The Dig is a highly underrated sci-fi adventure, one of the few releases from LucasArts that were not commercial blockbusters. I think part of the reason for this is that most people who bought the game expected The Dig to be another zany, humorous cartoon adventure in the same vein as Monkey Island or Day of The Tentacle. Contrary to their expectation, The Dig is a serious, “hard” sci-fi game – a genre that definitely has a much narrower audience than cartoon adventures. In addition to this niche premise, longtime LucasArts fans may be frustrated with most puzzles in the game, which are much more challenging than in previous LucasArts games (although I find them all to be quite logical). The game therefore suffered the same fate as Sierra’s outstanding RAMA years later: a difficult game that appeals only to a limited audience, namely fans of hard sci-fi. |
If you belong to the game’s intended audience, though, you’ll likely enjoy the game despite a somewhat cliché plot. The involvement of celebrities such as Orson Scott Card (dialogue script), Steven Spielberg (original idea), and Sean Clark (director), should make The Dig much more original than it is. Not that it is without merit—the opening scenes are quite breathtaking, with excellent graphics and grand Wagnerian-style musical score: an Asteroid Attila, which suddenly appeared in orbit around the Earth, is threatening the world population with unavoidable collision in the near future. Your alter ego is Commander Boston Low, who together with geologist Ludger Brink, and journalist Maggie Robbins, form NASA's team for a mission to detonate Attila, blow it off its deadly path and save the world. Once on the asteroid, the team inadvertently triggers controls that transform the rock into a crystal-like spaceship, which immediately took the trapped human team to an abandoned planet on the other side of the galaxy. Being safely transported to an unknown alien world, but unable to stay together in the ever-changing fantastic world, your team breaks up. Because Maggie seeks independence and leaves, and Brink dies stupidly, you are soon on your own, struggling to explore and understand the new, mind-twisting surroundings.
Gameplay is typical point-and-click affair, with a vastly simplified interface: one mouse click is enough to do everything in the game, from talking to characters to manipulating the environment. As mentioned earlier, most puzzles are challenging, but none is illogical. Even those that require a lot of trial and error make sense (naturally that’s the only feasible approach when encountering alien technologies). Voice acting is somewhat inferior to the best of LucasArts’ CD-talkies (say, Sam ‘n Max Hit The Road), but it’s adequate. Although mundane, the plot is quite engrossing and retains consistency throughout the game, and there are even some plot twists to make things more interesting.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Dig and expect other fans of hard sci-fi to feel the same. Anyone who expects another clever, light-hearted LucasArts adventure will be disappointed, however. My biggest gripe is with the ending, which is too abrupt and “Hollywood-y” (i.e. everyone living happily ever after) that it’s a letdown. Also, given the exploratory/trial-and-error nature of most puzzles, alternatives to solving them would have been welcome. These are minor gripes, though. Two thumbs up for this underdog! Reviewed by: Underdogs