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Dig Dug
Dig Dug II
Arrangement (1996)

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Arrangement (2005)
Digging Strike
Dig Dug Island

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by Kurt Kalata - December 3, 2008 (updated August 24, 2013)

Dig Dug (ディグダグ) - Arcade, Atari 8-bit, Standalone Tabletop, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Casio PV-1000, Famicom Disk System, NES, Commodore 64, MSX, FM-7, PC-60, PC-80, PC-8801, PC-8801mkII SR, X1, Sord-M5, MZ-1500, Apple II, ColecoVision, Intellivision, TI-99/4A, VIC-20, IBM PC, X68000, Game Boy, PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Windows, Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PSP, Palm OS, Blackberry, Mobile, Windows Phone (April 1982)

American Arcade Flyer

Japanese Arcade Flyer

French Arcade Flyer

Atari 5200 Cover

Atari 7800 Cover

Commodore 64 Cover

Intellivision Cover

Game Boy Cover

Standalone Handheld Cover

Like many early arcade games, Dig Dug's concept is a bit out there. As a tiny little guy with a harpoon and air pump, your job is to dig underground and rid each stage of monsters. There are only two types - the innocuous Pookas, red balls with legs and goggles, which just kinda hop and back forth, and the more dangerous Fygars, little dragons who, as the name half-suggests, can breathe fire. As your character moves along, he carves out tunnels in the dirt. While the enemies generally just pace back and forth wandering throughout the caves, they can also turn into ghosts and hover straight through the soil. In addition to being hard to hit, they can also move diagonally, as opposed to just moving in the four cardinal direction. Of course, Dig Dug's mobility is limited - the screen is divided into an invisible grid, and you can only move within those squares - putting you at a distinct disadvantage.

There are two ways to dispose of foes. The most direct way is to simply chuck a spear at them and begin pumping until they explode like a balloon. (Although it's done in a rather cartoonish fashion, one has to think how this is an extremely sordid way to execute someone.) If you're feeling ambitious, there are also rocks littered throughout the stage, stuck in the dirt. If you dig your tunnel properly, and take it just right, you can dislodge the soil beneath them and drop them on the baddies, potentially a few at the same time if you're really lucky. Since boulders won't drop until you walk out from under it, you can hang out and properly time these attacks. In addition to extra points, there's a bit of a personal satisfaction in setting these up, just because they require a bit more brainwork. Of course, if you're not careful, you can also squash yourself, which is infinitely embarrassing.

Additionally, once you've killed almost all of the enemies, the final one will begin to panic and make a direct beeline to the top of the stage, where it will try to flee. There's a certain joy in hunting the enemies down and killing them before they escape, and a certain lament when they survive, even though there's no tangible rewards or punishments. You can, however, attempt to lure creatures into the lower stratosphere of the level. The further down you get, as indicated by the color of the dirt, the more points you'll get from defeating them. Since Fygars can only breathe fire left or right, you'll also get more points from killing them in a horizontal position, since you're closer to danger. Digging dirt also gives you points, providing incentives to clear the whole map for higher scores. If you drop any two rocks in a stage, a bonus item appears, once again for extra points.

While Dig Dug starts off slow, the enemies grow both in number and speed as you traverse through the stages. Even though it's not quite as spastic as, say, Robotron 2084 or Defender, it gets pretty chaotic when you have two enemies coming at you from both sides, and one more is flying through the soil to come at you. In times of panic, you find yourself pounding on the pump button to kill a foe as fast as possible, even though there's a limit to how fast your little guy can kill things. One of the best tricks is how you can stun enemies by only pumping them a few times, so you can run past them harmlessly. You can also inflate enemies faster by getting close to them, walking forward, and jamming the pump button, as opposed to staying stationary. The game changes color schemes every four levels, and eventually starts repeating with faster enemies. Certain versions of the game end on the 256th stage, where an enemy is placed right on top of Dig Dug, killing him immediately.

