Arcade bliss on your 7800!
By Ethan C. NoblesMarch 18, 2005
It's a good thing we don't rate title screens.
It's kill or be killed!
Tailor made rock dropping!
What's the point of being able to make your own mazes if the critters can ghost right through them?
The Atari 7800, of course, was home to a
lot of top-notch ports of arcade games. After all, games like
Asteroids, Centipede, Food Fight and Ms. Pac-Man truly shine
on the 7800. Perhaps the best arcade port on the system, however, is
Dig Dug. Honestly, this thing is extremely close to the arcade
version and better in at least one respect Dig Dug on the 7800
moves along at a faster clip than one might expect. And, better yet,
this game is as common as sin. Fans of arcade classics and the 7800
really have no excuse for grabbing a copy of this.
Dig Dug was one of legion of games inspired by Pac-Man,
the king of maze-chase games. There are a number of wrinkles which
elevate Dig Dug high above a mere copy of Pac-Man. The
player controls a little fellow who tunnels along without effort and
carries a pump. Monsters goggles-wearing Pooka which attempt to grab
poor Dig Dug and Fygars, which look like small, green dragons and
breathe fire. While it's never made clear why the Pooka and Fygars are
out to get Dig Dug, they seem intent on putting a stop to his incessant
Dig Dug has a defense against the rotten monsters he can shoot his
hose at them and pump them full of air until they explode. If Dig Dug is
in a hurry, he can choose to stop pumping air and simply freeze the
monsters. Also, Dig Dug can tunnel under rocks and drop them on
monsters. Oh, and the monsters can turn into ghosts and float through
dirt to chase after Dig Dug. Yes, this game can be challenging, indeed.
I should also mention there is a nice bonus which Dig Dug can grab from
time to time. Whenever he tunnels under two boulders and dislodges them,
a fruit or vegetable will appear in the middle of the screen for 10
seconds. They range in value from a lowly carrot worth 400 points to an
The great thing about this action game is the fact it requires more than
just good reflexes. It takes some strategy to lure monsters under rocks,
but the effort is worth it as crushing the beasties with rocks nets much
more points than merely exploding them. Also, the best strategy is to
dispatch the monsters as soon as possible to keep them from ganging up
on Dig Dug and rushing him. Another great touch is that the last monster
on the screen will try to escape (he gets scared or lonely, seemingly),
so helping Dig Dug find a way to get rid of the last critter before he
runs off becomes a point of pride.
So, how does 1987's port of Dig Dug for the 7800 measure up to
the arcade? Darn well, actually. The graphics are crisp, charming and
very accurate. The Fygars spit flame which actually looks like fire, and
the goggles on orange Pooka look fantastic. Even the various strata was
done well (the deeper Dig Dug tunnels, the more points he gains). The
animation is quite smooth and the game doesn't flicker like crazy or
slow down considerably when a lot of action is taking place. In short,
this game is downright pretty and really underscores the fact the 7800
was a great console to have for arcade ports.
The sound is good, too a rarity in a 7800 title. In the arcades, the
graphics and music both combined to convey a sense of whimsy. Thank
goodness the 7800 port of Dig Dug preserves that atmosphere very
well. You've got amusing ditties spicing up this game very nicely and
there's a sound for just about everything. Music plays as Dig Dug
tunnels, an alarm goes off when a monster turns into a ghost and is
heading toward Dig Dug and there's a series of tones when Dig Dug is
pumping a monster full of air. My favorite effect the growling noise a
Fygar makes when he's breathing fire is here, too. Considering how
rotten the sound in 7800 games usually is, Dig Dug is a
refreshing change of pace.
The control is good, too. Loose controls would ruin this game, but
everything is tight and accurate here.
I really can't find a flaw with this game. If you love the Dig Dug
arcade game, this may be the best port of it out there for a classic