While SteamWorld Dig is the second entry in a versatile series of steampunk video games, it was the first that caught my attention. In part, because it has appeared on every major platform since in debuted on the Nintendo 3DS in August 2013; and for good reason, it turns out. The mining gameplay bears a resemblance to the classic Namco games Dig Dug and Mr. Driller, but Gothenburg, Sweden-based Image & Form Games were able to carve out a unique identity for SteamWorld Dig by elaborating upon the basic gameplay foundations introduced in those games. Continue reading SteamWorld Dig [Nintendo 3DS] – Review→
For all intents and purposes, this is a review of Namco Museum Vol. 3 for the PlayStation, bearing in mind I’ve played it twice for about an hour total. That being said, I’m confident in knowing what it has to offer based on prior experiences with most of the compiled games. After a fruitful evening of game hunting with a friend, this is the title I subjected us to. Well, that’s what he may describe the experience as but for me, someone who relishes the opportunity to play just about any game, it was an entertaining romp through the past. Considering this is a compilation that only contains six games, it proved to highlight a strong selection of Namco’s arcade lineage.
This, the third installment of the Namco Museum series on the PlayStation, was originally released stateside in early 1997. Most sources point to Now Production handling the development/porting with Namco publishing it here. As mentioned, six arcade games are included: Galaxian, Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position II, Dig Dug, Phozon, and The Tower of Druaga. Most readers are likely familiar with all but the last two, but the weight is definitely carried by the headliners. Regardless, these are all arcade-faithful ports and the package is buoyed by a virtual museum to walk through, highlighting low resolution scans of the games’ original Japanese marketing materials (plus an entertaining introduction video!).
Of the games included, I’m most familiar with Ms. Pac-Man. That was one of the go-to Super Nintendo games in my household growing up. Heck, even my mom played it with us! She’s actually the reason we had it since she was familiar with the arcade release and knew it’d be more family friendly than say the copy of Killer Instinct that came bundled with our console. The version on display in this compilation is the arcade version, so it’s limited on features compared to the Super Nintendo port I’m used to. Nonetheless, Ms. Pac-Man is a riveting game with or without any bells or whistles. In fact, when my friend and I played, this game in particular sparked a bit of a high score competition.
I was first introduced to Dig Dug through its Xbox Live Arcade release, although I’ve played much more of the Mr. Driller series. A single-screen action game like most of the other games on this compilation, Dig Dug sees players assuming the role of the eponymous Dig Dug (also known as Taizo Hori) as he digs underground in order to defeat the wandering Pookas and Fygars. This can be easily done by exploding them with an air pump, although strategically dropping rocks on them can result in chained kills and extra points. Defeating them further down also yields more points. It’s a straight-forward action game but as described, there’s ways to wring strategic elements from the game to promote score-chasing.
Galaxian is perhaps most succinctly described as a combination of Space Invaders and Galaga. It was, after all, Namco’s heavily inspired attempt at a Space Invaders game and the predecessor to the much improved Galaga. That’s not to say that this isn’t a worthy game in its own right. Namco took the Space Invaders formula and expanded upon it incrementally by designing more aggressive enemies… and adding color. Damn, Galaga is so much better… Destroying the waves of enemies still remains challenging but after the first wave, players will have seen pretty much everything they’re going to see.
Like Galaxian, there’s little to say about Pole Position II. It’s a solid racing game and it runs beautifully although nothing differentiates it from the hundreds of racing games available throughout the 1980s; it’s still a precedent setter. That leaves me with Phozon and The Tower of Druaga. This compilation represented the North American debut of Phozon as it never left Japan when it was released in 1983. I didn’t particularly care for it, although the pseudo-3D rendering of the antagonist looked good. Forgoing the game’s unique verbiage, players control an atom and collect drifting molecules aiming to recreate the shape displayed before each stage. A sole enemy is almost always present and a life is lost if it connects with the player’s atom. Essentially, recreate shapes while playing cat and mouse.
Finally, there’s The Tower of Druaga. From the title alone this one sounds epic and it was understandably inspired by Middle Eastern mythology. Controlling the hero Gilgamesh, players are tasked with rescuing Ki from said tower. This plays out across 60 floors of mazes with each floor hosting a locked exit, a key, as well as enemies and treasure. Again, this is a pretty straight-forward game whose difficulty continually increases. I wasn’t able to get too far into the tower but one tip I can share is to hold the attack button. With it held, Gilgamesh keeps his sword drawn and can walk into enemies to defeat them. A marked improvement on simply swinging the sword, trust me.
With there being so many Namco Museum titles nowadays, it’s hard to recommend this one over the more comprehensive collections for newer consoles. Still, at the right price, this is worth snatching up. I have multiple Namco compilations but $0.99 for a loose copy was too good to pass up. I will say I was surprised by the museum content, I wasn’t expecting that and don’t recall similar information in the newer compilations. And that darn introduction video really got me jazzed up too! If anything, I’ll keep my eyes peeled on the other PlayStation Namco Museum releases in the hopes of getting more of that content, if the price is right.
Lastly, here is a video that my friend and I recorded while playing this game. The best part by far is the Ms. Pac-Man competition which commences about halfway through and runs to the end of the video. It’s not very serious, but I still won, and that’s what counts.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits. It’s a game about digging to the bottom of sometimes infinite voids, and while it isn’t packed with enough content to fill the void left by major releases, its fast-paced gameplay and moments of surviving by just an inch are apt enough to fill the void in between other things.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is an action/puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. It was developed and published by Namco and released on November 30, 2004, about a week after the DS was released.
A spiritual successor of sorts to the arcade game Dig Dug, my objective was to dig deep. I had to dig through rocks shaped like squares and composed of different colors. I needed to be careful so the rocks wouldn’t drop on me while also keeping an eye out for oxygen tanks as I had a limited supply of oxygen. The gameplay was easy to grasp, tough to master, and fast-paced; I found it very fun.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is light on content. There are three single player modes and they’re just slightly different from each other. Mission driller is the primary mode; here I was tasked to dig through increasingly deeper stages and was rewarded with minimal amounts of conversation and unlockable characters. In pressure driller mode I had to escape an enormous driller while also attacking it with ammunition I had to pick up and then fire at it. The third single player mode was a time attack mode where I had to complete stages as quickly as possible.
The game also has multiplayer, but it requires each person to have a copy of the game so that was out of the question for me. Its gameplay is easy to grasp and it can get frantic so I would’ve liked the option for single-cart multiplayer to try it out, but it’s not present.
The single player modes were challenging. It was easy for me to complete the early levels in the modes, but I needed to evolve my techniques to make headway, something I had a hard time doing. I gather the ideal way to play Mr. Driller is to zigzag through the stages. Doing this makes it easier to gather pickups and prevents rocks from falling onto my character as they would join with rocks of the same color or get caught on other rocks. I had to train myself to dig horizontal when my inclination was to dig vertical.
I liked Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits’ gameplay. It was simple and fast-paced, but it became very challenging. I was able to complete the game, but I found little reason to play afterwards. I could play as other characters and get different conversations, but that wasn’t that appealing. I did find the gameplay enticing enough to play post completion just competing for higher scores however. It’s fun while it lasts and it’s fun to play afterwards for small chunks of time and with complete copies selling for five bucks on the internet that sounds like a good deal.