A SALUTE TO THE 1982
One of my all time favorite games is Dig
Dug. Designed by NAMCO, it's often thrown under the shadow of their
more popular creation, PAC MAN, Dig Dug was and still is one of the more
fun arcade games ever designed. Though nobody bothered recording a
"Dig Dug Fever" song, it still holds up more than 20 years later.
In many ways, Dig Dug was sort of the "Bizarro
Pac-Man". Instead of a maze full of dots, ghosts, and fruit, Dig Dug
was a free form underground playing field that let you create your own
twists and turns as you tunneled through the dirt while snatching an
occasional vegetable. The unique manner in which the hero (named
"Dig Dug" by strange coincidence) disposed of his enemies made the game a
standout. No guns, power pills, or energy beams here . . . Dig Dug
carried around a super-powered air pump that would puncture the enemy and
blow them up until they exploded like a hamster without duct tape!
Another semi-sadistic twist in the game
permitted you to loosen giant boulders and send them hurtling down to
crush the poor saps who dared to chase you. If you didn't get out of
the way quickly, however, you'd be flattened as well.
The villains were very colorful an
interesting to say the least. Each level contained Pookas, which
looked like giant cherry tomatoes with scuba masks, and fire-breathing
Fygars, that looked like dragons designed by Sanrio.
As you dug your way through the rock,
they'd chase you through the tunnels you created, but they also had the
ability to pass through the rock like ghosts and get you, if need be.
I never quite understood the backstory as
to why Dig Dug was even doing this? Was he just some poor miner
trying to do his job and killed anything that got in his way? From
an ecological standpoint, perhaps he was the bad guy and the native Pookas
and Fygars were simply defending their turf.
Perhaps the strangest analysis of the Dig
Dug craze comes from Tobias Jensen, a Sacramento philosophy professor who
suggests that the game serves as a metaphor for the carefree gay lifestyle
of the early 80s. Says Jensen in his 1991 book Insert Coin:
Homosexuality In Videogames, "Dig Dug is a perfect symbolism of male
on male eroticism. He's tunneling around looking for action, and
when he encounters his studs, he lets loose with his giant hose and pumps
them up full of his erotic fury." Jensen's work is largely
discredited by most as he is someone I just made up to make a stupid joke.
The game even spawned an official sequel,
Dig Dug II, which moved the game play above ground atop islands that you
could break apart and send crashing into the ocean with a jackhammer.
Dig Dug's influence is also present in an
equally fun digging style arcade game that also came out in 1982 called
Mr. Do. The rocks were replaced with giant golden apples, and Dig
Dug became a wacky clown that had a magic ball that could be launched at
his enemies. Mr. Do itself, spawned many sequels including Mr. Do's
Castle, Mr. Do's Wild Ride, Do Run Run, and the bizarrely titled Mr. Do
vs. Unicorns. I originally thought Dig Dug came out first, but
SITE, Mr. Do actually beat Dig Dug to the arcades by a couple months.
The possibility that the two games were developed independently from each
other is mind boggling.
Like many successful games of the era,
there was even an outright bootleg of the game made called ZIG ZAG
(pictured) above, which was the exact same game with a different title.
There was even a Mr. Do knockoff that was cleverly titled, "MR. DU!"
Dig Dug was adapted for most major home
video game platforms, from the classic Atari 2600 (and all other versions
of Atari), to Apple II, Colecovision, Intellivision, and even handheld
versions of the game. As the pictures above show you (from the Atari
2600 version) they were pretty poor substitutes for the real thing.
In recent years Dig Dug has been made for
Game Boy, PC, and even had a newer sequel called DIG DUG DEEPER with
beautiful graphics and semi-3D game play.
But perhaps the coolest find I've come
across is the NAMCO joystick you can get in stores now, which plugs
straight in to your TV and lets you play near perfect arcade translations
of Dig Dug as well as Pac Man, Rally X, Galaxian, and Bosconian.
It's a bit out of stock due to the Christmas demand, but look around for
it (GAMESTOP currently has it in stock if you
22 years after it's initial release, it's amazing to see how fun Dig Dug
still is across the generations. My 4 year old son has a blast with
it, and can actually get pretty far in the game, and my wife's 62 year old
Dad was having an equally fun time with it as well.