Dig Dug was one of legion of games inspired by Pac-Man, the king of maze-chase games. There are a number of wrinkles which elevate Dig Dug high above a mere copy of Pac-Man. The player controls a little fellow who tunnels along without effort and carries a pump. Monsters - goggles-wearing Pooka which attempt to grab poor Dig Dug and Fygars, which look like small, green dragons and breathe fire. While it's never made clear why the Pooka and Fygars are out to get Dig Dug, they seem intent on putting a stop to his incessant tunneling.
Dig Dug has a defense against the rotten monsters - he can shoot his
hose at them and pump them full of air until they explode. If Dig Dug is
in a hurry, he can choose to stop pumping air and simply freeze the
monsters. Also, Dig Dug can tunnel under rocks and drop them on
monsters. Oh, and the monsters can turn into "ghosts" and float through
dirt to chase after Dig Dug. Yes, this game can be challenging, indeed.
I should also mention there is a nice bonus which Dig Dug can grab from time to time. Whenever he tunnels under two boulders and dislodges them, a fruit or vegetable will appear in the middle of the screen for 10 seconds. They range in value from a lowly carrot worth 400 points to an 8,000-point pineapple.
The great thing about this action game is the fact it requires more than just good reflexes. It takes some strategy to lure monsters under rocks, but the effort is worth it as crushing the beasties with rocks nets much more points than merely exploding them. Also, the best strategy is to dispatch the monsters as soon as possible to keep them from ganging up on Dig Dug and rushing him. Another great touch is that the last monster on the screen will try to escape (he gets scared or lonely, seemingly), so helping Dig Dug find a way to get rid of the last critter before he runs off becomes a point of pride.
So, how does 1987's port of Dig Dug for the 7800 measure up to the arcade? Darn well, actually. The graphics are crisp, charming and very accurate. The Fygars spit flame which actually looks like fire, and the goggles on orange Pooka look fantastic. Even the various strata was done well (the deeper Dig Dug tunnels, the more points he gains). The animation is quite smooth and the game doesn't flicker like crazy or slow down considerably when a lot of action is taking place. In short, this game is downright pretty and really underscores the fact the 7800 was a great console to have for arcade ports.
The sound is good, too - a rarity in a 7800 title. In the arcades, the graphics and music both combined to convey a sense of whimsy. Thank goodness the 7800 port of Dig Dug preserves that atmosphere very well. You've got amusing ditties spicing up this game very nicely and there's a sound for just about everything. Music plays as Dig Dug tunnels, an alarm goes off when a monster turns into a ghost and is heading toward Dig Dug and there's a series of tones when Dig Dug is pumping a monster full of air. My favorite effect - the growling noise a Fygar makes when he's breathing fire - is here, too. Considering how rotten the sound in 7800 games usually is, Dig Dug is a refreshing change of pace.
The control is good, too. Loose controls would ruin this game, but everything is tight and accurate here.
I really can't find a flaw with this game. If you love the Dig Dug arcade game, this may be the best port of it out there for a classic console.