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Throwback Thursday Review: The Dig

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[Throwback
Thursday is a series where we look back on games from the past in
reviews, retrospectives, and more. We will have something every week for
your retro enjoyment. You may even discover something new to love!]

Today we are going to talk about
one of the more infamous games that went through development hell. The game
that I am talking about is LucasArts’
The
Dig
. Before Gearbox Software took the spot of well-known games that went
through development limbo with
Duke Nukem
Forever
and Aliens: Colonial Marines,
LucasArts had
The Dig. Fun fact, the
setting and story of the game was inspired by an idea that Steven Spielberg had
for an episode in the
Amazing Stories
series. The game started development in 1989, but was then released in 1995.
Many directors and designers associated with the project came and went
throughout development, and many concepts for the game changed throughout the
process.

Once it was released, it got mostly mixed reviews. People criticized
it for its confusing puzzles, high degree of difficulty, and for having a much
more serious tone than the past games made by LucasArts. It wasn’t considered
their best game, but I have seen over time that this game has a bit of a fan
base. It isn’t as big as say,
Grim
Fandango
or The Curse of Monkey
Island
, but The Dig has its fans.
How does it hold up today? Does the big names associated with this game, like Steven
Spielberg, Orson Scott Card, Brian Moriarty, Sean Clark, and famous actor
Robert Patrick attached to the game help? Or should they have just kept what
they dug up buried?

The story is basically the setup
of Armageddon or Deep Impact where a massive asteroid is heading towards earth.
The team that is going into space to destroy the asteroid is led by Commander
Boston Low, voiced by the T-1000 himself, Robert Patrick. He is accompanied by
Dr. Ludger Brink, voiced by Steve Blum, and geologist Maggie Robins, voiced by
Mari Weiss. As they go up into space and plant bombs onto the giant rock to
destroy it, they end up opening up a crack that leads deep into the middle of
the asteroid. After messing around with a panel against the wall of the
interior of the asteroid, the three of them are teleported to an alien world
where they must find out why they are there and find a way off the planet. The
story and characters are unfortunately one of the weaker parts of this game. The
characters are very one-dimensional, and the story was predictable. Even with
the cast they hired for the three main characters, they do little to give the
characters more personality. It’s a shame too, since the world you travel
through is also not really that interesting.

The
Dig
is an
adventure game where you play as Commander Low. You will be traveling through
different parts of the alien planet collecting rods that will open doors, and
finding items that will help you solve puzzles that you will need to solve as
you go through the game. A lot of the design reminds me of the games that were
being released by Sierra. Instead of using a dialogue tree that is used in
games like
Full Throttle or Grim Fandango, the game plays more like Sam & Max Hit the Road in terms of
menus and puzzles. A lot of the puzzles require you to go from point A to point
B and then back to point A. It is a lot more backtrack-heavy than a lot of the
adventure games released by LucasArts at this time. The interaction between
your allies is set up like how you talk to people in
Sam & Max Hit the Road, where you will have a multitude of box-like
icons that will lead to different questions and conversations.

The world you
travel through is a bit barren and deserted, which fits into the overall story,
but I will explain the issues with this later on in the review. The main items
that you will be using throughout the game are life gems and rods that act as
keys to open new doors to other places on the planet. Life gems will bring
people back to life. I know, it’s quite a shocker, huh? Anyway, with all the
backtracking, keys, and other items that will help you through your adventure,
you will get about 2-3 hours out of this game, if you know what you are doing,
but you can extend that to a couple of more hours if you don’t know what you
are doing. Some of the puzzles seem a little confusing, and if you didn’t read
a walkthrough, you would think that LucasArts took the puzzle ideas right out
of a
King’s Quest game. There are two
different endings, but don’t think this is like
Resident Evil, The Witcher 2,
or any BioWare kind of multiple-ending situation.

The graphics are fine. The
sprites are animated well, and some of the early CG looks okay. The animated
cutscenes look a little too blurry. The backgrounds are really the highlight
with bright colors. The atmosphere is also one of the highlights. The planet is
very empty, and it leaves you curious to know what happened to it. Michael Land
is the composer of the game. He has worked on a multitude of LucasArts games
and other games like
The Bard’s Tale
and Sim City 4. The music is average.
It sets the mood well in certain areas, but can be forgettable during other
moments. The voice acting is decent. Robert Patrick is doing his best as the
main character, but the only one I really think brings anything is Steve Blum,
since he voices other characters in
The
Dig
, but even then, he is also just okay.

Yeah, this game has some issues.
The story is fairly predictable with a lot of obvious plot elements that you
will catch onto even before you get to them. The characters themselves, like I
said before, are one-dimensional and really have no development. I personally
felt disconnected from the characters, and the three characters you spend the
most time with don’t really gel too well with each other. Oh, and the obvious
villain has a very weak final fight with the main character. The puzzles are a
bit confusing at times and require too much walking back from place to place to
solve. It’s the same problem I have with
Sam
& Max Hit the Road
since that game also has a lot of puzzles where you
need to drive back and forward a lot. While the world you are in can be very
pretty and atmospheric, it can also be very barren and boring to go through. I
feel like there was supposed to be more to the overall story and world, but it
just ends up as a generic sci-fi story with just a few cool elements here and
there.

Now then, the two separate endings are pointless. They are different in
only one little scene, but you can’t really consider one “bad” and one “good.”
While there are some parts of the ending I liked, it felt underwhelming
altogether. Not the worst ending where it was a waste of time playing through
the game, but it was just passable. I also think having a more serious tone
hurt the game. The script tries to come off as funny, but in the end, it comes
off as corny. Some of the lines gave me a chuckle, but when the game is trying
to be humorous, it just feels out of place. It’s like the problem in games like
Fuse that originally started out as a
humorous game and got turned into a rough-and-tough kind of game, and the
humorous parts of the game felt out of place.

Final Verdict: Not LucasArts’ best, but it has its charm

From what I originally heard
about this game, I thought it was going to be terrible, but in the end, the
game was above average. It has a lot of issues, but the game does have a lot of
things to like as well. It is a shame that this game had big names behind it,
because the final product is just not up to par with previous LucasArts adventure games. Getting a hard copy of the game is
cheap on eBay, and you can get it for $5 on Steam, or you can get it in Steam’s
LucasArts bundle for $10. I would recommend getting the bundle if you are
wanting to check this game out, since you would be saving some money by getting
all four games in the bundle at once. Like I said, this game is just above
average, but I can see why it has its fans. If you have wanted to find a game
in the LucasArts adventure game library that you haven’t tried out or have
played the
Monkey Island games to
death, I would recommend you check out
The
Dig
. Just stay away from the life eggs.

No
ChannelImages
6
Our Verdict
The Dig
Some good atmospheric moments, decent story moments, some interesting puzzles, it still has some LucasArts charm, and some corny jokes.
The puzzles require too much walking from one point to another, the story and characters are weak, the soundtrack is forgettable most of the time, and it has an underwhelming ending.
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Cameron Ward
Hello Gamnesia! My name is Cameron Ward, but you can call me camseyeview. I have been gaming since the mid 90’s and I still enthusiastically play video games today! I have been writing reviews for about 5 years now and have recently made a website called camseyeview.biz for my reviews and other special feature articles on gaming. I love many varieties of game genres, but I am mostly a Nintendo and Sony fan. However, I do enjoy Microsoft games also. Got a question to ask me? Have a video game to recommend for a game review? An upcoming game or game developer you want me to do a Thoughts On um, on? Ask away!

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