At £4.19, you don’t have to ‘dig deep’ to play Dig Deep. But it’s a free-to-play mobile title that’s had a premium makeover, so you might want to know what you’re getting into first. There will be players who see the £4.19 as an absolute bargain; others will think it’s about £4.19 too steep.
First hurdle for you to leap over: Dig Deep is a clicker game, and those aren’t for everyone. This is an idle game where you can accumulate cash without doing anything, if that’s your desired way of playing. You can leave the game running, only tapping in to buy more workers or upgrade them (menus pop up that need a quick button press). Cue complaints about Dig Deep not being a real game, and there’s some truth to that. You need to enjoy the game loops of the idle game genre if you want to get anything out of Dig Deep.
Second hurdle: if you do participate, you’ll be doing the same thing, over and over. That’s true for most clicker games. You can make more money by actively engaging, but that comes at the cost of your sanity. So, you tend to dip in and out of the gameplay, depending on how much you care in that given moment.
The gameplay goes something like this: you jump into a hole which is nothing more than a 5×5 grid of tiles. By walking onto a tile, you automatically mine it. That tile disappears, and once you have cleared all of the tiles on a layer, you can move onto the layer below. The tiles shatter into balls – yes, balls – but also cash and diamonds. Then you’re mining layer after layer, traveling further into a pit of capitalism, as you are beckoned onwards by the prospect of better unlocks and more cash.
As you mine balls, they accumulate in a kind of ballbag, and there’s a limit to what you can carry. That limit increases as you level up, and XP is gained with every hack of your pickaxe. With a full ballbag, your best bet is to travel up to the surface via a ladder, elevator (unlocked at depth-100 of the pit) or teleporter (unlocked at depth-1000), where you can then unload. Then it’s back in the pits with you, m’lad, as you attempt to unearth more balls.
Those balls can go in one of two places. The first is into a trader, who will swap balls for cash (does he tell his mum the truth, we wonder?). It’s where the majority of your deposits will go, as cash is invaluable. You can spend cash on hiring workers to automate the process, and level them up so they move faster and hold more. It’s also the price for moving onto new holes, where balls are worth even more. Other-coloured balls await.
The second place they can go is as a down-payment on a statue. Pump balls into these colossi and you will eventually be the proud owner of, well, a statue, which does nothing more than look pretty. Honestly, we can’t tell if anything happens when you complete one: Dig Deep certainly didn’t tell us. But a statue will feed your ego.
Going down t’ mines will also generate diamonds, which we can only assume was the hard-currency when Dig Deep existed as a mobile game. There are no DLC or microtransactions (oddly, the Switch version does include microtransactions) so you’re gaining diamonds through basic mining. What they unlock is great fun: you can periodically activate power-ups, and there’s nothing more fun than activating them all at once. Being a ball-magnet, having infinite ball-capacity, and then having multiple sped up servants feeding you balls is a joy to behold. We never went back to singular power-ups: it just didn’t feel worth it. Honestly, we could write a lengthy guide on getting the best out of Dig Deep, if anyone truly, honestly cared. You can also buy pets with them, and these offer passive perks like increased capacity, extra cash and faster speed. We swear by our husky, who turns us into a blur of ball-gathering.
And with that, we reach the end of all of Dig Deep’s mechanics. You dig deep, you gather, you spaff your balls on workers, and you unlock more lucrative holes – in which you can gain greater cash for your efforts.
Oh, but we lie: there is also the joy of co-op, as two people can partake. It has its quirks, including limiting mechanics to certain players – you can’t purchase unlocks as player two, use power-ups immediately as player one, and only player one can have pets – but it does bring a camaraderie to the grind. We trained our daughters up to become a sweatshop for balls, getting them hooked on the grind so that we could come back later and find statues constructed in our honour.
In many ways, you could don a beret and say that Dig Deep is about the folly of capitalism. No matter how hard you work, and how far you dig, there is no bottom. If you get out, there’s just another pit to fall into. It’s all very Nietzchian.
As a game, though, it’s a difficult sell. If you’re interested in things like ‘gameplay’, ‘variety’ and ‘fun’ then you might want to steer clear of Dig Deep. This is an endless inverted ladder, where you keep traveling further and further down in the hunt for gold. It’s not much more than a spreadsheet magicked into a game, and that’s going to dissuade about, ooh, ninety percent of potential players.
But we happen to be in the remaining ten percent who like a bit of idle gaming. There’s a deadly addiction on offer here, should you wish to inject it directly. It’s entirely possible to find yourself catatonically gathering balls, nodding your head to the incessant audio track, and strategising about the fastest way to clear a 5×5 grid.
But even when we were in its idle clicker thrall, we couldn’t help but feel the yawning, encroaching void. Dig Deep isn’t good for us – yet the balls keep beckoning us back.