Lethargic gameplay makes Diggles much less than the sum of its parts.
Dwarves are the blue-collar workers of mythology. In a typical fantasy setting, these short and stout creatures are always the hardiest of souls, most at home when they're digging through solid rock. So while elves are singing songs in the forests, and knights are rescuing maidens fair, dwarves are busy with picks and hammers far underground. As a result, they are often excluded from the lead role in heroic tales...and in computer games.
That isn't the case in Diggles: The Myth of Fenris, a real-time strategy game from Innonics that puts dwarves front and center. This twist on the usual order of things is accompanied by some promising design ideas that blend traditional RTS base-building and resource collection with role-playing elements reminiscent of virtual life games like Creatures. But although these two disparate genres have been combined almost seamlessly, lethargic gameplay makes the whole game much less than the sum of its parts. Every action that your dwarves undertake takes so long that you'll spend more time watching and waiting than playing. You might as well be watching TV. And at times, you'll wish that you were.
In some ways, you've already seen the stars of Diggles on television. Although the curiously named clan of dwarves has yet to sign a series deal with CBS, the creatures have more than a passing resemblance to the Smurfs. The designers may have cooked up a plot inspired by medieval mythology, but their lead characters owe more to Hanna-Barbera than to Norse sagas. The game's graphics are deliberately cartoonlike, and the diggles have exaggerated facial features. Big eyes and bulbous noses are everywhere. Objects in the game are similarly fashioned; most are oversized and strangely proportioned. Everything is slightly off-kilter and colorfully abstract, in the same way as a Saturday-morning cartoon.
For the most part, Diggles' cartoonlike look and feel work well enough. The tone throughout the game is lighthearted and cute, but not sickeningly so. The diggles are sweet and innocent, but in a Three Stooges sort of way that includes a lot of pratfalls and dumb behavior that'll probably make you shake your head a few times. Diggles' bright 3D visuals and simple colors further establish this mood, as does the simplistic, side-scrolling platform style of play.
Other aspects of Diggles aren't nearly as effective. While the light subject matter is a welcome change from that in traditional RTS games, most of the humor is awkward and poorly timed. Pauses in the middle of dialogue sequences ruin a lot of the one-liners, which at any rate aren't anything to write home about. The game's voice-acting quality is generally poor, something that makes the humor seem even more forced. In-game audio effects are almost completely missing in action. Birds chirp and the drum-centric soundtrack beats away in the background, though the diggles themselves are completely silent except when they're speaking in cutscenes.
More problematic is the omission of multiplayer support. For reasons known only to Innonics, the company shipped Diggles without a multiplayer mode of any kind. There is a single-player skirmish option, however, and the campaign plot is clever. Instead of being sent up against some enemy force in a series of nondescript set-piece battles, the diggles are asked by Odin to find his lost dog. Fenris has broken his leash and fled into the underworld, and you've been promised demigod status if you can bind him with a mystical chain called the Gleipnir. To find him, you need to build bases, dig tunnels, fight enemies, solve the occasional puzzle, collect valuable items and weapons, and do a lot of exploring. This is where the game's fatal flaw rears its ugly head. Almost everything that you do takes too much time. Building a basic structure occupies a diggle for at least a minute, typically longer, as does packing up a building for transport to a new location. Digging is similarly drawn out, as is chopping down the mushrooms used for food and some construction. Even the act of traveling from one location to another is tiresome, since the diggles don't move very quickly on their stubby legs, even when double-clicked into a skipping run.
- Player Reviews: 4
- Game Universe:
- Holiday Lemmings 1993 (PC, AMI),
- Lemmings (MAC, AMI, PC, PS, C64, CDI, 3DO, GB, GEN, GG, LYNX, NES, SMS, SNES, TCD, CPC, MAC, PC, X68, ST, ZX, AMI, ST, CD32, VITA),
- Oh No! More Lemmings (AMI, PC, MAC, ST),
- Lemmings (PSP, PS2, PS3),
- Diggles (PC),
- Lemmings & Oh No! More Lemmings (GBC),
- Lemmings Revolution (PC),
- Lemmings Paintball (PC),
- 3D Lemmings (SAT),
- Ultimate Lemmings (PC)
- Number of Players: