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Dig Dug - The Atari Times

Dig Dug


This game blows...up! Creatures, that is
by Darryl Brundage

April 5, 2004
What do the movies Phantasm, Scanners, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the Dig Dug video game have in common? They're all GROSS.

The Phantasm movies involved an old dude with superhuman strength who was robbing graves and had an army of spheres that would fly around and drill into people when they made contact with their flesh (eeyew!). Scanners involved people with powers who could make other people explode (whee, mondo fun at parties!), the Nightmare series featured a burned-up dead guy with knives for fingers, and with Dig Dug, you dug around underground and blew up creatures with some kind of pump (but without any blood, at least). Gross as it was, though, *I* still enjoyed it, of course, along with thousands, if not possibly millions of other people worldwide.

Created by Namco and distributed (disturbed?) by Atari, the game seems rather delightful at first with it's cutesy graphics and musical accompaniment when you move your character around the screen, leaving tunnels through the underground as he travels (which makes this a "dirty" game, I guess, har har). Unfortunately there are dragons and some kind of other red monster with goggles (Fygar and Pooka, respectfully) in the underground with you, and if the dragon flames you with his fire-breath, you come into contact with a creature, or you accidentally squash yourself with a boulder (more on that in a minute), you will lose a life.

You are armed with some kind of air pump, though -- no, you won't be using it on your shoes (remember that stupid fad several years ago, paying $150 for a pair of shoes to pump up? That fad IS dead, right? Hopefully...) -- which will inflate the creatures nice and big until they explode, if you pump them up enough (which you have to do if you want to make it to the next screen, or if the last creature escapes). So I suppose being called an "airhead" is actually a complement here.

The creatures move rather bizarrely in this game: most of the time, they're in a solid state as they walk through tunnels, but since they can't dig, the Pookas will turn into a ghost (or something?) in order to make their way through a maze, with it's eyes passing through the dirt, until they either rematerialize in a tunnel or escape to the top of the screen. Whatever! (The Fygar, meanwhile, can burn tunnels into the dirt.) You also have rocks at your disposal, which you can tunnel underneath and they will fall, earning you big points if you squash a creature underneath one, and there are also bonus prizes that appear in the middle of the screen from time to time.

Even though weird, this was a pretty classic game, believe it or not, as it got ported around to many systems, and Namco released an arcade version in it's Namco Classic Collection Volume 2, with the original, along with an updated version! This version gave you gigantic rocks that would fall all the way to the bottom of a screen, you got power-ups, one screen would involve disposing of a giant Pooka, and more.

The sounds and control are good, and of course, the game and creatures get faster with the more screens you clear and all.

This definitely goes under the heading of "Games That Were Made While a Programmer Was on Drugs," or at least had a good imagination. And maybe they were into horror movies too.

Why play any version but the one that says "Atari" on the title screen?
This rock-drop was tailor made.
Dig Dug
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 95%
Gameplay Score: 88%
Control Score: 93%

Final Score: 88%



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