If there was ever an archetypal 8 bit retro game, Dig Dug would have to be it.
Released by Namco in 1982 as a maze thriller, Dig Dug was one of the most well received games by critics and players.
Controlling Mr Dig Dug, the player used their special hose to infiltrate and inflate enemies until they burst full of air.
Fun to pick up and play but a true challenge to master, Dig Dug will go down as one of the most popular 80’s 8 bit video games of its time!
Goodness gracious how much do I love Dig Dug! Simple yet functional sprites – check! Cutesy music and sound effects – check! An abundance of fun and super addictive gameplay – big check!
What a little gem it is!
Dig Dug was both a critical and commercial success when released by Namco in 1982. The game is viewed underground from a ‘side-on’ perspective.
You traverse underground by digging tunnels and burrowing through the earth.
Armed with what could best be described as a bicycle pump with harpoon attached to the end of it.
Your objective is to kill all enemies by first shooting them and attaching the harpoon gun, then repeatedly button bashing to inflate them with air until they pop like a balloon! – very satisfying and great fun indeed.
Rocks / boulders are also scattered randomly underground – by strategically digging under them you can cause the rock to fall and squash your enemies, if timed perfectly.
So who are your enemies anyway? Well, there are in fact only two.
The first is called ‘Pooka’. This guy looks like a red tomato with legs, wearing a scuba mask (interesting description, I know).
The second is ‘Fygar’. This fellow is a green looking dragon that you guessed it, can shoot fire from his mouth for a short distance which makes him particularly dangerous.
Both Pooka and Fygar are capable of entering ‘ghost mode’ when the overall number of enemies on a level have been reduced.
‘Ghost mode’ means only their eyes become visible and they can ‘float’ through the underground terrain towards you, without having to use any of the tunnel network.
When there is only one enemy remaining, it will always turn to cowardice and attempt to escape from you by making its way to the upper left corner and run off the screen as quickly as possible.
If it escapes you progress to the next stage regardless but don’t get the enjoyment or feeling of satisfaction from killing all the enemies.
Successive stages are made more difficult by increasing both the quantity and speed of enemies on screen. It is these later stages where the strategic use of the rocks / boulders to squash multiple enemies simultaneously proves invaluable.
The highest level I have been able to reach on this game so far is stage 18.
At this stage, the enemies move so incredibly fast it becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse just to survive for any short amount of time.
The first 12 levels of the game are unique but then begin to repeat. I’ve read that the arcade game itself was programmed with 256 levels before it re-sets!
Hints & Tips
- Use the boulders to your advantage and squash multiple enemies under the one boulder for bigger points.
- Causing the boulders to drop will also make fruit + vegetable appear in the centre of the screen for a short duration (just like Pac Man, no surprises there, eh Namco). Collect the fruit and veg for some big tasty bonus points!
- Killing enemies deeper underground (at the bottom of the screen) yields higher points.
- Watch out for Fygar’s flame, especially where tunnel walls are thin, the flame can pass through the wall and catch you! Conversely, you can shoot your harpoon gun through thin tunnel walls to nail an enemy!
- Killing enemies side-on (left or right) provides more points then killing them from above or below.
- On later stages when there are loads of super-fast enemies bearing down on you, you can use your harpoon gun to provide an emergency escape measure – quickly harpoon and pump the enemies closest to you with air – due to their speed and numbers you may not necessarily have time to fully ‘over-inflate’ the enemy to kill it, but at least giving them a few ‘pumps’ the enemy will be stunned – use these valuable few seconds whilst the enemy deflates to retreat to a safer location and then mount your counter-attack!