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Impressions: Super Motherload

Dig Dug

Super Motherload puts you in the gravel spattered cockpit of a helicopter crossed with one of the machines that broke into the rebel stronghold in Arnie's Total Recall. It's an odd, otherworldy contraption, so it's only right that it's also on Mars. You're there to mine minerals, to dig down into the strata and grab the glorious, shiny loot beneath. I guess the Red Planet is miner celebrity? After a few hours of digging into it, I have some thoughts on the question everyone is asking: does it seam good?

It's initially pretty frustrating. The digger is a fun little craft to control: it hovers, it digs, though it can't dig and hover at the same time. That means you're digging either down or along the ground, never up and never in the middle of a shaf. The randomly generated strata of Mars is packed with minerals, scrap, and a few other handy mining items, like bombs and fuel to uncover.

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Everything you do, be it float, move, or dig burns fuel. The notion is that you'll occasionally need to return to the surface refuel and drop your collected cargo. So I dug. Down and along, aiming my little digger for the interesting coloured rocks. It's something of a strata-gy (hah!), picking out the right seams to aim for, because you can't dig up and you can only dig sideways when you're on ground, you might need to back-track to get to a gnarly little clump of rocks. There, you just gobble them up. Grab a cluster in one run and you'll gain a combo to add to your dollar score. It's a pleasant little mechanic: the digger's grumble as it gnaws the rock and the bosh as you grab the prize is cutely rewarding.

But all too quickly, through filling your cargo hold or running out of fuel, you'll have to return to the surface. You can't dig when you're out of fuel, and you can while you're full it won't count anything you dig up, so the journey back is pretty dull. The deeper down you go, the digging is more interesting but the return is duller. It's slapping you back down when you're enjoying it the most. You can somewhat mitigate it with unlocks. You can bump your cargo up, add a fuel tank, speed up your drill and movement, and buy bombs.

Dug dig.

Bombs aren't handy for general digging, but as you dig you'll unearth configurations of rocks that can only be unplugged with a directed explosion. There are shaft-bombs that let you blast upwards, and t-shaped bombs that can scoop out mid-shaft blocks. They're not particularly challenging, but the rewards are dopamine-inducing.

I eventually figured a way to blast away the initial frustrations: right at the start of the game, I buzzed my little craft to the side of the map and dug straight down. See, as you dig down you'll eventually meet a sub-surface facility that you can refuel, unload, repair and buy things at. The return to either the surface or the lower facilities (there are more as you go down) is made a lot more pleasant with a direct line to either. I just pushed up or down on the joypad and let my brain be elsewhere. It's also generally more fuel efficient. With that in place, it got a whole lot more fun. I was enjoying the digging and exploration. I had planned on digging deeper, but when I left the game and restarted after a shower I discovered it didn't save my position. And even though I had a neat mining trick, it was time to return to the surface. I had a quick game with my girlfriend to test out the co-op. Up to four people can play, on the same machine. Mining is swifter, but the screen keeps everyone tightly together.

It does seam good. It's Q1 this year, and there's some Steam Greenlight beggary over here. It's certainly worth a click.

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