The Dig

1995 LucasArts Entertainment
Designed by Sean Clark
Reviewed 1997 January 29

Rating +0 Linearity narrow
Reasonability sporadic Connectivity moderate
Difficulty challenging Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time none

You play Boston Low, an astronaut in charge of a mission to deflect a meteor that is on a collision course with earth. It turns out to be an alien probe which takes you and two mission specialists across the galaxy to the aliens' home. Unfortunately, they're all out at the moment, so you have to find your way home on your own.

The alien world is very sterile. Not only is the alien world currently empty, it seems like it has always been that way. This sterility infects the story. Except for a few brief episodes, the empty world provides little excitement -- sort of like a firefighter's life. Those high-points are good, but between them things get dull.

The character of your companions leaves little room for drama. They both spend most of the game avoiding you. Their exaggerated behaviour when you do interact gives you little reason to be sympathetic with them, even though the cut-scenes tell you you are. This dissonance dispells any building drama.

The challenges you face finding your way back home are well related to the setting. Although several are obvious puzzles, they are tailored to the alien world and not exaggerated in their puzzleness. There's a good balance of inventory problems, machine puzzles, and character interactions.

On the other hand, there are a few silly challenges. More generally, the challenges tend to be undirected: you frequently do something because you can, to see what will happen, without any good reason for wanting to do it. This fits in with the story -- exploring the alien world -- but it feels like you're aimlessly wandering through the story.

The Dig gives you a third person view of cartoons characters moving across cartoon backgrounds. There's a simple one-click-for-everything mouse interface, except you get to choose from numerous icons to direct conversations. The backgrounds and characters are well done during the main play, but I found the cut-scene animation style to be too simple for its melodramatic content. There's a good score.

The Dig aims high but consistently falls short. The story tries to be epic, but lacks substance and originality. This prevents a good development of the characters, and leaves the challenges unguided. There's still much to be enjoyed, but the game gives me a sense of shortcoming.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.