Review by noun
Back before they decided to focus all their efforts on churning
out one mediocre Star Wars game after another, LucasArts
produced some of the best adventure games ever made. It's a pretty
impressive portfolio: Day of the Tentacle, Loom,
Fandango, and of course, the whole Monkey Island series.
While all of these were good, The Dig stands out as one of
LucasArts's most high-profile and memorable achievements.
The Dig was originally planned as a motion picture, but
that idea was scrapped due to its estimated cost at the time. Steven
Spielberg thought of the original concept, which was fleshed out
into novel form by prolific author Alan Dean Foster, who also contributed
to the game's dialogue. The voice talent was excellent but low-budget,
with the notable exception being Robert Patrick, most recently of
The Dig's opening could work just as well in a movie theater,
which is no surprise given the level of talent involved in this
title. The game opens with a monitoring station discovering a huge
asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Cut to a press conference,
where the game's heroes are introduced to explain their upcoming
journey to the asteroid and their mission to destroy it. Boston
Low, veteran shuttle pilot and leader of the expedition, Maggie
Robbins, a well-known journalist, and Ludger Brink, a respected
archaeologist, are soon dispatched to investigate the situation.
The game begins at this point with a few simple puzzles to get
you warmed up, culminating in your discovery that the asteroid is
an artificial transport ship. After accidentally activating it,
Boston, Maggie and Brink are whisked away from their shipmates and
end up landing on another world. Your new mission? Figure out where
they are and how to get back home. Shortly after your arrival, an
event causes your party to split up, leaving Boston Low in your
control. You'll soon find evidence that the deserted planet you're
exploring was once home to a thriving civilization, and the bulk
of the game comes from your unraveling its mysteries, namely, where
did everyone go?
At its core, The Dig is just another 2D point-and-click
adventure game, with 100 different areas to explore and the usual
amount of obstacles in your path. However, the storyline is truly
excellent and professionally developed. You get the sense that you
really are on an alien world and, thanks to the excellent writing,
come to view the characters as people and not just pixelated obstacles
preventing your progress. The endings are ultimately satisfying
(there are two different endings depending on your actions at one
point in the game) and leave just enough of a plot opening to allow
for a sequel.
I'm pretty picky when it comes to my adventure games in that I
insist that the puzzles be logical in the context of the adventure
rather than random puzzles, and The Dig doesn't disappoint.
Nearly all of the puzzles have logical solutions that can be discovered
with a little thought rather than random inventory manipulation,
such as restoring power to an errant door with the tools at hand
or searching the environment for a clue to a locked door's combination.
The majority of the puzzles range from easy to moderate, with one
particular head-scratcher in the extremely difficult category, which
makes this an excellent title for first-time adventure gamers.
Unlike other adventure games from their competitors (cough, Sierra,
cough), LucasArts's adventures were designed to not punish the player
for making a mistake. No matter what you did, you would never die
or be forced to reload a previous save because you missed a vital
Taking this user-friendly approach one step further, The Dig
was the first adventure to feature the single-click interface.
Typically, adventure games required you to click on an interface
tool of some sort and select an appropriate function (talk, use,
look, etc.), then click the item or person with which you wanted
to interact. In The Dig, you simply click the item, person
or location on the screen and attempt to use it. The same principle
applies to your inventory items. Opening your inventory, selecting
an item, then clicking the hot spot on the screen is enough to determine
a response. Granted, this functionality is taken for granted in
today's adventure games, but it was LucasArts that pioneered the
As for the graphics, well, let's be honest. The Dig was
released in 1995, written for MS-DOS, and it simply cannot compare
with today's 3D graphics-enhanced genocide simulators. The Dig's
graphics are 640x480, SVGA and very pixelated, though they were
considered state-of-the-art at the time. Still, don't let this discourage
you. Making the most of what they had, the artists did a fantastic
job creating an alien world in 256 colors. Each screen is beautifully
composed, and any relevant hot spots are easy to find and use. The
cut scenes are animated and even today can easily compete with most
cartoons on TV.
The Dig's music and sound, however, are still aural treats
even by today's standards. The Dig's music consists of heavily
synthesized elements of Wagner opera compositions, creating an eerie,
ambient landscape. Given that the game is from LucasArts, it should
be no surprise that the sound effects are top-notch. The voiceovers
are excellent as well, especially Robert Patrick's (Boston) work,
though Steven Blum's (Brink) delivery can be a bit grating at times.
I discovered one other benefit during my Wayback Machine trip:
The Dig runs perfectly on today's powerhouse machines. On
my Pentium 3, The Dig ran just fine in a Windows 98 DOS window,
at normal speed, without a single crash. This is because The
Dig runs entirely from the CD drive and only accesses your hard
drive for game saves. Simply pop in the CD, choose either the 8
MB or 16 MB executable file (remember when 16 MB of RAM was a big
deal?) and you're off and running. Excellent news for those of us
who find today's high-budget games unsatisfying, like a $5 cup of
Starbucks coffee that leaves you with a sour stomach.
What else can I say? As far as 2D point-and-click adventure games
go, The Dig is definitely at the top of the list as one of
the finest games ever made. Any adventure gamer who doesn't already
own a copy should take the time to locate one and experience The
Dig for himself. You won't be disappointed, and you may find
yourself looking at today's games in a new light.
Release Date: Summer 1995
Four Fat Chicks Links
486 DX2 66 MHz
Where to Find It