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ELECTRIC SCOOTERS

 

A SALUTE TO THE 1982 ARCADE CLASSIC

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 according to THIS 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 CLICK HERE).  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.


MORE DIG DUG LINKS AND MADNESS

  • CLICK HERE to see a bizarre dance/remix video clip featuring Dig Dug music (a very large 9MB MPG file, for you dial up daredevils)

  • DIG DUG SOUND EFFECT LIBRARY here's a batch of WAV files you can listen to or download straight from retroCRUSH

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