Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder is a prime example of a title that gets lost in VR. Here we have a very solid gameplay loop revolving around delving into caves for treasure in a steampunk version of the Old West that gets almost completely lost in weird and glitchy VR implementation. For every moment I actually enjoyed playing Cave Digger 2, there were at least twice as many moments where I was struggling to get my dumb gun into my dumb holster. The jank built into the game outweighs the fun gameplay in a way that makes it tough to recommend.
But before I get to all of the nagging issues that eventually put me off Cave Digger 2, lets talk about some of the good stuff. If it worked a little better, Cave Digger 2 would be a winner. The mechanics here are simple but fun. Cave Digger 2 starts the player off with the simplest of mining tools, a pickaxe and a gun. The player starts at camp, lowering themselves on a creaky hand-cranked elevator down into a three-level procedurally generated cave.
Once down in the cave, the game asks players to engage in a few simple but fun tasks. Explore around, blast any enemies that get in your way with your gun, shoot or mine jewel nodes on the walls and ceiling, and pickaxe your way through soft areas in the walls to discover new routes, goodies, and secrets. Any loot you find along the way, you can toss into your pack. Once you think you've had enough (or you finish all three levels), it's back to the camp topside to sell your loot, upgrade your gear, and buy new stuff. Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And move to a new camp, and repeat again.
It's a pretty solid loop, and one that would be a blast if anything in the game worked worth a damn. But there is so much VR jank in this game that I struggled to last more than an hour at a time in Cave Digger 2. Either it was making me sick with it's weird motion mechanics and bug-out camera, or I simply dropped my gun on the ground when I meant to holster it one too many times, got mad, and quit.
First the motion system, which just feels like a hot mess. Players supposedly have the option to use either teleport or smooth motion to move around the underground areas in Cave Digger 2. Unfortunately, both systems are both active simultaneously, with the left stick handling smooth motion, and the right stick handling teleportation. This might work if the teleport behaved in a reasonable manner, but instead the player is forced to use a weird combination of the two methods.
The reason for this is that you can't teleport everywhere on the map; there is an invisible border running about two feet inside the walls of the caves where teleport stops. So, if you want to mine a wall, you can't reach it from where the teleport cuts off. You have to teleport over near the wall, and then use smooth locomotion to get the rest of the way to the wall. This, my friends, is a surefire recipe for VR sickness, as bouncing between the two mechanics is utterly nauseating. And even without these border issues, teleport really isn't a viable option, as enemies charge directly at you, leaving you reeling backwards while popping off shots to keep from dying. Good luck teleporting backwards, friends.
This doesn't even begin to mention the various times that the camera freaked out and spun me around, or I somehow teleported to a different place in the room and got completely disoriented. I've spent hundreds of hours in VR at this point, and this is one of the worst travel implementations I've seen in a game. I can get used to almost anything eventually, but this system simply does not work for me.
Inventory presents similarly buggy issues. You have a number of very small slots around your body, which are represented by rings you see around your waist/chest. You are supposed to hold items in the rings until they light up and then let go, which will store the object in that slot. Good luck with that, as at least 50% of the time I managed to drop my stuff right through the ring and onto the floor. In the heat of action, I want to just be able to slap something down and know that it will end up where I want it to go; I don't want to stand there and jiggle an object up and down until the game recognizes that it is there (and then drops it anyhow).
I had further trouble with the loot system, which has the player tossing jewels and nuggets over their shoulder and into a loot bag. And you guessed it - I was constantly having to turn around to make sure the stuff got into the bag, and didn't just land on the floor; the window to toss stuff over your shoulder is far too small. Other technical issues persisted as well. Sometimes the narrator was drowned out by the sound effects and I couldn't hear the instructions he was giving. Sometimes there were objects that clearly should be able to be mined that refused to break. And of course, the worst of all was when the camera would lose track of where it was, and I would find the image crossing with itself, or suddenly enlarging, or going 2D for a second or two.
The bottom line with Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder is that I continuously returned to it because I wanted to play it, as there are a lot of simple, cool game mechanics that deeply tempt the obsessive hoarder that dwells in my soul. But unfortunately, I always felt like I was wrestling with the game rather than playing it; it just doesn't seem tuned well enough to get out of its own way and let the player have fun. As a release title for Sony's shiny new platform, Cave Digger 2 feels like a relic from the last generation; a title that hasn't figured out how to implement VR well enough to justify its existence in the format.
Cave Digger 2 is just too mechanically inconsistent to fully recommend. While there is a fun roguelike at the core of this experience, I had trouble with almost every mechanic in the game bugging out or being overly difficult due to technical issues. When you have to struggle this much to get a game to perform, it's tough to recommend, no matter how good the ideas behind it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, PS5, PS4, PSVR, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host Spielberg Chronologically, where we review every Spielberg film in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
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