Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dig Dug: Digging Strike

(Title screen.)

If you played arcade games back in the 80's, you'll remember Dig Dug. It was one of the more captivating games at the time, and you could usually spend up to an hour on one quarter at it if you got good enough. The concept was simple: you play a guy with an air pump who is digging underground to defeat the creatures there. Hitting the creature with the air hose and pumping it 3 times would make it pop, although you got more points for digging under a boulder and letting that squash several monsters at a time. Clearing the stage let you go on to the next one, while being touched, crushed or hit by flame would cause you to lose a life. You got extra lives at various point levels.

(Taizo Hori, in the story portion of the game.)

Dig Dug: Digging Strike (Namco, 2005) is a Nintendo DS sequel to the original Dig Dug, and features a crossover from Mr. Driller. You play Taizo Hori, hero from the first game, who's upset because your son, Driller, is getting all the media attention. You're given the opportunity to save the island nation of Horinesia from monsters living underground, which you leap at. The goal is to dig holes under the orange and blue spikes in order to cause the part of the island occupied by the boss monster to break off into the sea, while avoiding or popping the minor monsters. The storyline portion of the game goes up to level 12. After that, another group of levels opens up, and you have the opportunity to replay the earlier levels to unlock 3 more secret levels. (Each level has a certain number of "fossil" parts, and if you get all of them, the next higher secret level is unlocked).

During the storyline, you only face 3 or 4 types of minor creatures, and all that really changes is the underground map layout. There is a strategy in deciding which spikes to drive into the ground and if the boss avoids drowning when you run out of stakes, you have to restart the level. After the storyline is completed, the first 12 levels become harder with the introduction of new minor monster types (sticky tar spitters, snakes and armored rollers).

(Dig holes under the blue spikes so they can reach the floor of the level.)

The main game play is almost exactly like the original arcade game, so there is that nostalgia value to it. Unfortunately, the game only gets saved automatically when you beat the stage boss, and it can take 2 hours to do that. So, if you just want a quick 15-minute game, that may not be possible, and turning the DS off in the middle will cause you to lose the items, tool parts and fossils you've discovered in the meantime. This isn't a game for simply killing a few minutes. On the plus side, you can get extra lives by finding SP icons, and you can replay easier stages to get as many SPs from that stage as you like, meaning that getting a Game Over because you got killed off one too many times really isn't an issue.

There are mini-games, such as dropping a weight from a helicopter onto a spike, flying a plane and shooting a stage boss, or roulette for extra tool parts or lives at the end of a stage. For the most part, though, they don't seem very fun to me. I have finished the storyline stages, and all three of the higher hidden stages of the first map. Completing the storyline opens up an identical second map with the same 15 stages, but some different monsters. I've gotten all the fossil parts, and several of the major tools, and I'm just now figuring out how to use completed tools. The only "mini-game" that has been at all worth playing was the heli-screwdriver, which lets you change the direction of a crack from N-S to E-W and vice versa. In fact, to beat map 1 stage 15, you need to realign ALL of the stakes so as to sink the entire center of the island, so the screwdriver is required for that. Unfortunately, the game locked up on me the first time I was on stage 15, so I had to recycle power and start it over again - that was no fun.

I picked up this game from the 1,000 yen ($10) bin at Bic Camera, where they're trying to unload stuff that isn't selling anymore. For $10 (which, in Japan is cheap), Digging Strike is worth the money.

Sidenote: I grabbed several games all at the same time, including a second copy of the Korg DS-10+ synthesizer emulator. There's a new version out now, but I think that the 10+ is a steal at $10, and if I ever get a second Nintendo DS, I'll use it for an interactive 2-instrument jam session.

Also in the used games section at Bic, but still too expensive to justify buying right now, were: A Urusei Yatsura RPG ($15), a Lupin III puzzle quiz game ($20), and another Korg emulator, this one for the M-01 for $50. Given the prices for the M-01 used on Amazon ($60 to $180), I may buy it just so that no one else does.

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