Developer: Image and Form Games.

Publisher: Image and Form Games.

Release Date: 21 September.

Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £14.99 UK, 19.99 Euros.

Story

The story here is set in an old trading town called El machino which is struck by mysterious earthquakes. It’s up to you as a lone steambot of the name Dorothy who was promoted from the original game. In that, she was a merchant and you now as the hero need to uncover the mystery along with your unlikely companion who by the way can be a real pain at the beginning named Fen. I am not going to reveal why Fen is an unlikely companion as that will spoil it for you but Fen certainly has a lot of funny lines in his dialogue and I was instantly drawn in. In the midst of all, that’s going on you have given up your search for your friend Rusty and if you have completed the old game you will understand why he went missing. Your journey into the mines begins and this is not just any mine this is a dangerous place full of danger and wonderment. As the story unravels, you pick up your search for Rusty while investigating the mystery of the earthquakes. It’s enough of a story to keep you intrigued but it’s not going to win any Oscars. At least there is a decent story here and all the characters you meet along the way help it along nicely without giving too much away.

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Audio

 

I have to say that the audio here is truly wonderful. First of all the music just feels incredibly right for this type of game. The sound effects are what really sells the fact that you are a proper miner! The twank of your pickaxe smashing rocks so you can head further into the depths to the pummeling of your fist to smash harder types of material.The sucking up of water so your sticky bomb ha the juice to work.  It’s all in those little details that just makes it all so much more believable. My personal favourite sound effect is when you fire off your hook shot and it catches the earth above. The music is a perfect fit for the type of game which is essentially about exploration at every turn.

Visuals

Visually the game is absolutely stunning and again the devil is in the details. I really enjoyed the western feel of the area where you carry out most of your trading. Full with different and cool looking characters all of which you can have a chat with. They all look great and the game’s visuals really have a charm of their own. On the outside, everything is bright and colourful

The lighting is absolutely superb and it has to be for a game where most of your time will be spent in the mines. Dorothy has to go down there with a light and without it, you are taking a massive risk. Go to the surface and you can recharge your light so that when you are down in the depths of the mines you can see what you are doing. An essential part of any miners gear.  I digress the point is lighting and how well this game showcases it.

The beauty when the light shines on new parts of the mine and the way it reflects. Or when the light picks up a little beasty that you thank your lucky stars you had light to see it. See without light you can’t see anything and so the risks are far greater. I love the area designs and especially exploring the beautifully detailed caverns. The temple with lava being a special highlight. The animations of the bots are delightful and just the way everything moves so smoothly. To me graphically and artistically the developers have hit an absolute home run and I was convinced of their imaginary world. The way that your abilities are all so well animated just makes it all more believable. It really is a beautiful game and one you can’t help but want to explore.

The jewels look great too and I’m like a magpie looking for that something shiny to pick up. The characters themselves all look fantastic and you really believe that they are these little steambots. The game in both handheld and docked mode ran smoothly and there was never any slowdown.

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Gameplay

So the Audio and Visuals have been nailed but is the game fun to play? you bet your life it is. If your new to the SteamWorld universe then SteamWorld Dig 1 was an incredible game in its own right but the common complaint was that it was short and this game aims to build on the success of the first one by making it less linear and of course larger.The game is described as “a platform adventure formed in Metroidvania flames” and I could not agree more with this description. For those not familiar with the term Metroidvania let me explain. These types of games tend to focus heavily on 2D side-scrolling and exploration and were made popular by the Original Metroid and Castlevania games hence the term. Usually, there are no set stages in these types of games just one huge map for you to explore and uncover.The change from the original where the mines were procedurally generated has been replaced by a fully handcrafted world which feels much more fully realised and cohesive.  Those looking for the procedurally generated levels like in the original may be left a little disappointed but I can assure you I think for this game it’s for the better.

