Indie games have been redefining what's popular in video games, and though quick-and-dirty shoot-em-ups still probably reign supreme, more technical games are slowly creeping upward in popularity. Indeed, it's entirely possible to not kill a single person while playing these games, yet still enjoy the experience.
Utopian Mining is one such game. It's not perfect, but it does hint at some intriguing possibilities for the future.
Ever wanted to be a mining robot? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, if you play Utopian Mining, that's exactly what you are: a helpful drilling machine. The town of Utopia has largely been destroyed by a storm, and you're called upon by the citizenry to help restore order. This involves completing a series of missions for needy people, as well as upgrading your own equipment.
How? You mine. You mine 'til you can't mine no more. The ground beneath Utopia is absolutely lousy with valuable ores. Dig deep, collect as much as you can, return to the surface to sell them at the local store. Use the money to recharge your batteries, repair your chassis if you accidentally go too deep, and help people out.
Utopian Mining isn't the only digging game on the indie market, and it surely won't be the last. That said, there's some level of originality in this RPG-esque game in that the resource gathering is about as relaxing as a video game is likely to get. Utopian Mining is an excellent way to unwind after a stressful day, 'cause even though you're helping people, you never feel rushed.
Utopian Mining is easy. Most of the action revolves around the arrow keys, as you dig simply by moving through the dirt. X allows interaction, C backs out of menus, and a couple other hot keys trigger menu options. Very simple, very straightforward, and, in the case of the movement where functionality is most important, very smooth.
Ahh, another pixelated wonder. Utopian Mining is a humble game: the visuals are tidy and clean, much like the rest of the experience. They get a bit repetitive after a while, as the dirt beneath the ground never REALLY changes, but I hold no deep reservations. It is what it is.
Three tracks, one of which you'll only hear at the end. That's about it. The two prominent songs in Utopian Mining are gentle, acoustic pieces that are perfectly suited to country life. No heavy diggin' here.
To call Utopian Mining a difficult game is a stretch. It's not. It's very easy. Time-consuming, perhaps, but easy. There's no way to lose, unless you fill up your robot's ore larder and then go around wasting the remaining pieces of ore. And that would take a veeeeeery long time to accomplish. Even overheating or running out of battery life is of minimal consequence.
I never got the sense that Utopian Mining is MEANT to be difficult. It's relaxing. Therapeutic, even. Just sit back, relax, and let the guitar strings and dirt clods carry you away.
My only beef with Utopian Mining is its anti-climactic conclusion. The game just... kinda... ends. I'd hoped for a little more story behind the town. Shrug?
That aside, Utopian Mining is fun. Could use some more missions and upgrades, perhaps - by the end money is pretty much useless - but worth playing nevertheless. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to lower their blood pressure.
PLAY UTOPIAN MINING