Digger: Now On Almost Every Platform
April 18, 2014 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Digger is a classic IBM PC game from 1983 made by Windmill Software. You can play it online via HTML5, online via Java or download a version for platforms both common and obscure. More ports are on the Links page.

Special bonus: the soundtrack to Digger features the 1969 Gershon Kingsley song "Popcorn", later made famous by Hot Butter in 1972. Learn all about "Popcorn" here, including this exhaustive list of hundreds of covers and remixes. Popcorn previously on MeFi (seven years ago!).

The original DOS version of Digger can also be downloaded from Archive.org's Old School Emulation Center. If you want to play it you'll probably want DOSBoxunless you have a way to get the file onto an actual original IBM PC.
posted by jedicus (23 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
huh, I'm pretty sure that I played this a *ton* as a very small child. This and Bouncing babies although i was very bad at that.
posted by rebent at 10:05 AM on April 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ah, I totally remember this one and knew it when I read the name :)
And if anyone is curious, There is a Bouncing Babies port to Android

And of course, looking now, I see there are a couple versions of digger on Android :)

Now I wonder if they have that cat-gene breeding game on Android. Hmm... Oh CGA/EGA How I missed you!
posted by symbioid at 10:55 AM on April 18, 2014

Thanks for this, used to play this for hours with my Dad!
posted by defcom1 at 11:39 AM on April 18, 2014

I never thought I'd see this again! I spent hours upon hours playing this. I wonder if my left hand still has my opening moves memorized?
posted by chowflap at 11:45 AM on April 18, 2014

So the year is 1987 and through the personal computer scheme at my father's workplace we'd gotten our first, brand spanking new XT clone -- with two 51/4 inch floppy disk drives, as two drives was clearly better than the alternative of one floppy drive and a 10 meg harddisk. Some kind cow-orker of dad had gotten us kids a floppy with various games, like Paratrooper (which I'd twenty years or so later would rediscover on my ipod), Centipede, some commando game called command.com we couldn't get started and Digdug, aka Digger.

Digger became a firm favourite in the Wisse household, with nobody as much so as mum, who tended to play it whenever she had five minutes left over (the pc was located in the living room so it was easy). One night, cooking the evening meal, which as usual was some variant on meat, two vegs and potatoes, she got so engrossed in playing Digger that she actually burned the potatoes, something we've never let her live down (hi mum.)

Just hearing the music brings me back to the late eighties. I can't wait to show it to her.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:45 AM on April 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

some commando game called command.com

It was basically a rip-off of an older game, Conquest Program for Military. Terrible. You didn't miss much.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:49 AM on April 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

All I knew was dig dug, which looks like a modified version of this game.
posted by locidot at 12:42 PM on April 18, 2014

This looks like a pretty unabashed clone of Mr. Do. I really miss the crazy bouncing ball of Mr. Do though.
posted by egypturnash at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is a clone of Mr. Do, yes, and for the record Mr. Do is a substantially better game, in fact one of the great under-recognized games of all time. It's so much better than Dig Dug (which itself isn't bad) it's not funny.

Mr. Do is one of those topics at which I can expound at length, but I'll spare you all that for now.
posted by JHarris at 2:41 PM on April 18, 2014

Here is a much better video of Mr. Do!, that gets very far and earns at least one Diamond.
posted by JHarris at 2:46 PM on April 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

(I should note the video I linked is of an expert player who takes advantages of many AI quirks.)
posted by JHarris at 2:49 PM on April 18, 2014

Such a great video, JHarris. Mr. Do beguiled me as a kid. Such upbeat music and graphics, great sound effects, and so many things going on; crushing, digging, bouncy weapons. do we take this off-thread?
posted by davemee at 3:03 PM on April 18, 2014

Mr. Do! is terrific, yes. If you want, I'm always open to MeMail.
posted by JHarris at 4:45 PM on April 18, 2014

holy crap maybe this time I'll get further than the first level cause i'm not 3
posted by yoHighness at 5:13 PM on April 18, 2014

Digger was a fantastic game* and I was happy as a clam when I replayed this on an emulator and managed to go a few stages beyond what I could as a child. Knowing that you can shoot and when to do it makes all the difference.

