Dig! for Merge Cube – Game Review (iOS)

Dig! is the second Merge Cube app I am reviewing on AR Critic. Dig! caught my attention because of its very lovely screenshots. It’s categorized under game, so I thought it would be a like a digger game for Merge Cube but it turned out to be a block building block app.

What is Dig!?

Dig! is a sandbox block stacking game where players can build and mine to create 3D worlds that they can hold in their hands. The game was developed for the Merge Cube accessory. If you don’t have it, you need to purchase it first before you are able to play it.

I am not a big fan of Minecraft, so I don’t have those type of block-building skills that expert Minecraft players do. However, I love being creative so I was excited to try out Dig! and see what I can do with it.

The app’s controls are very simple; you can choose the block’s material (lava, crystal, water, rocks, grass, etc.) of the block and add different props to the scene. You can also delete blocks that you’ve previously places (however this requires going to a menu, choose that option, delete the blocks and go back and choose the block type that you want to place, kind of a hassle). when deleting a block, you can also remove not just those block that you’ve previously placed, but the default one as well. This allows users create a very nice effect where part of the cube is actually transparent.

These two options are all it takes to build brand new fantasy worlds. I found the texture and item selection to be very limited. Furthermore, this type of game would be so much better with animated items. There are some sheeps running around on the cube by default, but they are just tiny and insignificant. For example, I would add an option to add an animated waterfall so the Merge cube will turn into a floating island with water falling down from it, like the floating island from the movie Avatar. I would add an option to add different types of animated animals that roam around the surface of the cube, like dinosaurs for example, and even add sound so the AR experience would feel more exciting and immersive.

Saving and Sharing your Artwork

Players have the option to save their world so they can load it at a later time. This is great for those whom already spent a lot of time creating something and they want to continue working on it at a later time.

Furthermore, users can share their work for others to see and load on their own device. Other people’s artwork that you load can be edited like any other saves world. The social aspect is my favorite feature, as it allows users to showcase their hard work and show other people their amazing work that they’ve done with this app.

Unfortunately, the in-game artwork browser is small and very limited in functionality. You can only scroll left or right, see the title of the work and a small thumbnail.  There are quite a few worlds created, but I guess not so much that will motivate the developer to developer a more advanced browser. Having said that, I think it would be nice to at least have an option to choose a category, so users can quickly find the what they are looking for. Of course, it all depends on the popularity of the app and whether such more advanced browser is necessary. As of the time of writing this review, it’s not necessary. Having said that, you can look at it the other way around. The limited sharing functionality might be a reason to hold this app from becoming more popular. It’s the developer’s call, so I live it to his decision. It’s just something that I think was worth mentioning.

Loading other people’s worlds is an exciting experience. It’s beautiful to see how a new block world loading in the palm of your hand. There is something very exciting about this experience, from seeing a thumbnail of the world and then seeing the whole thing coming to life right in front of you in your hand.

Usability

I found the controls to be very unintuitive. I found myself accidentally putting blocks in places that I didn’t want to. Going back to the menu to change to the dig tool just to erase a block and going back to choose the material for the block all over again just ruined the experience for me. I felt like a horologist doing some fine repairing work on an old Swiss watch and messing things up every few seconds.

Furthermore, holding the Merge Cube in the hand while doing all that long building activity felt tiresome.

I was actually surprised to see some of the amazing artworks that people have made using this app. I’m sure it took some of them hours to do what they did. It’s not that I don’t have the patience, it’s because such an inconvenient creation tool just wastes a lot of precious time. Not just that, the lack of more advanced tools limits the creativity. For example, I wanted to create a big lava sword but filling the entire surface needs to be done block by block and it takes forever. Just imagine doing like 50 surfaces like this. A fill tool would be appropriate to achieve this.

As a creative tool, this app definitely suffers from quite a few usability issues that just waste the user’s time and limited tools that limit creativity. I am not asking to have a Photoshop software on this little cube, but there is certainly more room for improvement.

I wanted to build something amazing and impress you, but I couldn’t. I’ve decided just to create the domain name with a Hi world on the cube and that’s it, and the thing is that even that simple and very uncreative idea took a long time to achieve.

Conclusion

A few of the good things that I can say about Dig! is that it has a great presentation and the social feature work well and enhanced the entire experience.

Dig! has taught me that block-building can be a fun experience on the Merge Cube. Having said that, this particular experience felt very limited and frustrating due to usability issues and limited functionality.

Dig! is fun for small projects, building a little house, a tree, and a nice lake, but it’s just too consuming for doing more complex stuff.You can create more complex worlds, but it’s just too time-consuming to become something practical that people would do. I  really wanted to build my big lava sword or see more complex structures that other people did. After using the app for more than an hour, I realized why I don’t see anything like that. I think there was another guy with the same idea to create a sword, but he or she ended up building a sword with just a lone single-block column.

I still think it’s a nice experience for Merge Cube and despite its limitations, The problem is that I believe many people will give up on this app because of those usability issues and limited functionality. I just feel that it could have been much better with better optimization and more features but at the end of the day, it ended up as a mediocre app, nothing more.

You can download Dig! for Merge Cube from the App Store here.

Buy the Merge Cube from Amazon.com here.