Review by MrSid
Where do I start with The Dig? I have so many compliments to pay this game. Growing up with the Amiga, point and click adventure games were, and still are my absolute favourite genre of video game. The story, the challenge, the sense of achievement, they have it all. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought I had played pretty much every point and click game. Well that was until Andreas Wanda (@obiwandi) from Twitter mentioned a game called The Dig. I had never heard of it so was really excited to find out more. The reason it had passed me by is because The Dig was only released for the PC. I get an allergic reaction when I come into contact with anything made by Microsoft so the whole PC gaming scene kind of passed me by.
I was going to play The Dig via emulation until I found out that it was on Steam for a measly sum of £2.99. Steam is a great was to play this type of game and at that price you can’t complain. Lot’s of other classic LucasArts games have been released via Steam so I would highly recommend checking out the others.
The Dig was released in 1995 by LucasArts. Building on the success of the Monkey Island franchise, The Dig uses the similar SCUMM control interface which has been simplified. Instead of the ‘push’ ‘pull’ ‘open’ ‘close’ type menu, The Dig bypasses this and instead restricts it to a simple click which performs the correct action. The ‘look’ option is retained for you to examine items in your inventory. I really like this simplified gameplay and it makes playing the game quicker which may appeal to those who did not get on with the Monkey Island style interface.
The first thing that you notice when playing The Dig is that it certainly takes itself more seriously than other LucasArts games. There isnt the dry humour and witty one liners. It is a sci-fi themed story that feels sombre and dark in places. You play as Commander Low and are part of a 5 man team on a space mission. An asteroid is on course to collide with earth and you are tasked with blowing it up before it wipes out the human race. After attempting to blow the asteroid up, you discover that the asteroid is hollow and inside is a strange alien world. You must then find a way off of the asteroid and make it back home. The actual storyline is fantastic and is apparently credited to Steven Spielberg. Now onto my thoughts about the game…
Visually The Dig is gorgeous. The artwork is full of detail and has been beautifully drawn. You have to remember that The Dig was released in 1995 so in places the sprites can look a tittle blocky but overall it is stunning. So much time must have gone into drawing the backgrounds. Peppered throughout the game are also a series of cut-scene animations. These cut-scenes at the time of release were probably visually advanced and still do look cool to this day. The digitised animations were created using the INSANE engine.
As previously said, The Dig uses a stripped back control system. It plays really really well and most importantly you can play the game at a good pace. By double clicking you can cut the walking parts of screens and pressing esc skips cut-scenes. These little touches really work and all add to the fantstic playability of The Digg. The inventory menu is also easy to navigate. You can clearly see all you objects which can be reordered and examined easily.
One criticism I have with the gameplay revolves around some of the puzzles. Not only are some of the puzzles seriously difficult but some are very fiddly and can be tedious. For instance, in one puzzle you have to move the planets into a certain order using a gold and silver scepters. Doing so is really clunky and frustrating and it’s not a pleasurable experience. Another example are the door codes which are a series of coloured shapes. They must be put into a certain order to make the door open but cycling through the different shapes is really slow and annoying. On the subject of difficulty, some puzzles are just ridiculously tough. Im pretty good at this type of game but I was seriously stumped by some of them. I think these could of been made a little easier or little clues given to help. It sort of takes the enjoyment away in places.
The speech is really cool and something that was missing from Monkey Island. It helps with the story as it gives the characters more personality. Apart from the the speech the sound is pretty stripped back which kind of suits the game well. The classical score which in constant in the background adds to the atmosphere of the game. It’s eerie, moody and really does compliment the gameplay. It isn’t as memorable as other LucasArts games but certainly adds to the overall presentation. In fact, the soundtrack for The Dig was released as an audio CD, the first LucasArts game to do this.
The Dig has aged brilliantly. The simplified control interface helps with this and 18 years after release it still looks beautiful. Sure, it can look a little blocky in places but you can see past that. With the way we play games on our phones nowadays, I feel that this type of game feels pretty intuitive to control. It has that touch screen, one touch kind of feel to it. The one thing that I feel is missing from The Dig is a memorable character. The main guy (Low) is pretty forgettable and is certainly no Guybrush Threepwood.
Also, the fact it can be accessed on a modern platform like Steam makes The Dig easy to get hold of.
So, overall I have been really impressed with The Dig. It isn’t perfect but the good points certainly out weigh the bad ones. The biggest plus points for me are the gripping plot, simple gameplay and seriously stunning graphics. I have really enjoyed playing The Dig and it has been £2.99 well spent. It don’t think it will leave a lasting impression on me for reasons mentioned above but it is an excellent point and click adventure game that holds its own against other more popular titles in the genre. Thanks for the recommendation Andreas!