By Ofisil 19.04.2017
"They don't make video games like they used to." Correct? No, as people generally tend to remember an era's few greats, while forgetting about the hundreds of mediocre or just plain bad ones. It's truly remarkable, however, how the rest have stood the test of time, even after three whole decades, and in an industry as demanding as this, rightfully earning the label 'Classic;' like Pac-Man, Tetris, Bubble Bobble… Games that even those as far from the medium as possible probably know of; games that remain relevant even to this day. There's one member of this small family, though, that, while definitely a classic, is relatively unknown. 35 years after it first hit the arcades, Cubed3 takes a look at Dig Dug to see if it still has what it takes.
Like all those great coin munchers of the distant past, Dig Dug has a concept that's easy to describe in a few sentences, and yet, managing to last for more than a few levels can turn out to be quite the feat. Yes, Namco's creation is as hard as would be expected from an arcade title, but, thankfully, it never feels like it needs something more than skill (AKA a deep wallet) to survive it. Just like Pac-Man and Tetris, if you can win, then you will win.
What about the aforementioned concept, though? Well, here it is: a man (or something) in a spacesuit must dig through the earth in order to kill a bunch of dangerous critters. With guns? No, silly. Guns are for dorks. Real men (or something) prefer to destroy all opposition by sticking a hose down their hole, pumping them full of air, and blowing them up - and if you thought the previous sentence sounded sexy, you are on the wrong site.
Yes, Dig Dug is simple, yet that hasn't stopped a certain yellow fellow from making ends meet by eating pellets and avoiding ghosts. Furthermore, like all great classics, this has a nice, unique character that separates it from the rest. While not as iconic as other golden oldies, the monsters look nice and cute, and the way the soil's layers are coloured differently depending on the depth looks pretty good. Minimalistic? Sure, but that's part of its charm.
Gameplay-wise, the protagonist basically digs all over the place, trying to get close to some gaps in the ground where the monsters dwell, kills them all, and then happily moves on to the next level, where enemies will either increase in number, speed, or both. Additionally, enemies will soon start passing through the soil like ghosts, and chase the player all over the place, forcing you to handle larger groups of foes, which is one of the main techniques one must master here.
Generally, and as mentioned before, this is all about skill. Of course, being an arcade title and all, it soon gets repetitive, as the main source of entertainment stems from chasing a higher score, which requires doing far more than just completing stages, like killing multiple monsters by throwing rocks on them, or blowing them up in the lowest possible layer. In conclusion: not the most complex of video games, but a very entertaining one.
Oh, and the way the cartoony music only plays while the hero moves remains charming to this day.
Dig Dug never stood on the highest step of the pedestal, and yet it remains a shining example of what the great arcades of old were all about: simplicity, challenge, and lots and lots of fun. Sure, some better, upgraded versions of Namco's silver classic have come out since its first appearance, but the original has still got it.