I just wanted to play for about an hour or so to get a taste of SteamWorld Dig 2 before I went to bed. I ended up going to sleep at 3 a.m. I don’t do that with every game. It takes something special to keep me up into the early hours of the morning, and developer Image & Form’s latest release is absolutely special.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is out now on Nintendo Switch, and it is hitting PC, PlayStation 4, and Vita over the next week. It picks up the story of the original game and has you tracking down Rusty, the hero in the first Dig (and it doesn’t have much to do with the events of off-shoot strategy game SteamWorld Heist). To accomplish this, you explore an underground map hiding tons of treasure as well as power-ups that increase your adventuring capabilities. The core loop will have you traversing mines and caves looking for gold until your backpack is too full to carry anymore. You’ll then travel back to the surface — hopefully using a fast-travel pneumatic tube that you’ve unlocked — and spend that money to enable your character to go even deeper and find even more gold next time.

It’s a tight, satisfying loop, and it’s the reason I couldn’t put the game down. I always wanted to have one more go into the mines because I always felt like I was on the precipice of unlocking the next upgrade or uncovering a new ability. And since a loop might only take 15 minutes or so before you fill up your bag and need to unload some treasure on the surface, it isn’t a major commitment to head back underground one last time … over and over.

Everything else about SteamWorld Dig 2 is nearly as tight as the core mechanics. Locomotion is great with a weighty wall jump and an excellent hook shot ability you’ll unlock in the first handful of hours. Combat takes some getting used to since you have a very short range of attack with your pick ax, but you can combo that with a pressure-bomb launcher and your hook shot to successfully take on any opponent. I also especially like the puzzle platforming. It’s challenging and infuriating, but it’s an excellent change of pace from the exploration.

I’ll see through SteamWorld Dig 2 to the end, but I already think it is one of the best indie releases of 2017.

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