*Adjust for nostalgia maybe
posted by ersatz at 5:14 PM on April 18, 2014

I wholly encourage you to expound at length on exactly why Mr. Do was awesome. (it was).
posted by the bricabrac man at 6:10 PM on April 18, 2014

I have fond memories of playing Mr. Do vs. Unicorns (known elsewhere as Mr. Do's Castle) at a video arcade in the outer suburbs of Melbourne many years ago.
posted by acb at 6:18 PM on April 18, 2014

On Mr. Do! (apologies for derail, but Digger is very close in some ways, although different in others):

First, there are several Mr. Do! games (properly written out, it has an exclamation point, although sometimes that's annoying to type out and/or read). Three sequels, Mr. Do's Castle, Mr. Do's Wild Ride, and Do! Run Run, have little to do gameplay-wise with the original game, although each quite interesting in their own right. Later on there was a port to the SNES, with a two-player versus mode, a Neo-Geo update, Neo Mr. Do!, and a handful of other ports, including a sad little version for the Atari 2600. Those are also interesting, but the original arcade game remains the best version (SNES in single-player is close, although not as hard).

The game is a classic-era arcade game, contemporary with Pac-Man. Mr. Do is a clown deep down underground, whose job it is to collect buried cherries around each single-screen level. He can dig through the dirt and move along an invisible grid, exactly like the guy from Dig Dug can (whose name, BTW, is Taizo Hori). Opposing him are the "Badguys," red dinosaur things that appear in pairs from the center of the board. (They have different Japanese names which I haven't bothered to look up right now; the name Badguys is an American invention.) The enemies chase the clown, and if they catch Mr Do he loses a life. Mr. Do tries to collect all the cherries, or kill all the Badguys, to complete the level. There are a couple other ways to finish a board; more on those later.

Unlike the Pookas and Fygars from Dig Dug, the enemies in Mr. Do! are restricted to the already-dug passages, and can't "osmose" through the dirt. However, if the Badguys get impatient in their chasing they will turn blue and gain the ability to dig through the dirt themselves for a moment, and make their own passages. The likelihood of this increases as each level continues, and throughout the game. In doing this they can collect cherries themselves; if one of them gets the last cherry the level ends anyway, and if a level has been delayed for some reason it's not unknown for them to do this to end the board on purpose. There are other interesting consequences of the enemies' digging ability, too....

Mr. Do has two weapons against the enemies. One is the Powerball, a little white ball Mr. Do visibly carries with him. Pressing a button releases it, causing it to bounce around the board. For the most part it caroms at right-angles off of dirt walls, but once in a while it'll go in a random direction on a bounce, adding unpredictability to its motion. If the Powerball hits an enemy it kills it, destroying the ball at the same time; if it hits Mr. Do he catches it and can use it again later. There can only be one ball in existence at a time, either in motion or in his hands. After killing an enemy, the Powerball regenerates in Mr Do's hands after a short delay.

The first delay is like a second, but each successive ball kill on a level or life increases the delay, and after three it gets to be quite long, making it useful mostly for emergencies. So what you want to do most of the time is kill enemies using apples, which are a lot like the rocks from Dig Dug, not collectables but tools you can use to kill enemies. When you dig the dirt out from beneath an apple it falls until it strikes hard dirt again, tearing through thin bits of dirt along the way. Enemies it strikes as it falls are crushed (with one exception), and the more enemies you hit with one apple the more points you get, up to 10,000. The catch is that you aren't immune to apple crushing either, and enemies beneath a falling apple try to get out of the way if there's a free path.

