IN the past, we've seen a great many games that you could politely say had been, in artist terms, 'heavily influenced by the work of Lemmings'. But never before has just one character been taken from the aforementioned - probably seminal -game and had a whole new game developed around it. This character - or rather, this attribute - is, as you've probably guessed, the 'digger'.
You start the game by selecting a digger and an area to dig in somewhere on the map of the planet. Inititally, you can only choose one area: Dhobbs. I grew up thinking this is what dogs left in parks for careless boots, and one look at the landscape confirms that this is what the programmers also think. The idea of the game is simple enough. You have to collect a specified amount of loot from each area in order to progress to the next level; you get the money by digging up stuff and selling it to the greedy exploiters of the workers who live in a small hut nearby. To help you, there's a shop in which you can buy 'diggy-type' items. To hinder you, there are all manner of beasties and rival tribes of diggers working in the same area. They seem to have staked their claim on top of yours, with little regard for the 'Unwritten Frontier Spirit', and are rushing about trying to cheat you out of your rightful riches. And since they're computer-controlled, they're probably rather better at it than you are.
There are four different types of digger available, with four different types of stupid names. They are all equally unpleasant-looking (but are downright ravishing beauties compared to the monstrosity who sits behind the desk from where you choose the game options: he looks like an artist's impression of what happens when someone with acne head-butts the underside of a Flymo).
The different digging species - Ftargs, Quarriors, Habbish and Grablins - all have different attributes and are separately rated in, amongst other attributes, strength, vitality and attacking and defensive capabilities. The latter capability is for when your brave boys, mining away in conditions of unparalleled horror, come up against rival diggers. A brief and rather animated territorial scrap ensues with only one of the protagonists getting out alive. What it does to one's soul to triumph over a fellow worker in this way is not dealt with by the game.
All the in-game options are selected by clicking on different parts of the hand-drawn scenes. I don't know about you, but I'm heartily sick of doing this in games. What once probably seemed like a charming and inventive idea when it first came to be used (around 1850), now only provokes massive yawns. What I'd give for a game that had big boxes with things like 'Load Game' and 'Save Game' written in them, can only be properly discussed with a sexual-deviance specialist and a top chef, but I'd like to start the 'clicking on areas of the screen backlash' here anyway. I say: 'Bring back little squares with words in them that tell you what you're doing and where you're going.'
Once you're fully into the game, like every other game of its ilk, it's all icon-controlled. But unlike every other game of its ilk, the icons aren't aesthetically arranged around the screen for easy access at all times.
You have to press the mouse buttons to get one set on-screen, press again to cancel it then press yet another button to get a new set. Switching between these icon bars is, quite frankly, a pain in the arse, and makes controlling the diggers quickly and accurately more problematic than it should be.
Just in case that isn't enough to wind you up, they've thought of something else. The dirt through which you dig is littered with rocks, huge dead crustaceans and other obstacles that you have to pick (ho ho) your way around. You can't navigate around these things in advance, because you can't scroll around the screen independently of where your characters are. Therefore, you can't plan ahead and consequently, are reduced to reacting to problems as they crop up. Fair enough. Doing this, while still keeping an eye on all your other characters, would be difficult enough just with the 'pop-up' icon system. Imagine how pleased you'll be to know then that the control bar switches on and off, which is incredibly frustrating when you're trying to steer someone. Picture it: just when you get to the point where you need to change direction, you find you can't use the controls because they're switched off. In other words, in a game in which you need complete control over your characters, you have sod all!
It's also somewhat disappointing the first time you spy someone wandering off without you telling them to do so. You can tell someone to dig vertically only to find they've started digging to the left. Or you can leave someone standing in one location while you sort something out elsewhere, then return to find they're no longer there. They've wandered off in some kind of trance - usually intent on plummeting to their deaths over the edge of a 9,000ft deep shaft. Either that or you discover them (often too late) stumbling straight into the grasp of one of the many horrors that are roaming about which like to whisk diggers to dangerous locations or simply kill them outright. It always happens when you're not looking (otherwise you could do something about it - as long as the controls were 'on' at the time) and the first you know of it is when their number disappears from the screen.
You know what I think? I think they've deliberately made the game as tricky as possible to control in attempt to inject a little life into it, because 'pacey' most certainly isn't the term I'd use to describe Diggers. Whereas Lemmings has you whizzing about the screen in barely-controlled panic, clicking on icons like a lunatic to try to stop the little buggers doing something you'll regret, Diggers has you clicking on icons like a lunatic in order to try to get them to take effect, and the only thing you'll regret is buying it in the first place. There's really very little to recommend this game to anyone. Just be grateful they haven't come up with a game called Blockers. Now that would be exciting.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP