I love Dig Dug. Somehow, Namco's 1980s arcade game has stuck with me over the years, managing to hold its own against these newfangled console games and their photo-realistic graphics. There's just something about its simplicity and slowly ramping challenge level that makes it perfect in my eyes. If it was up to me, they'd never mess with the formula.
They've messed with the formula. Dig Dug has been revived for an iPhone game, now titled Dig Dug Remix. Both the game and the controls have been remixed in this update with the addition of new levels, art, music and controls. In other words, they took my favorite game, changed everything, and took away the buttons to control it with. Excuse the pun, but it's hard to get pumped up about a game with so many changes to an already good formula.
Dig down lower to read our review of Dig Dug Remix.
Dig Dug Remix (iPhone)
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Released: March 5, 2009
The basic game play idea has not changed in Remix. You'll still control Dig Dug, a guy who likes dirt and squiggly harpoon pumps. You'll tunnel underground and find enemies to pump up and explode, making for the most inefficient form of pest control ever. To let your hands rest from pumping, you can still clear tunnels for rocks to fall, with good timing letting you squash enemies instead.
What has changed is the control. As the iPhone lacks a d-pad, Namco Bandai lets you choose between a virtual on-screen d-pad or a screen flicking control scheme. Sadly, neither do the original game justice. For me, the real thrill of Dig Dug is finding yourself in situations where you'll just barely escape, putting your skills of timing and pre-planning to good use. Unfortunately, due to the lack of precise control, you never really find your way out of these hairy situations in Remix. What would normally be a close call ends up being another death.
The screen flicking control lets you gesture on the screen in the direction in which you wish to move. It's only responsive enough to seem adequate for the first dozen or so levels. Past that, it seems like your failures can be blamed on the poor reaction time of the game. The virtual d-pad is a slightly better solution. As you lack tactile feedback, on-screen arrows help by giving you visual feedback on what direction you're pressing. This works well for moving straight lines or even reversing directions. Sadly, 90 degree turns never happen fast enough, and you often end up walking around your target instead of hitting it.
The game features bot the original 250+ levels of Dig Dug as well as a separate, shorter remixed game. The original game looks great, though you can tell that the porting work was a quick job. It seems like they took another version of the game and simply shrunk it down to fit the iPhone's screen. Illegible lines of text above and below the playing field look like leftovers from another game, far too small and blurry to read.
The remixed game is played in landscape mode, and sports fresh graphics and sound, as well as new enemies, bosses, and powerups. This update has five levels that each end in boss fights. These bosses require a bit more thinking than just simply pumping and popping. For example, the second level's boss is a mining ant that cannot be pumped. You'll have to drop heavy objects on it several times to take it down. With a slower pace and more room to move, the remixed game is more forgiving to your control mistakes. It's too bad that this same aspect makes the game too easy. The remixed game can be finished on a lunch break.
It feels like Namco Bandai did all they could to wedge a Dig Dug game onto the iPhone. Sadly, their efforts fall just short of success. While the remixed game is playable and somewhat enjoyable with either control scheme, the original title becomes a chore after awhile. The asking price of $5.99 is not bad for what is essentially two games, but I feel like only one of the two is worth your time. It's sad, but for the first time, I don't dig Dig Dug.
Score: 5 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
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