(Originally published May 10, 2019)
Imagine if Taizo Hori, Mr. Dig Dug himself, had a dog he took on adventures with him. Dig Dog would be said dog. Mixing the playstyles of Dig Dug and Spelunky; Dig Dog is a fun little game to pick up and play in short bursts as you delve into the ground in search of your bones.
I discovered Dig Dog listening to the Player One Podcast and Chris Johnston bringing this game up. Hearing him discuss how developer Rusty Moyher created the game was enough for me to support him. To sum it up, Moyher has an injury that restricts the time spent using keyboards or mice. To create Dig Dog, he used a program that allowed him to code a game by speaking through a microphone. For the art, he attached a reflective piece to a hat, and using a camera to register the reflector, would use his head as a means to control the cursor. I was willing to purchase the game to support that level of work, and fortunately, the game is great to boot.
Dig Dog is not a particularly complex game. Getting around is a simple button press although it is possible to rocket forward (though it’s a little finicky) as well destroying more in your wake. The goal is to reach a special bone at the end of each level that propels you upwards destroying everything in your path as it takes you to the stage. Each section is relatively short and not very deep, and while that may turn off some players looking for more challenge, it works well to jump in and jump out of relatively quickly. In the event you keep dying, Dig Dog will eventually open warp shortcuts to the later stages. They aren’t immediate as you have to visit them a few times before they unlock, but it’s a good way to open up later levels while still requiring them to get there in the first place.
Enemies will try to take you out as well in each level. As you progress, the variety of enemies increases along with the sheer number of them. This leads to stressful moments if you find yourself trapped in a tunnel or trying to maneuver around many at one time. Most can be defeated by stomping on top of them, and doing several in a row without touching the ground can lead to combos. Higher combos can lead to coin rewards.
One thing I found disappointing in the game was the shop. Like Spelunky, there is a shopkeeper in levels that will sell you special upgrades in return for coins. Unfortunately, I found myself avoiding these as they disn’t add much to the gameplay. One may allow you to grab ledges while another may shoot a projectile using your collected coins. They feel unneccesary, and knowing what they could potentially add to the game (ala Spelunky) feels like a lost opportunity.
The shop items aren’t the best thing to get though. The more bones you collect inevitably leads to unlocking different color palettes the same way one could do in a game like Downwell. I enjoy seeing the variety in how the game looks, though it takes time acclimating to certain color changes. For instance, some enemies may carry hearts to heal Dig Dog while others carry coins. These enemies are noticeable based on their color. So while an enemy carrying a coin may have yellow to their eyes, it may appear teal in another color palette. Something to pay attention to when you do switch colors.
Dig Dog does feature an easy mode that works well in checking things out. Levels are laid out differently such as less gaps and feature fewer enemies but I found myself growing bored with it as I plowed through it. I can imagine my son having a good time in this mode though knowing some of the challenge that would come in the regular outing.
Dig Dog may not be as deep of an experience as other games of its ilk, but it still proves itself to be a fun game that looks and runs great at a cheap price. It has things it could do to improve (better upgrades and thrusting control), but I would be lying if blasting into space or repeatedly pressing the bark button didn’t put a smile on my face. There’s a good chance it could put one on yours too.
Score: 4 out of 5
-Written by Josh Miller