In the arcades, Dig Dug runs on a vertically oriented monitor, using a variation of the Galaga hardware. That being said, the playing field only takes up a portion of the screen. It was converted to practically everything available at the time, consoles and computers worldwide. Since it's a slow moving game, its ports don't suffer the way some other arcade conversions did at the time. The major difference in all of them is a change in playing field size due to the running on a horizontal screen. Not all of them run at full speed, like the C64 version, which is otherwise quite playable. The Atari 2600 version is a bit choppy, too, and has some annoying flickering. The ColecoVision version, initially unreleased and available in beta form, has incredibly screechy noise and strangely blinking sprites. The IBM PC version is probably the ugliest of them all. Atarisoft developed most of the Western computer ports, while Namco handled the Japanese ones. Most of those have only three layers of soil. (There was even an inofficial doujin port for the PC-80, which has tiny graphics but all four layers intact.)

The Famicom version (never released in the US) is the most faithful, featuring near identical sprites, even though the blue sky on the surface has been changed to a dark black. By the time the late '90s rolled around, most of the versions of Dig Dug are exact copies of the arcade original - including versions on Namco Classics Vol. 1 for the PlayStation, Namco Museum for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube, Namco 50th Anniversary for PS2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance and Windows PCs, the Xbox Live Arcade, and those mini-joystick games that hook up directly to the TV. The exception is the Japanese Game Boy Advance version, which was released as part of the Famicom Mini series, and thus is an emulation of the Famicom version. Later, another Windows version appeared as part of the Namco All-Stars line of downloadable games, which has the arcade version alongside an "Enhanced" setting that uses graphics from Digging Strike, but plays the same as the original.

A pirated clone called Zig Zag was also released from some of the shadier sides of the arcade business. Most of the sprites are the same, but all of the backgrounds are all horribly mangled, and much darker. The only major change is the appearance of pick-axe items, which allow you to dig through the dirt faster.

Zig Zag (Arcade)

The Game Boy version, released in 1992, features an additional mode called New Dig Dug. The goal is simply to dig through the level to obtain three keys and then make your way to the exit door. You don't need to kill all of the enemies here, which respawn infinitely, anyway. New obstacles include 16 ton weights that stay on the playing field even after being dropped; balls that roll back and forth; and bombs that explode when dropped. Each stage usually features many impassable walls, usually requiring that you navigate through small mazes to find all of the keys. The graphics change as you progress through the stages, and there's some new music too. It's the first of the "Arrangement" types, which were seen later in different releases. Unfortunately the Game Boy version is a bit on the sluggish side, making it less than optimal. It can also be found on the Namco Gallery Volume 2 collection, which was only released in Japan, and features three other titles: Galaxian, Tower of Druaga and Famista 4 (Family Stadium AKA RBI Baseball).

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Dig Dug (Arcade)

Dig Dug (Arcade)

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Dig Dug II (ディグダグII) - Arcade, NES, X68000, PSP, NDS, Xbox 360, Mobile (1985)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

Dig Dug II seems like a bit of an odd title for the sequel, considering there's no actual digging. Instead of tunnelling through the soil, Dig Dug II takes place entirely on land, with each stage comprised of a single island. The goal is still to kill all of the enemies, and you still have your handy spear-pump thing. Additionally, you have a hand drill, which Dig Dug rides sort of like a pogo stick. Along the island are little fissures and cracks in the earth. At each fissure, you can drill in one of four directions, causing another crack. If you completely corner off a part of the island, it will crumble and fall into the ocean, taking anything with it. The main goal is to encase as many enemies as possible and dump them all into the drink at once, scoring massive points.

You can forego all of this and continue to inflate enemies to kill them, but since there are no longer any tunnels, it's harder to keep them under control, and it's way too easy to get surrounded, so drilling the island is definitely the best way to go. This might all seem simple enough, but there's one extremely important factor that comes into play - the larger half of the island will stay afloat while the smaller half sinks. This is easy to judge when you're just carving off small bits, but with larger sections, it's possible to find yourself on the wrong side and end up drowning, too. As a result, Dig Dug II is a game of extremes - either you end up giddy that you've cleared the entire stage with one cleverly thought out plan, or your plan backfires and you end up looking look a fool.

