Ground Divers Review: Energy Is The Key
Ground Divers surprised me very early on. From looking at screenshots, I mostly assumed I was playing a game a lot like Mr. Driller, a puzzle series I tend to enjoy. This left me pretty surprised when Ground Divers started with a lengthy tutorial explaining its many mechanics. While both games have you digging through blocks to go deeper into the earth, they are otherwise very different. The good news, though, is that while Ground Divers takes a bit of work to wrap your mind around, it offers an interesting puzzle experience that is well worth a look.
The world of Ground Divers is one where, at some point in the past, ran out of natural resources. This crisis led to war and the potential destruction of all society. If you think this possible look into our own future feels a little dark for a game this cute, you’re not wrong. By the time we jump in, though, the world has been mostly saved though. A savior descended from parts unknown with an amazing mining frame known as a Tsuruhashi. With this mining frame, they went deep into the Earth and found a rare matter which provides incredible energy potential, before vanishing without a trace. Now the world is working again, but that will only continue if you can keep digging that material out of the planet with your own Tsuruhashi, who just so happens to be an adorable little robot.
Once you jump into the game proper, you’ll find that Ground Divers sets itself apart from other digging games in that you’re not directly controlling a character. Instead, you set a path for your Tsuruhashi to dig, and it goes about executing your plan. Simply set a waypoint, and he’ll start digging. You can set up to three waypoints at a time, too, to try to control his path as well as possible, though getting too ahead of yourself may require you to rapidly try to cancel out future plans before he executes them. You’ll want to keep moves loaded, though, because if you run out, your Tsuruhashi will start off on his own path, and that can go very badly pretty fast.
That’s because the world you’re digging through is filled with all sorts of dangers, though there are certainly rewards around as well. Planning the right route is essential as enemies and environmental hazards like gas are all over the place once you get past the very first levels. This ends up being the main challenge of the game, as each time you redirect your Tsuruhashi you’ll use resources known as AP. Everything you do uses it, and it can even be used for upgrades at various rest locations you’ll find throughout the maps. AP recharges by breaking blocks, and in the first level, it felt like pointing myself in the right direction would just allow me to build up a silly amount of the stuff. As Ground Divers goes on, though, I quickly found myself running out as levels required more precision. I really had to figure out the best routes and strategies to avoid getting myself in danger.
Try And Try Again
As levels go on, they get even more dangerous too. Enemies will get more aggressive the longer you’re around, and eventually, you don’t even have to get that close to them for them to start coming after you. This is another pressure on you as you try to plan the safest route, but also one that you can get what you want and need from the stage efficiently so you can get out while the getting is good. If your Tsuruhashi is in danger, you have the option to use a cheer function to power him up, though you’ll need to avoid overdoing it if you don’t want him to overheat. If a stage gets too much, you can retreat at any time. Even if you complete stages, you’ll be coming back to them as you can’t get all the resources in one go. There aren’t many levels in Ground Divers, but this is a game about mastery where you return to the same levels with upgrades to do better than you did on your last run.
Those upgrades are purchased back at your team’s base. You can unlock all kinds of new tools and abilities to make future runs easier, but you’ll need to gather resources from the levels. The energy materials you need to grab are only the start of what is available underground. You’ll also get to spend time with a mostly charming cast of characters, though one obsessive character, in particular, I found pretty off-putting. Ground Divers’ music adds to the charming atmosphere, feeling light and fitting the game well. It isn’t going to stick with me in any major way, but it’s a good fit for the game.
Ground Divers’ cute looks hide a game with surprising depth. While there aren’t very many stages, they quickly start to require a great deal of strategy and planning which can be a lot of fun. It isn’t a must-play, but those looking for a charming puzzle game where resource management is key, and they’ll need to use their heads should give Ground Divers a look.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch(Reviewed); Publisher: Arc System Works; Developer: Arc System Works; Players: 1; Released: June 30th, 2022; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Ground Divers provided by the publisher.