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Written by Angelo M. D'Argenio   
Saturday, 08 December 2007 takes a look at the old adventure classic, The Dig by LucasArts.


If you were ever part of the Graphical Adventure Game craze, you probably have heard of Lucas Arts famous “Monkey Island” series.  Unfortunately, that is probably the ONLY game you have heard of from the Lucas Arts studios.  However, did you know that they had a hand in games that are not filled with gut busting humor, and that actually had a rather serious tone to them?  Weird I know.  Most PC adventure games include at least a certain amount of self-referential humor and considering two of the most popular 2d adventure game series are Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion that is apparent.  Lucas Arts created “The Dig” to be a departure from most 2d point and click adventure games, and it was a bold move that paid off.

Point and Click adventure games have never been a genre to completely focus on story.  Generally, story is broken up into narrative sequences, with long strings of puzzles getting you from one stop to the next.  The Dig departs from this pattern, and instead seamlessly integrates story in every aspect of the game.  Gamers become enthralled with the characters, and their back-story, as well as the significant amount of character development that takes place. 

What’s more interesting about The Dig is that the plot is surprisingly heavy handed.  The story itself gives an interesting look into the human condition, something that most videogames never even come close to doing.  I really wish I could tell you more about the story in specific but any amount I say will entirely ruin the experience.  All you need to know is that there are aliens, astronauts, asteroids and other awesome plot hooks that may not begin with the letter A.  The story keeps you playing from beginning to hand, and it feels exactly like it would feel if you were reading a good book and could not wait to read the next page.  This of course may cause you to lose some sleep while playing The Dig, but that may in fact be a good thing, considering the sheer amount of plot quality this game has.

The story in The Dig is also told through animated cut scenes, which give the feel a sort of epic early nineties cartoon movie feel.  Many gamers scoff at cut scenes in adventure games, but I think these are particularly well done.  The transitions between cut scenes do not really feel like they are taking you out of the game.  Instead, they flow seamlessly into the action, which is peculiar for 2d adventure games since the graphics are still sprite based and are noticeably different from cut scene graphics.

The systems in the Dig are pretty simple and standard fare as far as 2d point and click adventure games go.  You have an inventory, and a list of actions you can do as you wander around.  Dialogue is a bit different in The Dig than it is in other point and clicks though, as Dialogue is entirely handled with icons.  Each time you talk, you have a question mark, exclamation point, and a list of icons relating to items or places you have been.  Clicking a picture of a place or item brings it up in conversation, the question mark asks a question, though you don’t know what that question will be, and the exclamation point well… exclaims.  Since you do not know what you will say before you say it, this can get somewhat frustrating, but overall the options are rather intuitive.  The only thing that is less than helpful is the exclamation point, which usually causes you to say something useless.
Lucas Arts did a good job making the game feel more like a movie than a computer program.  Most point and click adventures have you slowly ambling across map after map when you have to travel.  The Dig on the other hand allows you to double click to get to where you want to go quickly.  It gives the game a “scene” like feel, where you are only on screen when something important is happening, which is a lot more than can be said for other adventure games.  All and all it keeps you enthralled by reducing the tedium, which is a simple feature that should have been included in previous attempts but for some reason was not.

The puzzles and overall strategic gameplay in The Dig is easier than it is in most point and click adventures, and this is actually a welcome change.  Many point and click adventures simply have you putzing around using trial and error to try to find the right series of clicks that gets you to the next point in the game.  The Dig however has puzzles with actually intuitive solutions that you can surmise without hints.  For the truly oblivious however, the game’s hint system takes a lot of the pressure off your back before nearly solving the puzzle for you.  What is even better is that none of the puzzles are arbitrary.  There is no “find this item and operate this odd machine just because we needed a puzzle here and couldn’t explain it” sort of challenge.  Each puzzle you encounter actually makes sense in the metaplot and overall story.

The Dig manages to do something other games have not done in a long time.  It creates a mature story that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.  By mature I do not mean random violence and sex scenes as you might be used to from games such as GTA but I mean a story that really has some depth to it that you can analyze.  The Dig itself could have been an award-winning book or a blockbuster movie but instead it is just an amazing game.  It is by far one of the best point and clicks I have played up to date, especially for one that is in 2d, and I challenge all game makers to take that title away from it.


Related: Monkey Island 1, Monkey Island 2, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Loom
Developer: Lucas Arts
Website for Game:
Related Websites: The Dig Museum
Publisher: Lucas Arts, Virgin (in the UK)
O/S: DOS/Windows/Mac
Year of Release: 1995

Tested on:
Intel Core2Duo 1,86 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Windows Vista


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