Tag Archives: mr driller

FGC #616 Axiom Verge & Axiom Verge 2

This article contains spoilers for Axiom Verge and Axiom Verge 2. We go hard on Axiom Verge, but Axiom Verge 2 spoilers are considered to be “light”. That said, if you want to go into either game “clean”, you have been warned…

Very moodyFear. Isolation. Losing your very sense of self. Learning that you may be becoming a threat to yourself and others. Having an unstoppable magic gun that allows you to function as a God.

Which one of these doesn’t fit?

Axiom Verge is easily one of the best metroidvania titles of the last decade. For that matter, it is one of the best games, period, of all time. But its place in time is important, as much of Axiom Verge relies on an understanding from both the author and the audience of many games that have come before. Metroid was amazing and arguably kicked off the metroidvania (hey, it’s right there in the title) genre, but it was also a glitchy mess. Mario had one minus world, Metroid had an entire planet’s worth of areas that could be discovered if you jumped off of a doorway the “wrong” way. Axiom Verge uses this concept to create “intended glitches” in the form of breach blocks, unique areas, and even enemies that all rely on the visual shorthand of “oh, this area is fudged”. It takes what was already a pretty great planet explore ‘em up and transforms it into something simultaneously new and nostalgic. Axiom Verge is not the only game to utilize “glitches” and the shorthand of the medium itself to create memorable moments, but it might be the game that does so the most seamlessly and wittily. If Axiom Verge was just a dedicated metroidvania, it would be excellent, but its own unique flavor elevates it to something extraordinary.

Aim away from faceAnd, hey, as a special bonus, Axiom Verge has an interesting plot, too. You are Trace, a friendly scientist that was crippled in a lab accident a few years back. But he’s fine now! Because he was revived on an alien planet for the express purpose of committing the most complicated suicide known to man. “Your” Trace is a clone of a young man that would eventually become an interdimensional despot that conquered an entire planet and is at least partially responsible for releasing a plague that is wholly responsible for a genocide or two. Young Trace must now find and stop Old Trace, aka Athetos, and learn along the way that his own allies, the Rusalki, are maybe not the most reliable giant mechanoids in the omniverse. It creates tension from all sides of this tale, and the fact that the Rusalki are fond of reminding you that they can literally kill you at any time with a thought does not exactly engender a trust that you are on the right side of this conflict. Like many of the best metroidvania titles available, Axiom Verge has created a world where you feel alone not just because you’re stuck with only jumpy bugs for company, but because anything that can communicate in something other than screams is likely trying to kill you, too.

Except it is a little undercut by the fact that Axiom Verge seems to transform Trace into a friggin’ god.

Look, maybe I’m confused, and that is the point here. Trace is destined to become an unstoppable monster of a man, and maybe it was the Axiom Disrupter that got him there. Maybe that is the purpose of the exercise for Trace: absolute power corrupts, and absolute gun grants absolute power. But… that does not seem to be reinforced by Trace’s circumstances. When Trace wins the day, he is immediately betrayed by his Rusalki friend, and can only helplessly watch as promises are broken. Throughout the adventure, Trace attempts to show autonomy by resisting the violent nature of being a videogame protagonist, but, save one boss that forgot to lock the doors, Trace is forced to murder every mutant between his pod and freedom. There is even one “boss” that is just a soggy mess of altruistic protoplasm, but it’s gotta go, because it is in the way of a powerup. Over and over again, it is reinforced that Trace has no control over his own existence.

Drill away, tooBut Trace has seemingly unlimited control over everything else in his life. Trace starts with a basic peashooter, but it quickly graduates to something that can fire “bullets” that handle any situation. Somewhere in there, he acquires a drone that allows for nigh-invincible exploration (drones can die, but Trace doesn’t suffer any consequences), a grappling hook that improves traversal immensely, and something that could best be described as a “glitch gun”. That final item is particularly amazing, as even the most powerful enemy can be blasted through a wall until it has been glitched into a state of extreme vulnerability. And just when that glitch gun loses its luster, Trace acquires screen-impacting glitch bombs. And that is right about when Trace gains the ability to teleport to his own drones, so he can toss a lil’ buddy down a corridor, dodge every monster in the area, and then teleport to safety. Want to be the pacifist Trace always claims to be? Just drone around town and have a fun time!

And, ultimately, that is the problem. The reason Axiom Verge is great is, ultimately, because it is fun. And you don’t get to be fun by having a severely limited protagonist. It is fun to screw attack Zebes as Samus Aran, and it is fun to glitch, trick, and obliterate your mindless opponents in Axiom Verge. It is a blast to see a final area that initially seems daunting, but then gradually discover how to use your myriad of abilities to navigate the dangers without a single scratch. There is nothing more enjoyable than solving a series of logic puzzles, earning a flame thrower for your efforts, and then barbequing every problem you could ever encounter. Solving problems through variable violence might not be Trace’s bag, but it is irrefutably the most fun to be had on Sudra.

So is it even possible to have fun in a metroidvania without becoming ridiculously empowered and/or presenting a series of challenges that tax those ridiculous powers? Can the protagonist of a fun metroidvania be anything but a killing machine?

Gee, pretty convenient Axiom Verge 2 is right there.

This is a terrible placeIn a lot of ways, Axiom Verge 2 repeats Axiom Verge beats. Indra is a scientist-CEO that knows a thing or two about computer equipment, but not necessarily how to defeat a mecha-bug. She will get there, though, with the help of a number of powerups that upgrade her offensive and acrobatic abilities. And the ability to summon and/or be a drone, which is apparently a recurring thing! Dimension hopping will be involved, subduing someone that is maybe yourself is certainly on the menu, and, in the end, our heroine is going to toe the line between life and death as something wholly “other” from her original self. Every Axiom Verge protagonist dies at least once, apparently. If you took Trace through his metroidvania world, you’ll be perfectly comfortable with Indra bumping around a dimension or two in Axiom Verge 2. It’s a sequel! You’re back for more of the same, so there is a lot of “the same” here.

But where Axiom Verge 2 deviates wildly from its predecessor makes all the difference. Indra does not receive a magical gun at the start of her journey, she obtains something little more fantastical than a pickaxe. When Indra inevitably gains her first sufficiently-advanced-technology-is-indistinguishable-from-magic upgrade shortly thereafter, she gains exactly zero additional offensive options. From there, she gets… a boomerang. It worked for Link, right? Well, it barely works here, and, while Indra gains greater and greater abilities as her quest proceeds, she never comes close to gaining the same destructive strength as Trace. The shock droids of the first area are still just as likely to incapacitate Indra at the end of her adventure as the beginning, and the upgraded “boss” monsters… Well… probably best if you just keep walking, Indra. Ain’t nothin’ you can do to that mobile tank…

But, much more than in Axiom Verge, in Axiom Verge 2, that seems to be the whole point.

Big ol' boyThere is not a single boss in Axiom Verge that must be permanently killed. There are (by my count) two bosses you must actively/temporarily incapacitate, but every other opponent can be ignored. In fact, were it not for the generally claustrophobic halls of the Breach Dimension, it would likely be tremendously easier to beat Axiom Verge 2 by not attacking a single soul. Do you get rewards for smashing robots or felling alien fauna? A health power up here or there is your only prize, as any form of “leveling” is almost entirely based on exploration (there are, like, four upgrades out of a hundred you get from actual violence). Beyond that, you are never chastised for running, and a number of the biggest, scariest monsters will be content to lumber around the same room for eternity if you do not fell them. And why would you? For outright attacks, you have, at best, a cool sword. Ever try to take down a tree with a machete? And the tree is also trying to eat you? Well, it’s like that, so why would you put yourself in such danger? Just walk away, Indra!

Trace may have claimed to be something like a peacemaker, but he literally could not leave his first room without letting his weapon rip. Indra, meanwhile, may gain the (limited) power to be a thinking bomb, but she lives in a world where it is possible to only use that ability to open passageways. She gains similar glitch/hacking tech, but can use it exclusively to have enemies drop health powerups. Indra never becomes godlike in her abilities, and that is a good thing, because, in an exploration-based world, she actually has incentive to explore. Find those passageways! Discover all the ways a breach-attractor can get you out of trouble! Do it all for the possibility of not getting destroyed by a leering space head. You’ll thank me later!

