Skip navigation

Dig-Dug


Continuing a steadfast path to endless arcade stagnation, Namco brings Dig-Dug to Xbox Live Arcade with very few additions to the game. The single player game is identical to the classic and there is no multiplayer add-on to speak of. In fact, the only multiplayer feature is the fairly standard Xbox Live leaderboard to compare progress against the rest of the world. The game suffers from overdependence on the feeling of nostalgia from its players and certainly won't shoot up the sales charts, like the recently released Doom.

Gameplay:
For anyone unfamiliar, Dig-Dug is game of elimination. The game board is filled with enemy pookas (tomatoes with eyes) and fygars (fire-breathing dragons). These creatures have the ability to hone into your position and move anywhere on the board, even through solid ground. As the player controlled driller (Dig Dug) moves through the rubble, there are two ways to kill the enemies; rocks and the air pump. A falling rock is put into motion when the ground underneath the rock is loosened. Assuming the timing is correct, the rock can easily take out chasing enemies. The air pump blows up a creature until it explodes and takes 4 pumps to reach maximum capacity. Dig Dug cannot move when pumping, so choosing the correct time to take out an enemy is crucial. Points are awarded for digging tunnels, specific kill types, and bonus fruit that pops up after two rocks are loosened. Overall, it was a unique game for its time and still holds a modicum of gameplay value today.

Controlling the driller is simple beyond all measure. Directional movement is controlled by the left thumbstick and the air pump is shot out by the green A button. The controls are responsive, but quick actions are not rewarded within the game. Players new to the game will have to adapt to the framed areas which restrict movement to a certain grid. Switching directions can be a chore without proper knowledge of the system's limitations. Also, there is a helpful game guide accessible through the menu which offers excellent control tips.

The options screen contains a few changes to the starting structure, but nothing very appealing. The number of lives can be reduced from three down to one, but not increased. The frequency at which lives are awarded through the point system can be altered to slightly help your character, but most of the choices are for increasing the difficulty. Similar to the other Namco titles, altering the default settings will strike your high score from the leaderboard. Also, there are no options to revert visuals or audio; which means they changed little to nothing.

The achievements are split into twelve tasks that dish out 200 gamerscore points. The single player tasks are entirely too simple and can be racked up within the first few hours of play. Similar to Pac-Man, the fruit collection achievements can be earned by starting on any level. Other achievements include smashing 2 or 4 enemies with a rock and clearing out the dirt on an entire game board. Once again, Namco fails to take advantage of the replay value that a quality achievement structure offers. Of course, achievement whores will rejoice at the simplicity.

Graphics:
Essentially a clone of Pac-Man, the visuals are nearly identical in quality. The classic look has been only slightly updated for high definition. The more esthetically pleasing portion of the screen is actually the vividly colorful background on both sides of the game board. Similar to the menu screens, the throwback to painted arcade machines is evident. The vector graphics are sharp and much more attractive than the actual game board. The game runs at a smooth frame rate, but shows its age to a great extent. While much more beautiful arcade creations available over Live, it's always disappointing to see developers avoid nearly all visual upgrades to such a popular classic game.

Audio:
The menus are silent, with the exception of the clicking sound effects. There is no music to speak of within the game beyond the level-opening tune when the driller is getting into position. All of the classic sounds have been preserved in their original form. Driller movement, dragon's fire spouts, and blowing up enemies all sound wonderful to my ears; filled with nostalgia.

Conclusion:
Simply put, Dig-Dug isn't worth the 400 Marketplace points due to lack of upgrades and the simplicity to its completion. The majority of the Xbox Live community will be able to knockout the achievements in a couple hours. The only challenge left is competing for the top spot on the leaderboard. It's unfortunate to see another disappointing Namco title hit Xbox Live arcade, but I'm sure the community is starting to get wary to their pension for run-of-the-mill ports. Gamerscore junkies are the only acceptable consumers for this title. The remainder of the Xbox Live community should stick with Doom for a bit longer.