Moving away from Sierra for a bit, this time I will review a brilliant yet almost completely unknown Lucas Arts adventure game, namely “The Dig”. Originally written to be a TV series, The Dig comes from the pen of none other than Steven Spielberg himself.
In the beginning of the game the premise seems simple enough. A moon sized asteroid is on a collision course with earth. A team of three people, consisting of Commander Boston Low, a marine tasked with the security of the team, Maggie Robbins, a reporter and noted linguist and Ludger Brink, an archaeologist and geologist, are sent up in a shuttle. Their mission, place two nuclear charges on specific points on the asteroid, which when detonated should knock the asteroid off course making it pass Earth rather than hitting it.
The charges get placed and detonated, but instead of knocking the asteroid off course, they merely open up a large fissure on the asteroid. On exploration of the fissure the team discover four clearly shaped metal plates embedded in the rock. The plates give way into the asteroid revealing tunnels that lead into the asteroid itself. Passing through the larges tunnel the asteroid is revealed to be hollow and the four plates are found lying scattered around a central dais.
Naturally the plates are placed into the recesses provided, causing an unexpected result. The plates glow and send out beams that strike the walls of the central chamber. The asteroid promptly turns into a shimmering crystal and blasts off into hyperspace. After an unknown period of time it descends and lands on an alien planet. It then disappears and leaves our three heroes stranded on a deserted alien planet with no sign of rescue or of a way to return to Earth. The team decides to split up in hopes of finding a way of returning home.
You are left to control Boston Low, the character who is probably most out of his depth as he tries to discover the secrets of this barren, deserted planet and what happened to its former inhabitants. Your environment is a central island surrounded by five spires which you name after their perceived functions, the Library spire, Map spire, Tomb spire, Planetarium spire and Cathedral spire. Each spire is accessed after finding various crystal rods with differing combinations of shapes which are used to open the various doors.
Boston has to figure out long forgotten alien technology and devices to progress through the game. What sets this game apart from other adventure games is the lack of characters to talk to in the hopes of finding hints to solve the puzzles. The only hints to be found are the pictographic displays in the Museum spire. For the most part the player is left to their own devices and have to call on powers of deduction and logic to solve the games devilish and interesting puzzles.
The game uses the Lucas Arts Scumm interface, encountered in the original Monkey Island game. Movement is simple point and click and the inventory system is simple and intuitive to use. Unlike most adventure games the dialogue options aren’t text based but listed as a series of icons at the bottom of the screen when engaged in a conversation. When nothing new can be discovered from a certain topic the icon becomes blue, you can still click on it but will only hear a stock response.
The story is intense and involved as you not only try to find a way back home but also discover the fate of the original inhabitants of the planet, a secret which could potentially spell your death too. The puzzles are intriguing and sure to keep you scratching your head yet eager to solve them. The cutscenes are animated and in very high quality for the time.
The voice acting is superb and the casting is quite impressive. Brink is played by Steve Blum, an accomplished voice actor with such credits as Cowboy Bebop, Naruto and Wolverine from the X-Men behind his name. Maggie Robbins is voiced by Mari Weiss an actress and another accomplished voice actor with credits like Diablo III, Happy Feet and Guildwars behind her name but the most notable voice is that of Boston Low. Boston is voiced by actor Robert Patrick, best known as the liquid metal T-1000 from Terminator 2 – Judgement Day.
While it is one of the more serious Lucas Arts adventure games it is still filled with their trademark humour. For example, when Boston fixes a device using beams and prisms he casually remarks: “Not bad for a guy who never took a class in alien physics!”
With two possible endings and several interesting twists to the story and many challenging puzzles, The Dig is sure to challenge even the most accomplished adventure game player. So if you are looking for a challenging adventure game then try and track down The Dig