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Arcades Changed My Life: Dig Dug

Paulo Laureano
Paulo Laureano Game

The game was as much fun as you could get with your clothes on as a teenager in the 1980s.

Dig Dug (by Nanco, 1981) is one of my favorite arcade games ever. I own a copy of it on every conceivable platform and have played it consistently for three decades.

To say video games had a positive influence on my life is the understatement of the century. Thanks to these classic masterpieces, I got an interest in computer science. I wanted to understand the magic behind all that fun I was having.

In my late teenage years, I wrote a Commodore Amiga game (Total War), followed by a few “BBS door games” (multiplayer games you played while connected to a Bulletin Board Service). Writing those games got me my first “real job” as a SysOp at the biggest BBS in Portugal, “Visus BBS”.

A few years down the line, I wrote a full-blown commercial game, “SudoKu Live”, distributed in-store shelves all over North America and Canada by Games Mill Publishing.

Writing games, even half-baked ones, written in 24-hour marathons, is something I have been doing all my life.

Back to Dig Dug…

 

Gameplay

You control Taizo Hori, the smurf look-a-like blue hero character, dressed in white and armed with a pump capable of inflating enemies until they burst like balloons. Only you, the mighty hero, can dig through the dirt, and when your clear it from below rocks, they will fall and kill whatever is in their way.

You have two enemies: Pookas, red round creatures with large yellow goggles, and Fygars, the horizontal fire-breathing green dragons. While they cannot dig, they can slowly transverse the dirt in ghost form.

You need to kill every enemy to finish each level, either by dropping rocks on top of them or inflating them until they explode. The last one standing among these pesky creatures will always try to escape to the top left corner of the screen instead of facing you; the coward is worth some points, have that in mind if you want to extract every possible score from each level.

There is a big bonus for killing multiple enemies with rocks and inflating and bursting them in the lower ground. Bursting green dragons horizontally while avoiding the fire they expel is also worth double points.

The number of enemies and their speed increase every time you finish a level. It’s originally an Arcade game; the aim was to get some coins out of you. As far as my teenager wallet was concerned, it was very successful.

 

Credits

It is a one-hit-wonder in game design by Masahisa Ikegami with some help from Shigeru Yokoyama (the creator of Galaga and many more classics from the era). Programing credits go to Shouichi Fukatani and Toshio Sakai. The excellent music and game character moving sounds were composed by Yuriko Keino.

The game was incredibly successful; back in the 80s, it was the second-highest-grossing arcade game in Japan, and it is still sold today on every modern game platform on the market.

A masterpiece you must check out. Play it now, and thank me later!

Bonus content if you got here!

You can find games I wrote in itch.io — from my own version of the arcade game “Frogger”, remakes of of Game & Watch titles like “Fire!” and “Octopus”, to “Total War” (Amiga) and a cut-down version of “Sudoku live” without the multiplayer components (there are no servers anymore). There are more in https://plaureano.itch.io/ if you are curious.

No, I did not write a Dig Dug version of my own. It is perfect as it is. I don’t want to mess with perfection. Others have tried and failed over the years.

There are Windows, MacOS and Linux versions for most of the games. Have fun!

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