In the world of gaming, there are many hidden gems that we sadly miss the chance to experience. For you, my gamer reader, I will tell you about another gem that belongs in your indie game collection for the 3DS. That game is SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt.


Players will take on the role of the cowboy robot Rusty (ha! Get it?), as he has just inherited his late Uncle Joe’s mineshaft. After meeting some of the townsfolk of the slowly dying town of Tumbleton, it’s quite apparent that the town has seen better days. With a booming population of three people, this isn’t exactly the number one tourist location on the planet. That’s where you come in! Explore your Uncle’s mineshaft, collect precious minerals and bring the town back to its former glory. But could there be something more to this mineshaft? Possibly a secret that was meant to be buried? There’s only one way to find out!

Starting off, you just have your simple pick-axe and your goal is to explore the mine. The bottom screen will show you the current minerals you’ve collected as well as your map. As you continue to dig downward, you will come across different types of soil. Some contain treasure, some enemies and some you currently can’t break. This requires you to do grind for minerals to sell so you can upgrade your gear. In most games, constant grinding is a game killer. It kills the pacing of the overall experience and if anything, it’s just plain tedious. However, I didn’t find that the case with SteamWorld. Rusty can only dig left, right, up and down. BUT, he can’t jump and dig at the same time. This requires you to think about where you dig, as one misplaced block of dirt can prevent you from getting that mineral you see off in the distance. So now, not only do we have an exploration game, but somewhat of a puzzle game as well.

Collected minerals can be sold in the town to not only give you more some cash, but to also assist Tumbleton as well. The more cash that gets pumped into the community, the more upgrades that can be purchased. You might even catch some new visitors coming into town.

As you begin to explore the mine looking for loot, you will occasionally come across hidden caves. These caves contain even more precious minerals and some will contain upgrades left by your Uncle. These upgrades include, Speed Boots, Steam Jump and much more to make your mining expedition easier. Getting the first upgrade filled me with excitement, as like any other game with upgradeable items; I couldn’t wait to explore more to find the next one.

Speaking of exploration, let’s talk for a bit about your map! It’s blank! Well it is in the beginning at least. One thing I love about the game is the exploration factor. Most objectives will tell you to explore more of the mine. You’re given a waypoint to the next destination, but it is entirely up to you on how to get there. Before you know it, you’ve expanded your map by going off the trail due to either an obstacle in your path, enemy placement, minerals to grab or you found a secret cave to explore. The choice is yours and yours alone! (Bonus points to anyone who can tell me what that’s from).

The only really negative aspect about SteamWorld Dig that I have is the lack of a memorable soundtrack. While the in game music is nice, it’s not exactly something that I’ll be humming in the shower. Other than that, this is a really solid title.

Final verdict:

SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is a great indie title for the 3DS. Filled with what seems like a never ending mine to explore, treasures to find and a story to unfold, this is a game that any fan of free-roaming exploration should pick up.