SteamWorld Dig, or Terraria for people who don't like Terraria, is one of the best 3DS eShop games to date, and I am happy a sequel is on the way. It was for me an addicting mix of exploratory platforming, steambot suit upgrading, and vast underground digging, all dressed with charming 2D visuals.

I have to confess that I find Terraria hard to get into; I just tried it again and was quickly killed by an Eater of Souls and could not dig well with any of the equipment I had. SteamWorld Dig, after a few bits of dialogue, allowed me to dig easily below one of the world's three, huge maps, with enemies that gradually increased in difficulty.

Even though I felt like I was mining further down into an abyss and the lantern I carried had burnt its oil, leaving me in darkness, I was hooked. I could always hope an enemy dropped more oil for my lamp or something else useful.

My ax could also create tiny sparks, so I could continue to see some of the clearly marked earth which contained valuable gems to trade for cash on the surface. I could then go to a store and upgrade my armor, digging abilities, or my gem pouch, but the true upgrades laid beneath the surface.

As the story goes, someone or something has left behind technology that the steambot can assimilate to, gaining power ups (ala Super Metroid) such as a drill, dash, and super jump to explore deeper. All of these powers use steam, and while there are a few pockets of rejuvenating water underground, I'd sometimes run out and be left to use just ax. Managing the lamp oil, steam, and gem purse were fun while I kept digging and resurfacing, to the extent that I often avoided going where the game was telling me to go.

That is to say SteamWorld Dig provides a bit of hand-holding: it highlights the essential places to go to on the map throughout the game. That doesn't dilute the challenge of digging there or avoiding enemies (which are not marked on the map), but it detracts a little bit from exploration, leading me to stare at the map at times and not the actual game. CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson told me that the sequel would have a hard mode that won't point the way through, though.

Along the descent is a fair amount of enemies that were happy to kill me and cause me to lose half of my cash. There's only one boss at the end of the game, though, which was too easy with my fully powered bot. I'd have preferred a final boss that was formidable even if I were fully powered. More bosses is another thing Brjann told me would be in the sequel.

There were also only a few digging puzzles, which I found to be a fresh diversion from the grind. In SteamWorld Dig's defense, it's billed as a "hardcore platform mining adventure," so the puzzles weren't promised. The game itself was a bit of a puzzle, anyway, in that I wanted to make sure I dug paths that lead to gems and that I can later traverse back through.

This all adds up to an addictive mix of exploring and resource managing that makes the 5-6 hours of gameplay go by quickly and is well worth its $8.99 USD, €8.99 asking price.

It's a shame Nintendo USA did not highlight the game in its last Direct broadcast. Satoru Shibata, president of Nintendo UK, kindly showed off SteamWorld Dig from the 11-dev team Image & Form, and I'm glad he did.