Surprisingly for a game about a cute little dog digging for bones, the iOS game Dig Dog most reminded me of is Downwell.
It shares a simple two-tone palette with Ojiro Fumoto’s masterful action game, and at heart it too is a thoughtfully simplified take on Spelunky‘s roguelike-platformer majesty.
There’s also a smattering of Dig Dug in there, of course. You don’t think that the similar-sounding name was just a coincidence, did you?
Dog with a bone
Like in Namco’s classic arcade game, your canine protagonist’s defining ability is digging.
While you’re presented with a basic set of platforming controls – left, right, and jump – a long press of the latter will send doggy down into the dirt.
Tapping the button will add a little urgency to proceedings, while walking into said dirt will set you digging through from the side. Hitting jump and a direction in mid-air will initiate a sideways dash attack.
With all that sorted, you can set off through a succession of randomly generated levels, each with the goal of locating and touching the buried bone somewhere near the bottom.
It’s always the bats that get you
Pretty soon you’ll start encountering enemies, from flappy bats to deadly spike-headed crawlers. You might also encounter a shop keeper who will sell you a new ability.
Like I said, it’s all very Downwell/Spelunky. Dig Dog might not be as good as either game, but it is a fair amount of fun in its own right.
The levels don’t have a great deal of variation beyond palette swaps and additional obstructions, but the process of plotting a route downwards – around impassable blocks, enemy-filled caves, and perilous drops – is a consistently fascinating one.
It’s also really hard.
Cats might have nine lives, but dogs only have two
You only get two lives in Dig Dog, and it can be extremely difficult to deal with enemies in the confined environments of the game – particularly when they come at you from above.
It’s also difficult because the controls can seem just a tad overloaded when you’re put under pressure. Precisely picking out an aerial sideways lurch above the spiky bottom with a bat flying at you, can be perilously uncertain.
Generally speaking, though, it all feels tight and responsive. It occasionally feels like Dig Dog could use a second button, but this would obviously add extra potential for error on a touchscreen device – and precision is everything here.
Dig Dog isn’t quite up to the level of Downwell, then, but it is a highly entertaining roguelike platformer with its own cute ideas. I dug it.