And… that feels weird.

KABAMIn fact, it repeatedly feels wrong. I want to be gameplay-Trace, not plot-Trace. I want to roll around the planet with enough power to conquer said planet. I want the local rabble to fear my strength, because, dammit it feels good to be wholly in power. Hey, droid jet that is trying to kill me? I will hack you, embarrass you, and then kill you! Because I’m the best! But Indra can’t be the best. No matter how many upgrades you find on her world, she will never come close to being half as strong as Nintendo’s intergalactic bounty hunter. Indra is never going to be able to solve her problems with weaponry, because she will never find the weapons that would allow that. So, as a player, I am disappointed in her lack of laser boomerangs.

Yet, Axiom Verge 2 still winds up being one of the best games I have ever played. Axiom Verge 2 may actually be one of the best examples of gameplay-plot synergy out there. I genuinely believe Samus Aran is capable of being vulnerable around the space dragon that ate her parents… but it is harder to believe after I have seen her explode entire planets. Meanwhile, Indra is a mother, scientist, and CEO, and I believe this is how someone from those circumstances would become a powerful robot lady. Is she vastly changed by the end of her quest? Of course. But she also is not vaporizing space monsters with a cannon capable of melting mountains. She might be able to morph into a drone, but that doesn’t give her a leg up on swinging a sword. While this author doesn’t know anyone that became a cyborg while exploring another dimension, that progression seems right. Axiom Verge 2 might turn the typical Metroid paradigm on its head, but it feels like it gets there by an honest path.

But this is a videogame website, so we have to ask the question: which is better? We have two vaguely mundane protagonists, but only one wielding a god-gun. And which makes for a better game? Well, I am a wiener, so I am going to claim both. I want Axiom Verge, because I like mowing down monsters. But Axiom Verge 2 felt more genuine and thoughtful, so I suppose I can give up raw power for authenticity. Axiom Verge 2 initially disappointed me by not being Axiom Verge, but it seems like a game I might think back on more often than its progenitor.

… Or I’ll just grab a new weapon that doubles as a grappling hook, and forget those “feelings” things ever happened…

FGC #616 Axiom Verge & Axiom Verge 2

  • Zipping AroundSystem: Axiom Verge was released on everything relevant at its release (PS4, PC, WiiU, Xbox One, the friggen’ Vita), and a few extra systems since (Nintendo Switch). Axiom Verge 2 is currently on Switch, PC, and PS4, and I think a Playstation 5 version is incoming. Or it is just the PS4 version? Who the heck knows.
  • Number of players: Speed running against other players is kind of like competitive multiplayer, but it is primarily single player.
  • Just play the gig, man: The music in both games is incredible. And so is the pixel art, level design, and general plotting. But the music is really good! … Like everything else. Dammit.
  • Alone in the Dark: Okay, maybe my main “disappointment” with Axiom Verge 2 is that it uses dynamic lighting to create “dark” areas in early parts of the game. While it makes for an excellent, moody setting, I abhor any malady in a videogame that hampers the player’s sight. This also applies to status effects in Kingdom Hearts PSP titles, and any time Mario encounters a “dark” ghost house. I am having flashbacks to my college, tic-tac-sized TV screen. It’s traumatic!
  • A matter of skill: Also, I do not care for allocating “skill points” in Axiom Verge 2. This is a great way to take hold of your unique playstyle or something, but it mostly just gives me choice paralysis, and I never upgrade anything, because I assume I am going to get some awesome ability later in the game, and not have the scratch to buy its cooler version. And that happens! When you get a flying powerup super late in the game! Please go back to just dropping missile containers, please.
  • Just hanging outStory Time (super-duper spoilers): It is possible and very probable that the big connection between Axiom Verge and Axiom Verge 2 is that Indra of AV2 eventually becomes Ophelia the giant robot lady of Axiom Verge, thus making AV2 a prequel to Trace’s adventures. And there are a lot of little lore bits, too, like how your breach buddy can accidentally infect humans, and transform them into Axiom Verge bosses. Or it is all a bunch of coincidences in an infinite multiverse, and we should really just relax.
  • Favorite boss (first game): Never going to forget that Kraid wannabe that was peaking out of an acid pool in Axiom Verge. He might not have moved much, but he certainly was tall. And, sometimes, tall is all you need.
  • Favorite boss (second game): The “always revive every time” boss battle with yourself seemed to initially tease that you were both invincible, but having a respawn point right there added a special level of futility to the proceedings. Violence is not the answer! When everyone is immortal, at least…
  • Did you know? Okay, nothing in Axiom Verge 2 comes close to the hallucination sequence in Axiom Verge, so it is hard to admit that one game isn’t better than the other.
  • Would I play again: Yes. Duh. I was excited to have an excuse to play Axiom Verge again in time for Axiom Verge 2, and I will likely still think the same in five years when Axiom Verge 3 rolls around. Good stuff!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the Gameboy Advance! Get ready for the other little metal boy on the block! Please look forward to it!

