting for control- it's not often, but it does happen, and it's a big problem.
For Patient Diggers Only
It's a damn shame it's got these aggravating flaws, because this is otherwise an extremely solid time-waster- blowing the dirt up (when it's not a solid mass, at least) is quite satisfying, and this is helped by some of the level designs, such as the stage where you have to avoid freeing Fygars trapped in boxes. It's also a stern challenge, as there's twenty levels, only three lives (going out of your way for a red flower grants a 1UP) and no continues- this is as old-school as it gets in the difficulty department, and that also means there's no level select, so failure means starting all over again. It can be frustrating at times, but this one is worth a look for those who like the concept, but be prepared to deal with some off-kilter controls.
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