Dig Dug: Digging Strike
Reviewed by Michelle Thurlow
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-12-19 Nintendo DS Namco

Need some help with the game? Check out our Dig Dug strategies and item locations guide!

In a premise fit for a Jerry Springer episode, Taizo Hori, the original "hero of the Dig Dug incident" twenty-three years ago, has been feeling rather unappreciated lately. And all because his whippersnapper son Susumu (that's "Mr. Driller" to you) has been gadding about, saving New York from imminent disaster and stealing the celebrity spotlight from his old man, rendering the latter more obsolete than a horse and buggy in a parking lot.

But fortunately for Taizo, while Susumu has been wasting time vainly posing for photographs and negotiating product endorsements, ferocious monsters have invaded the multi-island nation of Horinesia, thus allowing Hori, Sr. the opportunity once again to save the day and relume his flickering star of fame. Though rescuing the oppressed people of Horinesia from malevolent ogres is Taizo's main priority in accepting the mission, to be sure.

The dual screen nature of Nintendo's handheld is used very intelligently in Dig Dug. The upper display offers players a topographical view of the island, permitting them to note exactly where the mad, hysterical boss is flailing his scaly extremities at any given point on the map. Keeping an eye on the location of your opponent at all times is imperative to being able to lure him onto disintegrating tracts of the island, thus sending him and all of his be-tentacled nastiness into the murky depths Titanic-style.

But how to collapse the island, you ask? That's where Taizo's adventures underground on the DS's lower screen come in to play. For some inexplicable reason, large imposing stakes have been driven into the ground at strategic points on the island's geography. Your objective as Taizo is to dig beneath these posts in a zig-zag pattern until they embed firmly into the earth and cause fault lines to form on the island's surface. Successfully aligning these perforations will cause parts of the land mass to crumble into the drink, hopefully along with the boss and other baddies who roar and shake at you with impotent rage as they meet their watery dooms.

There is a surprising amount of depth to this title despite its rather simple gameplay premise. Each time players clear a stage, for example, they are treated to a cut-scene wherein Susumu congratulates his father for defeating the foe and gives him advice on how to conquer the next phase of the game--a graphical goody barely unheard of in the majority of puzzle offerings of today. Additionally, perfectionists will enjoy returning to previous levels after they have beaten the game to excavate for weapon upgrade items and undiscovered dinosaur fossils. A versus option also gives Dig Dug further replay value.

On the downside, however, there are some control issues with the game that warrant mention. Anyone who has ever played another Namco classic - Ms. Pac-Man on the Super Nintendo - is familiar with the gameplay experience I am referring to. In both cases, the CPU seems slow on the draw to recognize input commands from the hardware's directional pad, which is to say that character control is fairly slippery at times. Just like in Ms. Pac-Man, I found myself pressing left on the D-pad long before I actually intended to turn that way to ensure I would correctly navigate Taizo in that direction. Failing to do so often sent me squarely into the beeline of the lethal dragon breath of a very grumpy Fygar.

In the end, this is a game that both newbies and consumers with a retro fetish will dig. Those who bother to scratch beneath the surface of its uncomplicated twitch mechanics will soon discover a depth to the title that the developer is known for.

Special thanks to Kit Ellis and Namco for providing a copy of this title.