Here it comes
Just go ahead and utilize that doomsday weapon for funsies

WW #12 Panty Party

Due to the subject matter of our posts this Monday & Friday, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. And this time, we’re hitting the ground running, so just a warning that we’re “too hot for Smash” already…

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mai Shiranui

FGC #490 Dig Dug

DIG! DUG!What is the soul of a videogame?

Today’s game is Dig Dug. What’s more, ROB has chosen the Atari 2600 version of Dig Dug. This makes a certain amount of sense, as this is the only “pure” version of Dig Dug in my collection. Why? Well, Dig Dug is probably a game that takes up a whole six bits of space, so practically every version of Dig Dug since 1985 has not been available as a “single” game, but part of some larger collection. And more’s the pity! Living compilation to compilation might be good for some of the most established games, like Pac-Man or Galaga, but it doesn’t do ol’ Dig Dug any favors. You’re going to play Dig Dug for five minutes, say “oh, this is where all those inflation fetishists got their start,” and then move on to the next game. When you’re playing Dig Dug on a compilation where you can finally find an answer to what the hell Pac & Pal is about, you’re going to skip right past the fygars.

Which is, unfortunately, a loss for anyone that enjoys the more complicated games of the “simple” arcade era. Dig Dug has a lot going on! Everyone is familiar with how you can pump up your opponents to popping proportions, but you’re also allowed the strategic kills through falling rocks. The OG Mr. Driller is drilling his way through the dirt, so he may as well use some dirt to his advantage! And, as demonstrated for anyone that ever stuck around to watch Dig Dug’s attract mode, there is more to pumping your opponents than meets the eye. Most consider the multiple action-button presses of sending a pooka to hell to be some manner of “number of hits” issue, but there’s strategy in blowing up these underground monsters. Any partially inflated adversary is immobile, and, more importantly, not a threat to Taizo Hori, so you’re welcome to walk (well, dig) right through ‘em. What does this mean? Well, you can partially inflate your prey, and then sneak along the edges to avoid the attacks of other rivals. Or fill up a few baddies, make sure they’re all deflating in a vertical line, and call down a rock to Burger Time them all into something resembling a pancake. Dig Dug has more options than you’d think, particularly for a game that features a scant four directions and one whole button.

He definitely puts some silly clown to shame.

Get 'emBut we’re not just talking about Dig Dug today, we’re talking about Dig Dug for the Atari 2600. This is not the first Atari port that has been covered on Gogglebob.com. We’ve seen the Kangaroo go from the arcade to your living room, but that was a situation where no one remembered the arcade version anyway, so who cares? We’ve seen Pac-Man make his way to the Atari, too, and that was an unmitigated disaster. And there was Mario Bros, which was probably the best anyone could ever expect of a Nintendo arcade game adapted to the 2600. But was it perfect? Absolutely not. The physics were just wrong (Mario doesn’t have any of his signature momentum in his movements), and the fireballs went from an occasional nuisance to an omnipresent threat. If you wanted a “kinda” Mario Bros experience, the Atari version was a fun time, but it was still a far cry from the subtle joys of the arcade original.

