Mr. Drill Dig Dog Downwell.
The simplicity of Dig Dog is what drew me to it. With a plain yet appealing aesthetic, this quirky roguelike bakes in digging concepts from games like Dig Dug and Mr. Driller to create a distinct and enjoyable adventure through various procedurally-generated levels. Some aspects of it are a little rough around the edges, but the overall charm makes up for any major miscues.
Your digging is explained by the fact you control a dog hunting for a bone. The good pup can dig down, jump around, and perform a mid-air dash attack. Enemies litter the screen and can be defeated to potentially drop coins. Find the bone, usually near the bottom of the vertical level, and move on to the next stage. After a few levels, you move to a different locale with progressively more challenging baddies and obstacles. It follows a similar pattern of roguelikes like Spelunky and Downwell.
Dig Dog actually echoes Downwell a whole lot, especially with unlockable color palettes that work much in the same way, doing little more than tweaking the simple colors and invoking nostalgia. Controls are a little more fidgety. The dash attack must be done in the air and the length is often hard to judge; I often wound up losing health due to the looseness of the dash. This ability is my main bone to pick with the whole game. The brusque design of the procedurally-generated levels combined with the relatively low amount of starting health (two hits and you’re a goner) demands a lot of the player, so having your most powerful space-clearing move be so finicky leads more to frustration than reward. Thankfully, jumping and digging feel great and capture the joy of clearing out areas and exploring, so much so that that is basically the reasoning for the easy mode.
The easy mode is meant to just be a gentle stroll through the levels, with not much in the way of progression or complication, whereas the harder mode is a terse challenge with little room for error. Restarting after death is quick, though, and you can build up coins to unlock power-ups on your runs. After finding enough bones in later worlds, you can unlock warps directly to those areas, albeit you’ll start with less accrued coinage and fewer powers. Unfortunately, the power-ups feel a little half-baked; their names aren’t always clear as to their outcome, and I only found out what most of them did by experimentation and abrupt failure. Most of them didn’t benefit me as much as I hoped they would for their relative cost.
Dig Dog is effective in how straightforward it is. You’re a dog. You dig. Go get those bones and survive. Part of me wishes the experience were smoother and more polished, but I also appreciate how raw Dig Dog feels. It’s messiness is more endearing because of the killer hook, distinctive art, and memorable soundtrack. This might not be a long-lasting game, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s just a doggy digging.