Obliterated by its sequel in every way, Pac-Man hasn’t been worth playing since 1982. And having enjoyed Galaga even during the Dreamcast era, I was extra crestfallen playing and realizing this year what a dull mess Galaga really is. Dig Dug, Namco’s third and most recent release for Xbox Live Arcade, further cements Namco’s image as fortunate sons of context and circumstance. The characters that raised the company name merely showed up at the right crux of history, way back during the golden age, when gaming was still sucking on the teat. That was a time when we needed such caretakers, but today, not so much at all.
What’s wrong with Dig Dug is that the obvious, easiest way to play the game is actually the worst way. As a little man named Dig Dug, you’re tasked with eliminating the monsters on each stage. Equipped with an air pump, the most apparent means is to fill them with oxygen until they explode. Doing this, however, gives you only a paltry 200-400 points. What you’re really supposed to do is lead the enemies underneath a rock. Crushing them will net around 1,000 points, and with 1-UPs only at every 10,000, you need every chunk of sandstone, clay, and shale you can use.
Luring packs of baddies and then turning the tables on them isn’t unique to Dig Dug. However, the goal in something like Pac-Man is to eat the dots, not kill the ghosts. If you don’t dispose of the ghosts when you eat the power pellet, no harm is done; the ghosts avoid you and you have respite to eat more dots. In Dig Dug, if the boulder doesn’t kill the intendeds, you’re doomed: the torpid Dig Dug is surrounded by monsters, all of whom can move diagonally through dirt (whereas it’s difficult to get Dig Dug to even turn when you want him to). You’ll die and have made no points and progress at all. Strike three, Namco. How about porting a few Katamari stages instead?