But Dig Dug for Atari 2600? Miraculously, in every way, this feels like Dig Dug.

And it’s easy to see why: everything is here. There may be only two monsters in Dig Dug, but they both showed up. They both function in the exact same way, and they both pop in the same satisfying manner. Rocks are there. The tunnels are familiar. And all the secrets of Hanzo’s favorite offense are preserved. This is Dig Dug. It might not have the finer graphics of the arcade edition, but, for a game that had to survive on the Atari, it is very much Dig Dug. Even a primitive attempt at the dirt gradient is here, complete with the different colors that appear on later levels. That means they actually expected someone to get past the third stage! That’s dedication and optimism!

Damn dragonsBut why does it work? Is it just because it’s a simple copy of the original? Because it looks close enough to the arcade style to be legitimate? Or is it something less tangible? Is it simply because this version of Dig Dug has the right “feel”?

And, to answer that question, we should look at two of Dig Dug’s sequels: Dig Dug 2, and Dig Dug Arrangement. Dig Dug 2 was released three years after the original Dig Dug, and attempted to build on Dig Dug’s initial gameplay by introducing wholesale island demolition to Dig Dug’s repertoire. Rather than puttering around underground, Taizo Hori is sticking to the sunlight this time, but still moving in the same general 4-directional manner. And rather than wholly relying on his trusty pump, he can now detonate parts of the playfield to sink multiple monsters in one destructive go. Does it wind up being a fun game? Yep! Destroying everything in an effort to quash a villain invasion is always a good time. But does it feel like the successor to Dig Dug? Not particularly. It’s certainly a sequel to Dig Dug, but it doesn’t quite feel like Dig Dug.

Arrange thisDig Dug Arrangement was released in 1996 as part of Namco Classics Collection Volume 2, a multi-game arcade cabinet. Competing for quarters against the OG and arranged versions of Pac-Man and Rally-X, this title saw Taizo return to underground pumping, but with a bevy of new monsters, levels, and even bosses. There are three whole islands, and they involve environments stretching from mundane cities to the moon. And the collection of new opponents is vulnerable to the same old actions, but there are a variety of new tricks and traps that can be employed against this parade of pests. And is it fun? Still, again, it is. But is it Dig Dug? Yes! Everything that is included isn’t some oblique slide to mine-laying or whatever was happening in Dig Dug 2, but Dig Dug taken to a more interesting dimension. It’s still four directions and one action button, but it’s also a game where detonating a robot will demolish the rest of your opponents, and discovering interesting ways to use that new technique is practically a game unto itself. A more appropriate title for the game might be Dig Dug Plus, as it feels like Dig Dug plus a whole lot of fun.

And that’s the best way to describe what makes a good Dig Dug: how it “feels”. It’s incredibly subjective, it’s nearly impossible to define, It's dark outbut how a game “feels” is as close as we can get to knowing the soul of a videogame experience. It’s not about the graphics or the frame rate or whether or not a character has enough cleavage (let’s face facts: Taizo is not showing enough skin in Arrangement), it’s about whether the game feels right. That’s the essence of a good game and a good port. It’s why Pac-Man Atari fails, and why Dig Dug Atari succeeds.

If it feels right, it touches the soul of the game, and that’s what makes for a happy player.

FGC #490 Dig Dug

  • System: We’re looking at the Atari version, but Dig Dug has been on practically every system ever made thanks to various compilations. It somehow missed the SNES, though.
  • Number of players: Probably one of those two player alternating Atari games, but one player is probably the right way to look at it.
  • Pooka or Fygar: Fygar scared me as a child, as you just never knew when those jerks were gonna toss off some atomic firebreath. Pookas, meanwhile, wear goggles. So you should know which is my favorite monster.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Dig Dug was one of the earliest games I ever played with “offensive options”, so I want to say Pooka was one of the first creatures, videogame or otherwise, that I ever instinctively murdered. The spree starts here!
  • OopsDid you know? Dig Dug Arranged has a two-player co-op mode, and both players share a score. That’s neat! It’s not competitive in any way! Everybody work together now.
  • Would I play again: Dig Dug is great arcade action. I might never try the Atari version again, but I’m sure I’ll hit the arcade version again on one of another six compilations.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Devil May Cry 3! That game is featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series! Please look forward to it!

