Of all the LucasArts point and click adventures, it's the one with the forgettable title that breaks the trend of outright funny dialogue and humourous situations in favour of a Steven Spielberg inspired tale of survival and aliens.
The Dig does eventually get around to having you dig something, but not until it has set the scene, and it's a scene you might not have ever guessed from the title. You're in control of Commander Boston Low, an astronaut on a mission to detonate nuclear weapons on the surface of an asteroid that has a 99% chance of slamming into the Earth.
The first thing you dig is a hole for your nuclear device, but things get a little more interesting from there...
When I was playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis for the first time, I marvelled at how good the introduction was in that you can play it for little bits here and there, so that you were involved in how the scene progressed.
The Dig does things more traditionally, by stripping away all player control, but it's such a cinematic introduction that I was still swept along for the ride. It's an absurd premise, as all space adventures seem to be: the one available team for nudging an asteroid off course is an astronaut, an archaeologist and a journalist. It's almost Armageddon territory, but we'll see where it goes.
Once you're in space and in control, the user interface is available for you to play around with as you get to grips with completing your first task. Interaction occurs with a left click, and so people can be asked for their opinions on someone or something, for example, giving you hints as to what to do next.
Your inventory can be brought up with a right click, and you can put objects together, or show them to people, or use them on the environment. It's a point and click adventure, this is commonplace, there's nothing really new here that I can tell.
Before long, I was losing interest in The Dig, and so far as I could tell, I hadn't even got into the meat of the game yet. Progress was simple but slow. Space must slow you down for dramatic effect sometimes. That or always having to hear characters yabber some radio protocol before interacting with each other sure does.
"Low to Brink. Come in, Brink." Of course Brink is going to come in, he's staring right at you and you've just spoken to him in a previous bout of dialogue. Cut the waffle and give me something more useful...
The nuclear explosions reveal the asteroid to be more than an asteroid, and a puzzle starts to open up when purpose-made pieces are found embedded in natural space rock. Who - or what - put them there. What are we actually looking at?
Further Fun Times
The pace picked up - as did my interest - when the asteroid turned into some kind of ship and separated half of the crew from the rest of Planet Earth, stranding in another location full of unknowns and alien bones. We're finally going to dig something and the archaeologist will be of some use t- oh, no, he died falling down a hole.
And then the journalist leaves us thinking survival chances increase when you split the party. She doesn't have a clue, does she? Then again, it's a point and click adventure, and neither do I - but look at how lovely it all looks.
Scattered throughout the game are some 3D rendered scenes produced by Industrial Light and Magic, and coupled with the colour schemes of many of the environments, they really make The Dig pop out, especially against its own kinda bland asteroid-y introduction.
It's just such a shame that point and click adventures aren't my favourite genre, to put it one way...
I'm more interested in The Dig than I thought I would be, having known nothing of it before playing, and even with those wobbly moments, I am wondering about where this plot will lead.
However, it is a point and click adventure, and those require lots of thought and exploration and maybe even some trial and error, and I've even read that the puzzles in The Dig are 'too difficult' according to 'multiple reviewers', says Wikipedia.
Do I want to bake my noodle trying to work out what to do with gem sticks and orbs and shovels and whatever else I can find? I hope that inventory screen is overwhelmingly large for no real reason and that you won't need to lug 40 items around the place with you because I barely had the effort to find four objects of interest.
I'm just not the kind of person to play point and clicks, but I am the kind of person to admire the amount of work that goes into them, especially the writing and art direction. The backgrounds here are top notch, and the writing, while not as quippy as other LucasArts games, is still written by Orson Scott Card to a tight standard.
It's not for everyone, and unless you're into the theme, it probably shouldn't be your first point and click. It's supposedly a divisive title of the genre, so you'll really have to play it for yourself to know what it's like for sure.
Me, though? I'll probably be watching it for the sake of speed. I want to know where it goes, but I don't want to waste time getting there.
Originally an idea for a film, it was put on the shelf for being too costly to make, until after the release of The Fate of Atlantis, which impressed Steven Spielberg, who wasn't the only person who thought the idea would be feasible for an adventure game instead.
The Dig, developed by LucasArts, first released in 1995.
Version played: MS-DOS, 1995, via emulation.
Version watched: MS-DOS, 1995 (pilgrim)