Digger T. Rock is the latest effort from the developers across the pond, Rare, although Milton Bradley is the publisher. Rare has made a name for itself creating many NES games for other publishers, including Nintendo themselves with R.C. Pro-Am. This one stars Digger as he explores deep in the earth in attempt to reach the legendary Lost City of Gold. Two games with similar premises were released a few years ago (Super Pitfall and Spelunker), but this is a major improvement over those titles. This is a game that is simple to learn and easy to pick up and play, but can also be punishingly difficult.
Digger T. Rock is made up of eight different caverns to explore, each featuring multiple pathways, secrets, treasure, tools, and of course a menagerie of menacing creatures. Each one is larger and more daunting than the previous. Digger is armed only with a shovel, which is used to dig through the earth and to fend off enemy creatures.
In each cavern there is a pillar that, once you lower it, will activate the exit door and it’s at this point that you only have 60 seconds to locate the door before it slams shut. If you are too late, you’ll have to ascend and use the pillar once again.
After each stage there is a quick bonus room where you can rack up points and collect gems. Dynamite is scattered through the caves and is used to demolish walls and to defeat large enemies, such as the subterranean dragons. Rope ladders are also found, and are needed to descend to deep areas you are not able to dig into. The aforementioned gems are collected and are used in stores that are found thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface (because why not). They can be exchanged for throwing rocks, ladders, or explosives. Warp Zones and other secrets as scattered throughout the stages as well, so be on the lookout!
As I mentioned this game is one of the hardest out there for a multitude of reasons. First, you only get three lives and no continues. Although there are no boss battles, a single hit from enemies like ghouls and dragons will knock out a huge portion of your life bar. Common enemies like mosquitos will swarm you and peck away your health. Falling damage is one of the biggest challenges and nuisances, especially since the controls feel slippery at times and it is easy to fall into a chasm and either die or lose the majority your health. Hitting certain rocks will cause them to fall and potentially crush you as well. Simply navigating through each area and finding the pillar and exit door is extremely perilous due to the influx of enemies and hazardous terrain. Map-making will ease this, but it will take many play throughs, skill, and patience to advance beyond even stage three.
This is a Rare game, and therefore the music is composed by David Wise (fresh off the Nightmare on Elm Street soundtrack). Like nearly all of his works, the music here is very fitting and really goes with both the underground setting and the extreme difficulty. The panic music that kicks in when the exit timer counts down will really resonate with players. The are five total cavern themes, along with the terrific title screen music. The sounds effects are well done and add a lot to the game as well.
The graphics are not that impressive, especially with the overly smiley Digger. This miner looks like a small child, not an experienced treasure hunting spelunker. His size is portioned right, but his art style is all wrong for the game. The backgrounds are equally unimpressive. The color tones change as you advance to new caverns, but there’s just a whole lot of rocks, dirt, and darkness to be had.
This game is incredibly frustrating and difficult, but manages to be very fun for patient gamers. Each time you play you should learn something new and hopefully gradually improve, especially if you are making a map. Despite the extremely lame character, the experience of exploring deep underground, looking for this mystical city is really fun. Although the graphics are subpar, the great music helps offset that. If you don’t mind challenging games, this one’s for you.
Digger T. Rock Review
- Graphics - 5/105/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Because of the difficulty, you’ll be playing this a long time before you ever dream of completing it. As long as you enjoy the gameplay, you’ll surely get your money’s worth here. Although simple to learn, I would not recommend this game for younger kids or inexperienced gamers. They’ll never get past the second stage. This is a nice hit from Rare, where they’ve had a busy year with mixed results, developing unique games like Solar Jetman and Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, and complete trash like Time Lord.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.