FGC #103 Dig Dug: Digging Strike

DIG ITWhy not Dig Dug?

Dig Dug, aka Taizo Hori aka The Hero of the Dig Dug Incident, is… the… hero of Dig Dug. Damn, kind of wrote myself into a wall there. But that wouldn’t be a problem for Taizo (we’ll stick to his “real” name to distinguish the man from the game), whose drilling skills would take him straight through any wall, literary or otherwise. Taizo was the lone star of the original Dig Dug and Dig Dug 2, but he later burrowed himself into the Mr. Driller series as the father of the titular Mr. Driller, Susumu Hori. And since Dig Dug was released in 1982, Taizo is one of Namco’s oldest mascots.

And he gets no respect.

If it seems like I mention Smash Bros. in a lot of articles, it’s because I believe that series to be, essentially, the lavish awards show of Nintendo’s mascots. In the same way a movie critic may discuss last year’s best picture, I look at the main and supporting cast of Smash Bros. Fire Emblem is pretty popular this console cycle, let’s reward that series with seventeen new characters. Punch-Out!!! was a success… you’re in, Little Mac! Project Rainfall? Okay, let’s toss in a Shulk. Is it any coincidence that the principle “currency” in the Smash Bros. universe appears to be trophies? Being featured in Smash Bros., in almost any fashion, is an achievement on par with being at the top of your field… even if “you” are just a koopa spawn.

And, to be clear, I’m claiming Smash Bros. is for the best of the best of video game mascot characters, which is something completely different from just plain video games. There’s a fine line between “this franchise/character is really popular” and “this character only appears in good games”. Sorry, I just do not care for Wii Fit, as it called my mama fat (on Christmas!), and thus must be a bad game.

As we all know (because the game has been out for a while), Super Smash Bros. 4 opened the floodgates so a number of other video game companies could NO RESPECTooze on in. Along with Capcom and Sega, we also saw Namco get a slot on the roster, and include one of the most iconic characters in all of gaming history. Pac-Man, obviously, is a pretty big get, as he pretty much invented the concept of the video game mascot, and, well, you don’t see anybody fighting over Xevious watches. In a way, a battle between Cloud, Sonic, Pac-Man, and Mario is video games, and the mere fact that such a thing is possible is amazing for everyone involved.

But Pac-Man wasn’t the only piece of the Namco canon to make it into the Smash universe. Presumably thanks to their assistance in actually making the game, a number of Namco cameos appear all over the game. Pac-Man uses Mappy’s trampoline, Galaga ships are items, and a flag from Rally-X may grant a player an extra point. And in Smash Run, a mode that mostly involves exploring underground tunnels, we finally see a cameo from one of Namco’s oldest mascot games, Dig Dug. Here’s… pooka?

Dammit!

POPNow, honestly, I know it could be worse. Mappy, Namco character and the world’s seventh most popular cartoon rodent, has barely come out of his hole in the last three decades. Considering the average lifespan of a mouse is somewhere in the department of two years, a vermin walking that thin blue line is probably… retired by now. Dragon Buster’s Clovis, the inventor of the double jump, similarly has not seen the light of day in eons. And Dragon Spirit? May as well be a ghost. Taizo should be happy he got three games, a pile of rereleases, and a spin-off franchise. You don’t see anyone asking for the next game featuring Pac-Man’s son, after all.

I suppose I’m just bitter because I’ve always preferred Dig Dug’s gameplay over a number of other Namco arcade games. Pac-Man is a game where you’re always on the run, and, while you may temporarily gain the advantage over your pursuers, you know they’ll always come back, and it’s only a matter of time before the eater becomes the eaten. Galaga’s endless swarms of bugs is practically a chthonic nightmare, and Rally-X is another silly sports game. But Dig Dug? Taizo is a dedicated exterminator. He’s accomplishing something by clearing out pookas and fygars. Even if Taizo should fall (or have something fall on him), he has already reclaimed a number of areas, and his life (lives) shall not have been in vain. Or perhaps the most endearing thing is that when Taizo has defeated all but one enemy, the last remaining monster attempts to flee, creating the sensation that Taizo, digger extraordinaire, is not a mere hero, but an unstoppable, feared force of destruction. I am become Dig Dug.