As Dorothy, you start off as in most of these games as having very basic abilities and core skills. You have a basic pickaxe and a light. A map which will begin to open up as you explore. I love these types of games where you have to explore as it’s just my jam! As you explore deeper into the mines to try and find your friend and discover why there is a load of earthquakes, you have to adopt a risk versus reward strategy. You want to explore and find jewels and cogs. Jewels to be able to exchange for straight hard up cash which in turn can be used to improve your equipment. Your bag,  your light brightening a larger area and a quicker and better pickaxe but to name a few.Cogs are often found in secret areas and will give you different upgrades for example not getting as much damage if you fall down a hole or walking on lava. You have a massive motivation to explore and find all this stuff and I often got sidetracked just with this. Usually, cogs are found in a hidden room where you will have to complete a small puzzle. You could liken it to finding shrines in the Legend of Zelda Breath of the wild. Complete the puzzle you get your cog which in turn can be used for valuable upgrades.

The reason its risk versus reward os because staying in the mine too long and your light charge runs out plunging you into darkness. If you can’t see you can’t mine it’s just too dangerous. There are creatures hidden in the earth and with light, you can just about see where they are located but without you can bet your life that one of these Beatles will run at you taking a piece of your precious life hearts. So as your light runs out it’s time to head back to town and unburden yourself of all the goodies you have managed to collect and focus on upgrading. Luckily there is a system of large pipes down in the mines and all over the map which act as little hubs to take you to different parts of the map, you have managed to open up. You have to find each opening to be able to traverse back and forth quickly which is very welcome. As you recharge your light and upgraded it’s time to rinse and repeat, each time getting deeper and further into the world.

As you get further you will discover new equipment to help you get to previously blocked off areas. Get the jackhammer and you will be able to pummel harder walls. Find the sticky bomb and you will be able to blow up blocks which you could not previously reach with just your pickaxe. The best for me was finding the jetpack. I won’t spoil the fun you can have with this here.

On the way, you will meet other characters who will give you further clues as to how to reach your overall goals. You will have to put all of your abilities to good use to beat the game. On the way, there will be enemies who will try and make it more difficult for you and there are varying ways to kill them. I personally like taking the softer ground out from a heavy rock which can then fall on an enemy. Always makes me laugh. There will be your fair amount of bosses to beat too which I found fun.

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Everything in the game feels well balanced. The game is not too easy but it’s not way too hard. The upgrading system feels just right without being overbearing and the menus and where you need to go is nice and simple to use. The game has a level of polish you just don’t see in most Indie games. Moving the story along and having to explore for me strikes the perfect balance for my play style. There will be those of you who will want to complete this game as fast as possible and others who will want to explore every nook and cranny and the game is big enough to satisfy both. Then there are those like me who like to do a bit of both and this game is perfect for that.

The most important and for me and what comes above anything else is the fact that the game is just so fun to play and I could not put it down. The fact I can take this on the move and explore more of the mines is just brilliant. It’s not all about mining either, there are temples and caves to explore and they all look mysterious. There will be times when you have to have fun above the surface.

The developers have even thought of the people who don’t want to be told what to do or where to go. In order to complete the story, the game gives you a series of quests. So you will have to find a location deep in the mine and most of the time this is what the quests will consist off to get you further along. Now usually a blue arrow will tell you roughly where to go but if you like you can go full exploration mode and turn this off which is brilliant for people who want the game to last them longer.

I like the town and how everything is nicely laid out. From my upgrading table to the guy I need to give my jewels in exchange for cash too. The controls feel tight whatever mode of control you prefer and using all the tools at your disposal all feel very responsive. Controlling Dorothy feels like second nature and the only thing you will need to get used to is remembering which button does what. The only thing I found a tad fiddly was having to hold down the run button and then pressing jump at the same time to reach those further ledges.

 

value

The game is £14.99 in the UK and $19.99 in the USA and 19.99 Euros in European countries. For this game, it’s an absolute bargain. Completing the game will take you around 8 hours and if you go straight for completion you will probably discover about 50% of the world. Therein lies the replayability. I wanted to dive straight back in and find all the cogs and secrets I had missed the first time around and as the game is such a wonderful experience I wanted to continue playing.