King, the casual gaming juggernaut behind the likes of Candy Crush Saga has expanded its Saga lineup once more with Diamond Digger Saga. The game tasks players with clicking on groups of matching blocks to remove them, just like Pet Rescue Saga. However, there are enough gameplay twists to make Diamond Digger a worthy and unique addition to the Saga series.
King has a tried-and-true game development process which has resulted in their great success in the casual gaming sphere. They post tons of games to their own portal, Royal Games, and the big hits there are the ones that get polished up and transformed into Facebook games. It’s no surprise, then, that Diamond Digger’s Facebook iteration is packed with charming music and adorable artwork. Every sound effect and visual sparkle is in place to reward players for clicking on the game and getting drawn into the world.
Diamond Digger Saga follows a cute buck-toothed alien who goes on a journey to hunt for underground treasure. He has the ability to transform his body into a rapidly spinning drill and does so to dig deep into the earth. The map that connects all the levels together shows every 10 levels or so taking place on a different tiny planet, not unlike those you’d see in Super Mario Galaxy. The story is very basic and barely present, but cute four-panel comics show up each time a new objective shows up to explain why the alien would be interested in objectives that aren’t collecting treasure in the first place.
The game’s framework will be extremely familiar to anybody who’s spent time with any of King’s Saga games. 110 levels are spread across a map. Each level asks you to complete a certain objective within a certain number of moves. Succeed, and you’ll receive 1–3 stars based on your score; fail, and you’ll lose one of your 5 extra lives. When you’re out of lives, you’ll have to wait for them to recover, buy them with gold, or ask your Facebook friends to send you some for free. Various boosters can be purchased with gold to make levels easier, and if you still fail, you can always spend gold on a few more moves to continue the level. Gold, of course, is a premium currency that you can buy in bundles with your credit card.
The game’s blocks consist of gems on top of dirt. Clicking on a group of three or more matching gems destroys the gems and digs up a layer of the dirt beneath. Unlike most match-threes, you don’t get points for simply matching gems. Instead, you get a nominal amount of points for digging up dirt and many more points if the dirt contains gold. Conveniently, patches of earth that contain gold are striped with a golden color. Most dirt can be broken in a single match, but rocks can take multiple hits to fully excavate.
A pool of water sits at the top of each screen. As you clear dirt, the water fills up the empty areas left behind. If you can get the water to an exit at the bottom of the screen, you’ll dig down to the next room. Each new room has a different layout to work through. There’s several reasons to continually dig deeper. First, you can only dig up so much earth in a single room, so digging deeper gives you access to more dirt and more gold. Second, deeper rooms have better gold. At first you’ll only find gold coins, but as you go deeper, you’ll find bags and eventually chests full of the stuff; and more gold means more points. Finally, each time you make it to a new room, you get two extra moves to make before it’s game over.
The depth mechanic adds an interesting balance of risk and reward to a game that could have fallen really flat otherwise. Early in the game, you want to get down deep as efficiently as possible. Eventually, you have to make the call to make gold your top priority to focus on collecting points. If you make the call too early, you’ll spend too many moves on gold coins and bags. If you make the call too late, you won’t have enough moves left to find the precious treasure chests.
As I quickly referenced earlier, your objective isn’t always to get gold. Sometimes, it’s waking up fireflies, collecting bath toys, or stacking totems onto their bases. All three alternative objectives are interesting and shake up the way you play the game. Fireflies wake up when you get water to their square. Bath toys are hidden in blue rocks that you must destroy by making matches. Totems fall as you break the earth beneath them, eventually reuniting with their bases. There’s still a motivation to dig ever-deeper, but it turns into finding more fireflies, blue rocks, and totems instead of getting better loot. Each firefly level has a limited number of fireflies to wake up. An exclamation point icon will hover over any firefly that you must wake up before moving on to the next screen. If you miss it, it will be impossible to reach your objective and it’s game over. The same applies to bath toys and totems. Sometimes, it’s quite tricky to reach an objective before you get the water to the exit.
Diamond Digger Saga has a fun gameplay mechanic with some clever twists on match-three. It’s hard to put down, and that’s largely owed to how great King is at polishing a game so that it simply feels great to interact with. It inherits all the good and bad that goes with being a Saga title. On the one hand, you’ve got addictive gameplay and lots of charm. On the other hand, you’ve got premium currency, an extra lives system, Facebook integration, and a steep difficulty curve to deal with. You should already know whether or not you find King’s monetization morally objectionable or not. If so, give this one a pass. If not, you’re going to love Diamond Digger Saga — it’s one of the best King games I’ve played.
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