A great port of an arcade classic
By Ethan C. NoblesDecember 19, 2005
This is one of the few 2600 games with a title screen.
There it is, in all it's glory. Just don't drop any rocks on your own head.
Any fan of the Atari 2600 knows one simple
truth about arcade ports for the system – the graphics are never as good
as the original, but it is possible to preserve the gameplay very well.
The same is true of Dig Dug, a game published by Namco in 1982.
This is one of the better arcade translations you'll find for the 2600,
in fact – a big deal considering how many rotten ports exist for the old
The premise of Dig Dug is quite simple. Of course, this is a
“maze chase” game influenced by Pac-Man, but enough differences
were packed in to turn this into a truly unique game. The game's
namesake – Dig Dug – is an underground miner equipped with nothing but a
“jet-powered shovel” (or, so the instruction manual states) and an air
hose attached to a pump. The air hose, of course, is Dug Dug's weapon –
he uses it to explode fire-breathing Frygars and balloon-like Pookas.
Dig Dug's enemies can be destroyed if our hero manages to dig under a
boulder and drop it on the baddies.
And, what's an arcade game without points? Points are scored for each
shovel of dirt dug (there are various strata – the deeper Dig Dug
tunnels, the more points he scores). Points are scored for blowing up
enemies or dropping rocks on them. And, whenever at least two boulders
are dislodged, a fruit or vegetable will appear, and those things can be
worth quite a number of points if Dig Dug manages to snag one before it
The thing which makes Dig Dug a truly intriguing game is the fact
some subtle strategy is involved. For example, Pooka and Frygars can
turn into ghosts and chase Dig Dug, so eliminating enemies early to keep
them from ganging up on our hero is important. Furthermore, big points
are scored for dropping boulders on enemies, so it's worth the effort to
lure them in position to be destroyed. Also, the last enemy on the
screen will try to escape after the rest have been eliminated, so
chasing him down and giving him the ol' air hose is a good idea.
Fortunately, virtually all of the elements which made Dig Dug an
arcade hit were preserved well in the game. There is, however, a major
difference in the game speed. Dig Dug moves slower on the 2600 than he
did in the arcade. And, he moves much slower than he did in the Dig
Dug port for the 7800 (which, by the way, is a superior game and one
of the best available for the system).
The graphics, as one might suspect, aren't exactly great. Regardless,
they're pretty good for the 2600. There's a bit of aggravating screen
flicker involved, and the “dirt” looks more like horizontal lines than
anything else. Dig Dug is rendered in one color, as are the enemies. The
Frygar's flame is one color, too – a far cry from the well-animated fire
in the arcades and on the 7800. The rocks look like squares and the
vegetables flicker like crazy. Still, the game looks pretty clean and
the game might not look exactly like the arcade version of Dig Dug,
but it's certainly impressive for the 2600.
The sound is very good, too. The music from the arcade game was
preserved well and there are sound effects to warn when monsters are
about to attack and such like. Considering the sparse sound effects
featured in most 2600 titles, this one is a welcome change of pace.
The control is pretty good, too. There's nothing that wrecks a good
arcade games like sloppy control, and that's not an issue here. Sure,
Dig Dug moves slower than I'd like, but at least it's not too much
of a challenge to point him in the right direction and pump enemies full
All in all, this is a very solid title for the 2600. Dig Dug was
an absolute hoot in the arcades, and this port retains the all-important
gameplay of the classic very well. It's fairly common, too, so grab a