Dig Dog is a deceptive little platformer. From the outside, it looks like a version of Dig Dug where you play as a dog instead of an intrepid driller man. While this isn't entirely untrue, Dig Dog is also a lot more than a simple arcade game. It's also a platformer that layers on different enemies and obstacles across its different worlds in a way that is reminiscent of Spelunky. It may not exactly pull off this balance quite as immaculately, but Dig Dog is still a really great platformer nonetheless.
Bones or bust
The idea behind Dig Dog is pretty straightforward. You play as a dog that is trying to dig up a bone buried somewhere in each level. Controlling your dog uses a really simple control scheme with just two directional buttons (left and right) and an action button. Tapping the action button once lets your dog jump, but holding the button, double-tapping it, or double-tapping it while holding a directional button executes maneuvers that allow your dog to dig downward and from side to side throughout a level.
Using these three buttons, it's up to you to take out enemies, avoid perilous falls, and collect coins on your way to retrieving your bone. Once a the bone is collected, the dog powers up and shoots out of the level in a way that is both bizarre and charming before moving you on to yet another level.
Dig Dog has two modes in it, although only one of them seems to be the game's main focus. This one is called Bone Hunt and it follows a very similar structure to Spelunky. In it, you venture through procedurally-generated levels that gradually get harder, and along the way you're gathering coins and unlocking new abilities. If you happen to die in this mode though, all of your progress is lost and you have to start all over again with nothing.
The other mode in Dig Dog is called Free Dig, which is considerably more laid back and significantly less challenging. This mode procedurally-generates a single level for the player to beat before generating a new one. In a way, it kind of feels like Desert Golfing, but with platforming, which sounds cool, but it lacks challenge and can feel pretty aimless.
Dig Dog may not be a particularly complicated platformer in terms of controls or aesthetics, but it has layers of detail that shine through to make it a really satisfying challenge. The ways that you can make enemies interact or use your action abilities to get yourself out of (or into) trouble are really remarkable given the game's relatively small scope.
On top of that, Dig Dog has a really charming sense of style to it. I know we've seen pixel art done to death, but Dig Dog's unique tri-color look and incredibly catchy chiptune soundtrack make playing in its world all the more fun.
The bottom line
Dig Dog is a relatively simple game that follows simple rules, but it manages to mix its gameplay elements together to make for a dynamic and challenging platformer. It definitely isn't doing anything you haven't seen before, but everything it does do, it does with incredible finesse.