This review was originally created in November 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT) and Oculus Rift. It is reproduced here without alteration.
It’s rare to find a novel video game concept, even in the burgeoning virtual reality space. For instance, I think we’re good for a while with games where you have various guns with which to shoot advancing enemies. That’s why a game like Cave Digger: Riches is so refreshing. Instead of challenging, high-pressure conflicts against various adversaries, the primary goal of the game is simply to mine for treasures. While mining has of course been done before in video games, perhaps most notably in Minecraft, it’s never been quite so immediate or as focused as it it is here in this particular virtual reality experience.
The original version of Cave Digger was released as a free game. Cave Digger: Riches is labeled as paid DLC, or Downloadable Content, but is more accurately described as a complete and greatly expanded version of the original. Here you’ll find improvements like new endings, a tool belt to help better organize your tools, a new level type with lava, more valuables to discover, and a leaderboard-based competitive mode consisting of 10 levels with constant loot and all tools available.
The game is set in an alternate retro futuristic western town, featuring a curious mix of old timey and truly fantastic technologies. In the remote mining lands known collectively as the Frontier, you’re tasked with descending into the mines and using various tools to look for rich veins of gold, gems, oil, fossils, and other treasures to help upgrade your equipment, go deeper, and recover even more valuable items. While you start out with a simple pickaxe, you can eventually upgrade to various power and other automated tools to help improve both your efficiency and productivity, which is important considering each mining stop is on a limited timer.
Designed for Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift owners, Cave Digger: Riches is a room-scale experience that can be played seated or standing. As is typical for many virtual reality games, standing play in a good-sized room allows you to get the most out of this particular experience, especially since you’re working against the clock. Both Vive or Oculus Touch controllers are used to select and manipulate the various tools, with movement handled either by walking about your own room or via warping.
Although some of the rock-breaking animations could use a little improvement, the overall audio-visual presentation is excellent. The environments and various in-game objects are well-rendered with nice lighting effects, and, despite the thematic mashup, presents a consistent, coherent design direction that immerses you in the unusual game world. Sound design is similarly well-done, with good music and appropriate effects for each tool and rock impact.
As mentioned, Cave Digger: Riches does a great job of mixing its realistic and more fantastic elements into one cohesive whole. One way it achieves this is by injecting humor throughout its experience. Besides the more obvious bits of humor, there’s also a clever take on Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet from Avengers: Infinity War, where you get your own Chaos Gauntlet to both punch rocks and power up with various gems. Just be careful of the consequences!
As both an interesting experience and polished game, Cave Digger: Riches, proves a success. While it would be nice to have a few other modes, including a free-form mode to cathartically mine in larger spaces to your heart’s content without time limits, all that’s already there still proves surprisingly durable and engaging.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars.
Cave Digger: Riches is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.