The Dig review

Posted in Game Reviews on August 9th, 2009 by samuraisam

The Dig (1995) is supposedly a famous point and click game; I’ll be perfectly honest with you though, I’d never heard of it until it popped up on Steam a month ago so I bought it and have played through most of it and overall I would say it is a really great game.

Any game having Steven Spielberg’s name attached to it and being produced by those wise people at LucasArts (back in 1995) is worth a try in my books. With a 6 year development cycle for this game it goes without saying that it took a long tedious time to finally be released.. This game is an adventure/exploration game–if I delve too much into the story it would really ruin it; all I will say about the story is that it is really enthralling and worth purchasing this game to experience for yourself.

The Good:

  • The atmosphere of the game is convincing and well designed from all angles; the game succeeds at being extremely immersive the entire way through
  • The art design of the game is superb–the hand drawn backgrounds are probably one of the most impressive elements in this regard.
  • The sound and music design deserves a lot of praise for its role in the immersion of the player within the environment
  • The attention to detail in the world makes it a fascinating, interesting and life-like place to explore.
  • The voice acting is another strong point of the game; the dialogue also varies and doesn’t become stale
  • The number of characters is a minimum which helps in driving the story in my opinion
  • The communication system within the game is certainly unique

The Bad:

  • Unintuitive save system (even though you cannot die or ‘fuck up’ there is no automated save system even though there should be)
  • No main menu (the game just starts at the beginning every single time you start it)
  • The ‘pauses’; i.e. the communication system is frustrating because every time you try to communicate with someone they start talking for a few seconds before you can proceed–although this talking is sometimes necessary to drive relationships and the story across, most of the time it is not. There are keys to skip through unnecessary parts if you want to.
  • The doors: Without revealing much there are doors/areas that are really integral to the game, you have to put in a code to unlock each door however entering codes into doors is a real asshole and takes time and whats worse is that there are at least 65000 possibilities for each door which is a bit excessive. The symbols are also confusing due to the angles at which they are shown and the resolution of each symbol is poor and leads to confusion given how some of the symbols look confusingly similar
  • In your inventory you can’t move the stupid fucking walkie talkie, so I accidentally click it all the time which is a real pain in the ass. You can move every other item around except for the walkie talkie which is a pain because it’s right next to the magnifying glass–you can however move the magnifiying glass.
  • The game doesn’t tell you things; for instance there is a malfunctioning door in the game, I put the code in and it just sits there. So I must have the wrong code (because there is no way to match the door codes to the doors, you just have to guess); I go around to all 4 doors and have to fucking arrange the keys in the stupid ass inventory, then I try the door code again and it doesn’t work–the only way I figure out the door is broken is by using the magnifying glass, and when the outward appearance of the panel is practically identical to all the other panels HOW ON EARTH CAN HE SUDDENLY ‘SEE’ THAT IT IS CORRODED.
  • Again with the save game system:

    “Do you want to replace this saved game?”


    “The game was NOT saved”

    What the fuck?

  • Some parts of the game are immensely hard to figure out (in my opinion anyway)

Additional observations (regarding releasing an old game on steam):
Whilst the meat and bones of the game remain; other features like the save and load system are probably alien to todays gamers and could’ve done with being changed/updated.
There are minor bugs with the game (like if you try and use the numpad to save a game with the name involving 0 it will escape the menu and go back to the game without saving) however the game is quite stable for an old game on a new system.
The game also has some issues when not running in full screen mode mostly relating to input.
Although I don’t think the game really needs a hi-definition rerelease it would still be nice to see some limitations addressed.

If you’re not bothered to read through the manual then here are some handy shortcuts:
ALT + TAB: toggle between full screen and windowed modes
F1 or F5 = menu (save games etc); if you can’t get this to work try hitting CTRL+F1
C = communicator
. = skip current line of dialogue
esc = skip current sequence
double click (when used on edge of screen) = quick travel to another area

This is a solid game. With celebrity names attached to it it can be easy to think it might suck however this game is the real deal and impresses on many levels. The difficulty is too high in some areas and some parts of the game (the save system, the menu design) wouldn’t be seen dead in todays games.
I rate this game


More links:
The Dig museum
The Dig on Steam
Wikipedia: The Dig

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