In Script Welder's puzzle sim Excavate!, you've been hired by a university to lead excavations surrounding an old cemetery, but you've got 14 days and they want to see the best results you can get in that time. Pick your crew of four, taking into consideration their proficiency in skills that impact your work, such as Perception to inspect things or Strength for physical labour, and then set out to the dig site, where I presume your honorary pith helmet, khaki shorts, and knee-high white socks are waiting for you. While you'll start out with basic funding to purchase supplies like tools that give bonuses to actions such as inspecting or clearing dig sites, you'll be granted more funds daily as you catalogue and send back the things you find. The main game takes place on a map made up of various tiles, and each character can perform different actions daily depending on how many action points they have. While certain upgrades can help you figure out where to begin work, when you choose to inspect an area, it'll give you a Minesweeper-esque description of how many tiles away in either direction something interesting is hiding. Dig to find ruins, explore them, and then catalog what you discover to send it back to the university. Accomplish everything you can in a day before your workers run out of points, but don't forget to leave some so you can set someone to guard duty at night. I wonder when you unlock the button to ignore Brendan Fraser's dire warnings and get devoured by a swarm of scarab beetles..
While Script Welder may be known for more terrifying games, Excavate! is a surprisingly clever little simulation that uses simple controls and mechanics to craft an unexpectedly complex experience. While it's not exactly heaving with mechanics, properly managing your team to excavate, respond to contacts to handle your credibility, clear sites for digging, guard at night and more can be challenging... especially in the beginning during the obligatory "I have no idea what I'm doing and am totally wasting all my time and resources" phase. Figuring out how to choose the best, well-rounded team and then the upgrades that complement and enhance their ability takes some trial-and-error, while making the most of each day and keeping the dig site safe at night, and handling the requirements for any messages requires juggling actions for the entire team. It's simple without being overly so, though it lags a little in the personality department without any real story or characters to speak of, and the relic-dusting "minigame" feels pointless and the messages can be more frustrating than rewarding since you can't predict when they arrive, and thus may have to simply suck up a penalty if you don't have the points to spend on whatever it wants you to do. Despite that, Excavate! is still pretty darn nifty, with its relaxing, thoughtful gameplay and an unexpected treat from a developer more typically well known for making you leap out of your seat. So what are you waiting for? Excavate... EXCAVATE, DOC-TOR!!