Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder is the follow up to 2018’s Cave Digger from MeKiwi… though you could probably have guessed that from the title! Set in a semi-Steampunk version of the Wild West, it’s a Rogue-like adventure that wants players to overcome their claustrophobia and fear of the dark and delve into the depths of the Earth to excavate gems and uncover mysteries. It’s a setting and premise that suggests potential for an experience unlike the usual VR fare, and offers up gameplay that should deliver a decent amount of variety. Having spent time with a pick axe in one hand and a gun in the other, can we say that it’s filled with golden nuggets of fun, or is likely to be more akin to falling down an open mineshaft?
You awake in a dark cave… it’s a pretty straightforward introduction to the world of Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder. Finding yourself underground being guided by the disembodied voice of Clayton Lee Jackson III, you’re a prospector in the New Frontier looking to earn their fortune; and there’s plenty of that to be dug up, if you can make it to the exit alive. Your goal is simple enough – use your trusty pick axe to break into the seams of precious minerals and grab the spoils to sell, then find a way to the lift shaft and the surface. After the tutorial you can re-enter the mine at any point and experience different layouts and challenges, as well as varying types and amounts of materials. Of course, re-visiting brings the peril and the caves begin to be populated by monsters intent on stopping you from snagging the loot. To progress you’ll need to buy and upgrade your gear, which needs more cash, which means being bolder to get gems. With limited backpack space there’s always a need to get in, max out what you’re carrying, and get out. Though when you reach the lift there’s a choice of going deeper to tempt you for a bigger reward, and you have to weigh up the risk.
Control of your character is done through Sense Controllers, with the analogue sticks managing the movement and the rest being a pretty intuitive setup. Your tools are either on your wrists or belt, and you grab them with the hold of a button and drop them by releasing it (or, and it’s a good tip, set it to toggle in the options so you don’t accidentally keep dropping everything). Swing the axe at a wall to chip it away and if it drops gold nuggets or other gems, grab them and drop them over your shoulder into your backpack for storage. It’s a nice setup that adds a level of immersive actions to sell your role of prospector. When it comes to enemies you have a trusty 6 shooter on your hip that deals a good amount of damage, and as your cash reserves build you can add a sledge hammer and dynamite. Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder isn’t massively combat heavy despite numerous enemies, and for the most part you can take foes down with ease. Tool-wise, a shovel, panning set and detector are available to maximise your opportunity for a big haul, though you’ll need to balance what you’re planning against the 4 slots available for lugging weapons and tools into the mine.
Spend some time exploring underground and you’ll discover secrets like safes with riddle locks that contain bonus items. In these it’ll typically be lots of loot, but occasionally there are comic book pages which tell Clayton’s story. Above ground the map is sizeable enough for a decent wander around, and it has a verticality that you might not expect. There’s no fall damage, yet I’d not recommend jumping off ledges if you suffer from vertigo. As you fill your wallet you can afford to buy a cabin and a cave contents randomiser that fill out your camp, and there are also other mining areas to purchase access to. These new areas bring additional exploration on the surface, and for the right price, access to a new lift and mineshaft. What’s interesting as you wander around the world is that you’ll discover strange and mysterious objects that seem to serve no purpose, or only suggest you’ve done something somewhere to trigger them. With little explanation given, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder wants you to find out what’s going on for yourself, and brings multiple endings to the tale to add replayability.
In terms of the way it looks and sounds, yeah, it does the job. The underground systems aren’t sprawling, but that adds to the claustrophobic nature of mining, and there’s a good amount of surface that can be chipped away with your axe. The textures work, though it can feel a little basic and angular at times, and there’s not a full feeling of darkness below ground, not that I think stumbling around with no light would be in any way enjoyable. Up top it’s functional rather than impressive, and does convey a certain loneliness in the stark landscapes. Traversal can feel a bit slow, though looking around and actions are in the most part snappy and accurate, and the haptics and feedback systems do the job they’re meant to. In Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder more so than any other PSVR2 title so far I found the hand tracking loses its way, especially when climbing ropes or aiming upwards, though it could be the a number of things not related to the game engine. Sound and voice acting also do the job, even if the music does get a bit repetitive.
There’s an interesting and good length game on hand in Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder. It might not be the biggest draw to sell the power of the PS5 and PSVR2 combination, but it does have a lot to do and experience, and manages to throw in a couple of surprises as well. Each of the screenshots here are taken from my time with it, and as is always the problem, the flat images don’t get across the sense of place that being immersed does. Donning the headset you will find yourself being more conscious of your prospecting role: ducking through rough hewn passageways you’ve dug, using your finger lighter to dispel the gloom, and quick drawing your pistol to despatch enemies; so whilst it’s not the prettiest game ever, it certainly makes you feel the part. If you happen to have friends with the same kit (or can cope with strangers), there’s even 4-player co-op mode to stop those jaunts into the depths from getting too lonely.
A PS5 review copy of Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder was provided by Perp Games PR team, and it’s available now on PC and PS5 for around £25 depending on platform with a physical PS5 version available from today (limited to only 100 copies).
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