The Dig review

The Dig

Review – PC

Content Tease: (written later)

Quick Glance: (written later)

Score – Graphics: 5

Score – Gameplay: 7
Score – Sound:
Score – Value:
Score – Overall:
Score Word:

Rating: G

Learning Curve: 10 minutes

The Dig’s been making headlines recently with LucasArts filing a Notice of Opposition against the website, over similarities between the Lucas registered THE DIG, and DIGG. While the idea that people could confuse the two (a fifteen year old game as opposed to a fairly amusing website) is absurd, the action taken by George Lucas has got some fans’ minds whirring: does Lucas have new plans for this old game?

Adding fuel to the fire of speculation is the inclusion of The Dig as one of the LucasArts adventure games recently re-released for the PC. Add to this the fact that The Dig is a game conceived by Steven Spielberg, co-written by Orson Scott Card, with graphics by ILM and loved by many in the 90s, and you’ve got some serious movie potential on your hands.

So what’s it like? Well, let me put it this way. People who have played the game either seem to love it or hate it. GameSpot slagged it, giving it a measly 4.5 out of 10, while players on the same site gave it an average of 8.3. While I’m not giving the score a perfect 10, I still disagree with GameSpot’s sledging – The Dig definitely has something to offer, and at retail value of around 15 bucks NZ, you’re not sticking your neck out too far if you want to try it and make up your own mind.

I can really only give you a general story breakdown, as to go into further detail would ruin a lot of the fun. Needless to say, you start the game as Boston Low, a veteran shuttle pilot, and leader of the expedition. You, and four others, have set out to save the world from impending doom in the shape of a hurtling asteroid destined for earth. You save the day, but in an interesting twist (not giving this one away) you wind up stuck on an alien planet, seemingly abandoned by its former occupants. It’s up to you, and the two companions who made it through space with you, Maggie Robbins and Ludger Brink, to learn as much as you can about your new surroundings and (most especially) make it back to Earth.

Got it? Good. Now, first things first: this is a re-release of a game that was produced in 1995. Perhaps some of you reading this article weren’t playing games back then, but even if you were, it’s surprisingly easy to forget how ugly the graphics were. For a game of its time, though, The Dig stacks up amazingly well compared to its peers. The game plays out through a range of environments, from the stark landscape of the Attila asteroid to the lush alien planet on which our intrepid trio find themselves. While there’s not much you can do with the surface of an asteroid, the alien landscapes are beautifully rendered. Indeed, even the characters, while lacking in definition, still manage to convey emotion and personality.

The voice acting is pretty good too, although I must say some of the dialogue made me cringe. (Fans of X-Files and T2 will enjoy Robert Patrick’s work as Boston.) What didn’t make me cringe however was the dramatic score that really did an incredible job of setting the mood. It’s as fine a soundtrack as you’d hear in any big-budget movie – moody, operatic yet subtle.

In case the last point didn’t give it away, The Dig is one serious game. Considered “hard” sci-fi, this adventure game is light years away from other familiar LucasArts titles such as Grim Fandango and the Sam and Max series. This could be the main sticking point for fans of these games; The Dig just doesn’t have their sense of zaniness and humour. What jokes there are, I hate to say, are pretty lame.

Still, the whole point of an adventure game is to explore right? In that department, The Dig totally delivers. This isn’t a game to rush through and expect to solve straight away. This is a game which forces you to shift down a gear or two, and really take your time with. For the most part, the puzzles are interesting and fun to play. There was one, about mid-way through however, that had me cursing for an evening. Gamefaqs came to the rescue, and I was heartened by the revelation in one walkthrough that the puzzle I’d struggled with was one that had put people off The Dig altogether, forever.

Please try not to let this put you off, because the rest of the game has been totally enjoyable, a trip back in time to the era when the adventure game was king, and when people like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg saw games as genuine vehicles for interesting ideas, and not just movie spin-offs. It may not be the most popular, or the funniest, or the most “user friendly”, but The Dig is still charming in its own way.

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