Unlike the rocks of Dig Dug, apples can be pushed horizontally; if there's multiple adjacent apples you can even push them all as one unit, although this is slower. Also, if an apple falls only one space and doesn't crush an enemy it isn't destroyed. Badguys can also push apples, but can't move through them. Sometimes, when a digging Badguy moves under an apple, it'll trigger its fall itself; any enemies, himself included, killed by this earn you points as if you had dropped it. This kind of behavior is one of the little things that makes Mr Do interesting. With a bit of thought you can take advantage of this; the video I linked does so extensively.

When all of the Badguys on the level have emerged from the center, what's left is the food, an item that can be collected, like Dig Dug's vegetable, for points. Unlike Dig Dug, collecting the food starts a special event. The dirt turns red, the Badguys freeze in place, and from the top of the screen emerges the Alphamonster and his guards, the Munchers. These guys will chase Mr. Do relentlessly, although they cannot dig. They can eat apples though, even those that are falling down on them if they are moving upwards at the time, which makes them difficult to crush. The best way to kill these guys is using the Powerball, and fortunately collecting the food resets the Powerball recharge delay. The Badguys will remain frozen (but still deadly if you walk into one) until all the Munchers are killed; if the Alphamonster itself is still alive then, it'll continue to wander, and eventually leave the board. If the Alphamonster itself is killed, all the Munchers will immediately turn into apples, which then fall as if they were dropped. Alphamonsters can also emerge by themselves during a level; they do this when the score reaches a multiple of 5,000 points.

When an Alphamonster isn't wandering, it rests in a box at the top of the screen containing the letters EXTRA. It moves between these letters, back and forth, in sequence. When one emerges, whatever letter it was on at that time comes along with it. If you manage to kill the Alphamonster before he leaves you "collect" that letter, and it turns yellow in the box. Letters carry over from board to board, and from life to life. If you get all five letters the level ends immediately, you get a short animation, and earn an extra life. This is the only way to get extra lives in Mr. Do! Helping you collect the right letters, the Alphamonster doesn't linger for long on yellow letters, but you still frequently collect letters you already have, wasting opportunities.

Randomly, once in a great while, a fallen apple will break open to reveal a flashing Diamond. This is a tremendous event when it happens, for one may not appear for many games. The music stops when it happens, replaced by a high-pitched keening noise. If you can get to it before it disappears it's worth 8,000 points, it instantly finishes the level, and it's worth a free game. This makes Mr. Do! one of the very few arcade video games on which you may earn replays. In the video I link above, the player finds two Diamonds.

I mention all this detail because it's all important to playing Mr. Do. You see, Dig Dug is a simple game that controls simply. Mr. Do is a complex game that controls simply. You don't have to know much of this to play Mr Do, but the more you learn, the better you'll do, and the ultimate limit to player skill is very high. It is quite challenging, and few players are good enough to get to the higher levels. I think I've been to level 18 once, and usually lose between level 8 and 12. A really skilled player can go a long time; the video I linked ends right at 999,950 points, on level 57. It rides the line between consistency and randomness well.

Manufacturer Universal made a few other classics, like the later Do games and the similarly-underrated Lady Bug, which might be the most hardcore game explicitly made to appeal to women there's ever been. It is a quirk of fate that now they're obscure and Dig Dug maker Namco's a gaming powerhouse, but the more you learn of the nature of business, the more you realize these "quirks" are actually the rule.
posted by JHarris at 9:03 PM on April 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

One thing I forgot to mention, but is demonstrated several times in the video -- if Mr Do dies for any reason, any apples in motion will continue to fall during his death animation, and if they happen to crush the last enemy before the death animation completes it'll stop, and you'll instead progress to the next level without losing a life!
posted by JHarris at 9:08 PM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

wow do I suck at this game
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:12 PM on April 18, 2014

Yeah, this is surprisingly challenging!
posted by ageispolis at 8:36 AM on April 19, 2014

Oh man, Mr. Do was so much fun.
posted by homunculus at 10:42 PM on April 19, 2014

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