And yes, Taizo (and those damn pookas) have cameoed in a number of Namco games over the years. I mean, he’s not completely forgotten, he’s just… well…

Putting down stakesTaizo’s third adventure was Dig Dug: Digging Strike. It’s an innovative combination of Dig Dug and (the often-forgotten but pretty great) Dig Dug 2. It’s also a pretty clever application of DS technology. You’re Taizo, and there are giant monsters stomping around the overworld while human-sized monsters hang out underground. Your job is to flip between the surface and underground to destroy monsters, yes, but also drive giant stakes into the ground that will then sink chunks of island, hopefully drowning the giant monsters beneath the waves. It’s fun all around, and various power-ups and new level hazards (here comes the lava!) escalate as Taizo progresses throughout the island chain that is housing all these creatures. It’s basically Dig Dug vs. Godzilla, and winds up being one of the few games where I feel like the hero has a legitimate reason (him smart) for being able to defeat skyscraper sized opponents (see also that game with those, whaddyacallem, Colossi).

But the whole experience seems tarnished by the fact that this is the last anybody saw of Taizo in a starring role. Yes, we’ll keep getting Dig Dug rereleases until the end of time, but Dig Dug: Digging Strike… well, it’s not the best thing on the DS, or even somewhere in the Top 10, but it’s still a very fun game. Dig Dug’s gameplay is fairly unique (hey, there’s no jump button in all three FGC games this week), and we literally haven’t seen any new spins on this formula in the last, let’s see here… eleven years! There are almost teenagers out there who have never known a new Dig Dug game! Won’t someone please think of the children?!

So, hey, Namco? I know you’re probably working on the next Tekken, Soul Calibur, or Ridge Racer, but maybe take a moment, get together a little team, and think about Taizo Hori. He’s been digging and dugging for decades now, and it’s time he got his due.

Or at least another damn game.

FGC #103 Dig Dug: Digging Strike

  • System: Nintendo DS. Would be just perfect for a 3DS or WiiU version, too! But nope.
  • Seriously?Number of players: One. No, wait, I think there’s multiplayer, but… yes, it appears you need to find another human being that owns this game, and I kinda forgot I had my copy, so the odds are low.
  • Drill Again: And we haven’t seen a new Mr. Driller game for a while, either. Are puzzle games just done in the face of cell phone games eating up that market? Can we just get some new Mr. Driller mobile games, then? Actually “new”, not just rereleases.
  • Pooka pooka: I want to say that the humble pooka is the first creature in a video game that I ever “killed”. I felt momentarily ashamed of popping the creature, but then a fygar toasted my Taizo, and I’ve been out for revenge ever since. Needless to say, I rather enjoy dragging Pit into the killing fields to exterminate them in Super Smash Bros.
  • Love at first sight: Jill Dozer and Taizo should hang out. Nah, that’s too may-december. Jill and Taizo should hang out, but then he introduces her to Susumu. There. Yes, let’s get the fanfic ball rolling.
  • Did you know? The star of Mr. Driller is Taizo’s son, so, of course, there has to be a mother driller floating around somewhere. In this case, Mr. Driller’s mom is Toby “Kissy” Masuyo, a galactic marine and the star of Baraduke. For reasons that are completely unclear, Taizo and Toby are divorced. Toby appears in the bonus ending of this game, jealous and annoyed at her former lover. All I want to do is meet the Namco staffer that decided that one its most iconic heroes should be bitter and divorced. Pac-Man, as of this writing, is still happily married.
  • Would I play again: I really like this game… but it’s also a DS game, which means it has to compete with not only the luminaries of the DS library, but also everything in the 3DS library, too. So, I’m a hypocrite, it’s unlikely I’ll ever see these specific Dig Dug adventures ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Prince of Persia for the Xbox 360! That would be the 2008 one that is completely divorced from The Sands of Time… and, apparently, destroyed the franchise. Oh boy. Please look forward to it!

What?