Let's get this out of the way right now. Yes, Steven Spielberg had a hand in The Dig. He devi$ed the original story then handqdit to LucasArts and said something along the lines of. "There you go lads) make us a game. Can I go and do t hat dinosaur thing now?" This means that The Dig is an interesting tale, a cut above the normal sci-fi adventure game (light years beyond Guilty, for example). What it doesn't mean is that every time you put the thing on Mr ET will come round to your living room and play it with you. It doesn't,Mgean that every time you put it on your house will suddenly be transformed into the landing pad from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. It simply means that you're playing an adventure game with an interesting story. That's all. Understood? Right, on with the game and no more mention of Schindler boy.
Obligatory plot description
You'll know the basics of the story from all the previews and advertising that's been littering these pages over the past few months, and to give away t he finer details would serve to totally ruin the enjoyment'of the game. Adventures, as I may have made testament to in the past, live or die by their stories and The Dig's is a cut above the norm. Just to brief those of you who haven't caught up with it yet. I'll encapsulate the story in a short series of keywords. Readers that would prefer not to have it spoilt for them should skip on to the next paragraph. Okay, still with me? Right: Giant Asteroid, collision with Earth, shuttle mission, save the day. Space 1999, mysterious panels, asteroid shoots off. astronauts trapped, alien world, dead spirits. Lost In Space, make a trade, life and death, get back home, Noel's House Party. Obviously there's more to it than that (and the Noel's House Party bit was a lie), but those are the essentials. Right, let's join the others and talk graphics.
So, The visuals. Well let's just say that a mixed bag of hight Buality nuts would be an appropriate metaphor to play with right here. On the one hand you have the kind of gorgeous'animation seen in Tirottle and stunning created cut-scenes and spot effects (and I do mean sfriittifng). while on the other hand you have the.traditional side-on adventure character figures with typical animation routines and the usual glove-puppet mouth movements that we've been seeing since Monkey Island. Sure it's a little more detailed than before and the characters have a slightly better range of movement, but it's still everything you've come to expect. Now, while I kneel and offer praise to Charlton Heston that LucasArts hasn't yet fallen into the abysmal trap of using live-action digitisation for its main characters (d la Sierra), you'd think that it would at least have been able to come up with something new and improved by now. The company continues to show innovation in just about every other area of its game designs, why not here too?
Another LucasArts familiar is the 'Muse' sound and atmosphere gene rating gizmo. An ever-constant musical score that changes in relation to the onscreen events that has been with us since Monkey Island 2. Here though, there is no qualm to be had. The music in The Dig is some of the best I've heard for a long, long time. Beautiful orchestral tones sweeping in and out of Wagnerian-style crescendos lend a majestic 2001: A Space Odyssey land of feel to things (though mighty thankfully there isn't a dichld Blue Danube tune accompanying the space shuttle sequences). This is one game soundtrack that deserves its release on audio cd.
Dark (marketing) Forces
Right, so for the main part it looks very nice and is generally very well put together, but it does lack a certain something. The overall atmosphere is enough to make other adventures hang their collective heads but it lacks that touch of magic that made the Indiana Jones and the Monkey Island games so very, very special. Also, I don't really want to sound like a jingoistic fool or anything, but I'm not sure if, for an adventure, it's as good as the recent British offerings either. It's better than a lot of what we've seen lately, but both Discworld and Simon The Sorcerer I and 2 had quite a little more in the way of challenge to them.
LucasArts can certainly tell some damn fine stories and in this respect The Dig is no exception. But so often the urge to keep the story flowing overshadows the need to challenge the player. A little patience and a repetitive mouse-clicking finger and you'll be through to the end within a couple of days. The Dig is certainly more creative than that in most places but there's still none of the old brain-taxing brilliance such as the Nazi Castle sequence from Indy And The Last Crusade or the verbal banter of Monkey Island's sword-fighting scenes. These have gone down in the annals of adventure game history as true, true classic moments and it was this kind of sheer genius that made LucasArts what it is today. It's just a shame that we've never seen anything quite like it since.
What The Dig does have that captures the LucasArts magic so incredibly well though, is the way that it sucks you into the story. Remember playing Full Throttle and knowing full well that you'd nearly finished? Do you remember the feeling that you really didn't want it to end? Well. The Dig manages to do this by giving you a fantastic story and throwing in characters that you really 'feel' for. No other developer has managed to perfect this, while the LucasArts guys seem to do it every time.
Leave them wanting more
What have we got then? An attractive looking game that has an intriguing story to it. but one that isn't too tricky to complete. Much the same was said about Full Throttle once people had spent some time with it. but The Dig isn't that bad (yeah, yeah. I know I'm flying in the face of controversy by criticising Full Throttle, but I didn't much care for it okay?). Lengthwise at least it scores over Ben the Biker's exploits by a factor of ten and even if it isn't a Monkey Island. its puzzle quotient is far better too. And for once, it isn't all simply use the right object in the right location either. There are combination locks, cryptic alien panels to figure out, even a futuristic version of Big Trac. I would have liked a little more in the way of speech options (another hankering after the past), but on the whole it's a varied combination.
Despite my queries over its ability to keep your brain overly taxed. The Dig creates a nice enough atmosphere while you're inside to warrant your constant attention. It's not the greatest thing ever to come from LucasArts' stable, but it's a positive step back to the former halcyon days and I can't wait to see what comes next.
Download The Dig
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
The Dig Screenshots and Media
- Amerzone: The Explorer's Legacy
- Bad Mojo
- Beavis and Butt-head in Virtual Stupidity
- Blade Runner
- Discworld II
- Discworld Noir
- Full Throttle
- Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within
- Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned
- Myst III: Exile
- Shadow Of The Comet
- Simon the Sorcerer 3D
- The 11th Hour
- The City of Lost Children
- The Last Express
- The Sting!
- The X Files