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SteamWorld Dig 2 Is A Charming Metroidvania With An Unbeatable Twist On Exploration

Into the depths.

key art from SteamWorld Dig 2
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What would happen if you took Dig Dug and turned it into a gorgeous, funny Metroidvania? You’d probably confuse a lot of people too young to even remember Dig Dug, but more importantly, you’d have SteamWorld Dig 2 on your hands. Released by Image & Form — now part of Thunderful — it’s an incredibly clever platforming about tunneling deep into the earth, and along with the original SteamWorld Dig, it’s now available on Xbox Game Pass.

If you haven’t played either game, it’s worth starting with the first one. SteamWorld Dig 2 is an improvement in basically every way, but it started from strong foundations. In the first title, you play as a robot miner who delves deep to uncover treasure for a struggling mining town while battling an underground threat in the process.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is an excellent Metroidvania with a subterranean twist.

The second game picks things back up, just with the volume turned up on everything. In both games, you dig tunnels using a pickaxe or a water-powered drill to reach ever deeper levels. Your goal on each subterranean trip is to gather valuable treasure that you can trade for upgrades once you get back to town. On its own, that’s a satisfying enough loop to sustain players’ attention for a long time, but what makes the SteamWorld Dig great is how they take what could be a simple catchy repetitive formula and turn it into something with far more personality.

The SteamWorld series has a signature quirky sense of humor. Mining for resources can get boring after a while, but taking plenty of breaks to chat with a cast of bizarre robot characters helps make going back under again and again a more worthwhile experience.

The first SteamWorld Dig changes the layout of its massive underground world each time you explore it, leaning into its innately replayable concept. One big innovation for the sequel is that SteamWorld Dig 2 is a full-on Metroidvania platformer, with a static map that you can only progress through by unlocking upgrades. As fun as it is to have a new environment to see with each run in SteamWorld Dig, being able to slowly work your way through a persistent underground world and expand your path each time you dig makes each journey feel more meaningful. And since everything you encounter down there was placed intentionally rather than procedurally generated, the game can get much more complex.

You spend a lot of time digging in the dirt in SteamWorld Dig 2, but it’s more fun than it sounds.

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Both SteamWorld Dig games put enemies in your path — from tunneling insects to mutated humans — but fighting them isn’t the focus. Combat is basic in both games, which put their attention much more on traversal in exploration. SteamWorld Dig 2 leans into that even harder than its predecessor, again benefiting from its more intricate world design.

At its core, SteamWorld Dig 2 is about the simple, satisfying feeling of digging deeper. The essence of the Metroidvania genre is finding a part of the map that’s closed off to you, growing strong enough to open a path, then returning to find out what’s behind that previously locked door. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a masterful version of that loop, with upgrades to your tools both opening new paths and making it easier to move through the world. A more powerful drill can punch through otherwise impassable rock, but it can also chew through softer terrain at speed, so you can zoom through areas that once took a lot of work just to get through.

SteamWorld Dig 2’s buried dungeons are packed with danger and secrets.

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There are more good platformers in the world than anyone could play in one lifetime, but it’s worth making space for SteamWorld Dig 2. It excels as a Metroidvania thanks to its satisfying upgrade loop and interesting levels, but it also puts a spin on the subgenre you won’t find anywhere else.

The need to tunnel through dirt to progress means you’re making your own paths the whole way through, essentially deciding the shape of its dungeons. From that gameplay twist come plenty of inventive strategies, like excavating the ground beneath an enemy to send them tumbling into an abyss or dropping bombs on them from above. And between those long, lonely exploration sessions, there’s always a home base to return to, full of charming mechanical characters.

SteamWorld Dig 2 might not blow your mind, but it’s an incredibly fun platformer that knows exactly how much to stick to genre conventions and how much to break them. It’s free now on Xbox Game Pass, and on sale on Steam for a measly $2.99 until July 11. With SteamWorld Heist II launching in just over a month, picking up SteamWorld Dig 2 is a great way to get acquainted with the quirky personality of the multi-genre SteamWorld series.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC, and included with Xbox Game Pass.

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