The main goal of Dig Dug us to defeat monsters that dwell underground. Defeating the monsters is done mostly by inflating them with an air pump until they burst, or by clearing dirt from under rocks and allowing them to fall on top of the monsters to crush them. There are basically two enemies in the game, “Pookas”, round red monsters, and “Fygars”, green dragons that can breathe fire!
The player is Dig Dug who wears white and blue and can dig tunnels in dirt at an amazing pace. Dig Dug can be killed if caught by either a Pooka, or a Fygar. Also Fygar can spit flames to roast Dig Dig to death. Also dropping a rock on your own head will result in Dig Dugs death. Using the air pump as a weapon is fun and effective. Dig Dug must pump up the monster three or four times depending on game version, and difficulty settings. If you stop inflating the monster before it explodes causes the monster to deflate slowly, and eventually start to move around the screen again unharmed. This is a useful way to stun an enemy, and set it up for a multi kill combo from a falling rock. Dig Dug can also pass thru a monster while its partially inflated, allowing him to escape without killing the monster for strategy reasons.
The tunnels in the dirt are pathways for the monsters to crawl thru to escape to the top, and leave the level. They can also turn into ghost eyes after a short amount of time, and this allows them to pass thru undug dirt to another tunnel or even to the top. The enemies will usually attempt to escape to the top left of the screen. The level is over when the last enemy is killed or has escaped thru the top left of screen.
Dig Dug can get more points for killing the enemies deeper in the dirt. The dirt layers are color coded, and show the different scoring layers, the lowest being the most valuable. Dig Dug can get double points for killing Fygars from the left or right. This is rewarded double due to Fygar only being able to breath fire left or right, making it more dangerous to attack from these directions. Rocks dropped on enemy’s heads are worth 1000 points for the first, 1500 for the second and third, and any more are worth 2000 each. Mining points are earned simply from any dirt blocks dug.
Bonus items appear in the middle of the screen for a short time when two rocks are dropped in a level. If the player can get collect this item before it disappears it is worth different points according to item that appears. Some versions will glitch if Dig Dug drops a rock on an enemy the same time he pops it with the air pump. This glitch clears all monsters, and let’s Dig Dug mine all the dirt safely with no threats besides remaining rocks.
Rounds are indicated by flowers in the top right of the screen, and each round is noted in-between level changes. After every fourth round the color of dirt will change. As rounds pass, more monsters are added to the screen to increase difficulty.
In the arcade version of Dig Dug, the game will end on round 256, shown as Round 0. The round is unplayable due to an enemy being spawned directly on top of Dig Dug as start of round. There is no way to kill the enemy. This was fixed in home Atari 2600 version by not drawing tunnels anywhere but one in the top middle, to middle of screen. A couple of Pookas and Fygars also appear, but will be placed on top of the dirt instead of in a tunnel.