Some of the same elements of the original still come into play. There are only two enemies, and they both function the same way. They can still turn invincible and float around as ghosts, but since there's no soil to float through, this doesn't entirely make sense. The last enemies on the stage will also make a beeline for the edges and hop into the ocean, denying you a final kill if you're not fast enough. However, the music plays constantly, rather than the stop-and-go theme of the original.

Dig Dug 2 (Arcade)

There are actually two different versions of Dig Dug II. The original release was quite hard, while the second release tones down the difficulty. Both have completely different levels. Most of the compilations feature only the second version, but Namco Museum for the NDS has them both.

For some reason, Dig Dug II wasn't even remotely as popular as the original, which is a bit of a shame. Even though carving tunnels was fine, destroying whole sections of the level at once is equally, if not more enjoyable. Also, there are actual "levels" in Dig Dug II - 32 in all, before they start repeating - whereas the original just plopped a couple of pre-made caves and let you do as you wanted. Perhaps the absence of this free-form strategy contributed to its unpopularity. As a result, it was never ported to nearly as many computers or consoles as before. For a long time, the only port was the NES version, which plays perfectly despite the different resolution, even though the graphics are a slight step downward. It even offers a few bonus scoring items. A perfect conversion was also released for the X68000 in Japan nearly ten years after its initial arcade release. For a long time, Namco neglected it on many of their earlier console compilation packs, although it appears on the Namco Museum Battle Collection for the PSP and Namco Arcade Classics for the DS and Xbox 360.

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Dig Dug 2 (Arcade)

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Dig Dug 2 (Arcade)


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Dig Dug Arrangement - Arcade, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube (1996)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

American PlayStation 2 Cover

In the mid-'90s, Namco released two compilation packs in the arcades, dubbed the Namco Classics Collection. Each featured three classics Namco games, along with updated, arranged versions that used updated graphics and new mechanics. The first compilation included Mappy, Galaga and Xevious, while the second featured Rally-X, Pac Man, and Dig Dug. Like all of the other titles, Dig Dug features updated 2D graphics. While nothing terribly impressive, the improved colors do look fairly decent. A world map between stages shows your progress through the game, with several dozen levels taking place in a variety of habitats, including cities, icebergs, and even the moon. The new music, however, which plays regardless of whether you're in motion or not, is pretty bad.

Dig Dug Arrangement is more than just a graphical overhaul, though. As compared to the arbitrarily placed tunnels in the original game, each stage has a distinct layout, which lends a little bit more variety to the action. In addition to the standard Fygars and Pookas, there's a new horned enemy, which can dash back and forth; a robot, which explodes when pumped, damaging nearby enemies but thankfully not Dig Dug; evil clones that can dig through the dirt and blow you up; and red Fygars that can breathe fireballs that zoom across the screen. There's also two player simultaneous play, wherein you compete to kill as many enemies as possible. You can also inflate your companion if you're a jerk, although its possible to escape from that by pounding on the pump button. There are also some new power-ups, including boots to make you walk faster, a variety of pumps, and, rather strangely, a laser gun. Additionally, there are new boulder types, including giant rocks, which drop directly to the bottom of the stage, and rolling orbs, which bounce back and forth through the tunnels. There's even a staff which causes rain to fall from the sky, carving niches in the ground and potentially harming enemies.

For the most part, these are all some pretty cool additions. The biggest misstep, however, are the poorly implemented boss battles. Every so often, you need to defeat a gigantic Pooka or Fygar. To defeat the Pookas, you need to inflate one of the robots so it explodes and damages it. To kill the Fygar, you just need to grab a gun and keep shooting. Unfortunately, the controls for Dig Dug were just never made for this kind of action, especially since the bosses move quickly and randomly about the playing field.

Outside of its initial arcade release, Dig Dug Arrangement was included in the Namco Museum pack for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube.

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Dig Dug Arrangement (Arcade)

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<<< Prior Page

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Page 1:
Dig Dug
Dig Dug II
Arrangement (1996)

Page 2:
Dig Dug Deeper
Arrangement (2005)
Digging Strike
Dig Dug Island

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