Crude visuals, super simplistic gameplay and enough digging action to have you going back for more and more. Dig Dug was an absolute hit when it first arrived on the gaming scene back in the early 1980s.
Now though we have a game that plays on everything that made Dig Dug good. It has the crude visuals, it has that super simplistic gameplay and it comes with more digging action than you can throw a spade at. Except for now we control a dog. Because dogs love digging, of course.
But can Dig Dog do more than just evoke memories of the distant past to become video gaming’s king of play-on-words?
You may well be surprised to learn that it does. For a few minutes at least.
Dig Dog sees you playing as a dog who has lost his bone, and it is up to you to send him on a digging adventure across multiple stages in order to find it, discover hidden gems and basically just spend a few minutes at a time jumping, dashing, stomping, and digging your way through a strange land.
Two game modes play host to this action, and whilst the chilled endless Free Dig is a piece of cake, with little in the way of harm coming your way, an infinite set of levels keeping you busy and all progress saved, it is the harder Bone Hunt option which will hold the biggest draw.
You see, Bone Hunt allows Dig Dog to play out like an action roguelike platformer – kinda. By digging down, left and right through a whole number of worlds, you’ll need to safely navigate your best friend to the hidden bone, before seeing him fly back up through the stage with joy, landing peacefully on the next stage and being tasked with repeating the mission.
The usual platforming control scheme that the world has come to know and love has translated itself nicely to Dig Dog, with a push to the left or right on the thumbstick being enough to warrant a sideways dig. Pulling down on said stick sees your mutt head deeper underground, whilst a bash of the jump button sees him fly through the air with the greatest of ease – although really I mean manically and uncontrollably.
It’s not all super simple though and whilst the bottom of each stage contains a deadly array of spikes to end your poor doggy life, also found in your way are all manner of pixelated beasts to contend with. From bog standard ones that you can jump on to release gems, to flying bats, spiky hard nuts and more that magically float through the dirt, the enemy variety is just about high enough for the game we have in play. For the most part though, you’ll want to avoid as much conflict as possible – at least unless those enemies are the holders of precious gems. Because once you’ve collected those you can hunt down the local shopkeeper to purchase special moves, extra lives and more. If you are serious about digging, then gems are as important as the bones themselves.
And you know what? Other than digging your way around multiple stages, killing enemies and grabbing gems and bones, there is little else left to find within the dirt of Dig Dog.
As mentioned previously, the visuals are crude at best but do the job intended, and the sound effects are utterly 8-bit – the dog bark itself is an ode to gaming from decades gone by. The musical accompaniment meanwhile is probably best left ignored and it will no doubt be switched off within 30 seconds of you first loading the game up. I near-on promise you that.
But as a super cheap, pocket money priced, five minute timewaster from the Xbox One Creators Collection, Dig Dog may well just about be worth a look. The dodgy visuals will possibly initially put you off, and the horrid screen shake and lack of Achievements will no doubt give you a headache in the long term, but there is something strangely addictive about the chance to see your name up in lights, at least should you manage to collect a decent amount of bones, more gems than you can handle, or are a bit of a speedrunner who gets a thrill from sticking a timer on things.
Don’t expect anything that will wow you, but for less than half a pint of beer, Dig Dog is a game that will keep you busy for an hour or so.