Format reviewed: Arcade
Submitted by: Not given
When the original Dig Dug was released in 1982, it was a fairly big hit for Namco. True, it was no Pac-Man, but it was a popular title nevertheless. Like all timeless games, it was a simple premise, but it was also addictive and well executed.
Dig Dug's sequel, released three years later, was a commercial failure. Although it was admittedly a worse game than the original, it wasn't awful – indeed, as a standalone it was a perfectly acceptable game – but it was far too often compared to it's predecessor. The truth is, they were different games.
While, on one hand, the original was a subterranean and rather claustrophobic experience, which made it ever more exilerating, Dig Dug II took place above ground. In order to add an extra dimension to the gameplay – just as the digging, dead ends and falling rocks had done in the original – the game allows you to drill away at pieces of the land mass (the gameplay takes place on islands), causing them to collapse into the ocean. Just as it's possible to dig yourself into a dead end in Dig Dug, Dig Dug II requires the player to pay attention to their surroundings, otherwise they could end up drilling away the land they're standing on, which is never a good idea.
Dig Dug II has just as much depth as the original, and far better visuals, but it lacks the pressure of the original. The overground setting makes the game even easier than the original, as you're not slowed down by shovelling dirt, and therefore enemies are less of a threat, and enemies can't slip through dirt unnoticed as mere pairs of eyes, to corner you, as so often happened in Dig Dug. In this sequel, everything can be seen, and it removes a large portion of the fun that the original possessed.
Don't get me wrong, Dig Dug II isn't a bad game. I reckon the main reason for the commercial flop was the gap between the two releases – 3 years – by which time arcade players had likely all but forgotten about Dig Dug in favour of Gradius.
Only now, with the emergence of retro games into the mainstream in the form of endless compilations and revivals, is Dig Dug II being rediscovered as what it is – a decent game.