Miner: Dig Deep is a Gem

Review of Miner Dig Deep on XBLIG: Buy
Explore underground and find precious minerals in this side-scroller.

Miner: Dig Deep is a hard game to pigeonhole.  It’s free-roaming, but I wouldn’t call it a sandbox game.  One of its primary game mechanics is upgrading gear, but it’s not an RPG. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to call it a game—after two three-hour sessions, there’s not even a hint of a final objective.  Even so, it was fun and I  had a hard time putting it down.

As the name implies, the object of the game is to mine deep into the ground in search of minerals and gems which can be sold for cash.  Cash is used to purchase improved mining equipment.  New pickaxes (and later, drills) make mining faster.  New lanterns expand the light radius and the amount of kerosene that can be carried.  New bags hold more items.  Grappling hooks allow the miner to pull himself up longer distances.  Ladders and elevators make the trip in and out of ground easier and safer.  These upgrades quickly become important, because dirt deeper underground is harder to mine.  Better equipment soon becomes affordable, since the value of the gems and minerals found also increases with depth.

The game throws a few curveballs, however.  If the miner is injured or gets stuck he will be rescued at the cost of all collected resources.  I found this annoying—not only did I lose the time and effort I’d put into mining, those resources didn’t respawn in the mine.  This meant I had to dig deeper to replace the resources I’d lost, which put my item purchases behind the natural pace of the game.  Digging took longer in harder dirt, and without an upgraded bag and lantern the constant treks up and down the mine shaft became tedious.  I fell so far behind I ended up restarting the game.  On my second game, I made sure to save before every trip into the mines, which made the occasional death tolerable.

My one issue with the game was tedium.  At 250 depth, I encountered an ice barrier that required me to go on a fetch quest before I could pass.  When I hit a second ice barrier at 500 depth, I suspected the game had little new to show me.  My suspicions proved to be right when I hit 1000 depth and the game proclaimed that elevators could not be used to dig any deeper.

If there was a clearly defined end goal or a scoring mechanism it wouldn’t have been so bad.  Instead, digging deeper just meant I spent more time climbing down the mineshaft after every trip to the surface.  Thankfully, there are teleporters to the surface at specific depths, but it would have been nice to provide return-trip teleporters.

Despite the late-game tedium, I found it very addictive and well polished for the first few hours of gameplay.  I’m giving it a Buy, because I definitely felt like I got my 80 points’ worth.

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