32: The Dig

Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Year: 1995
Platform: DOS, Windows, Macintosh

Review: In 1989, Steven Spielberg pitched this story to his television series Amazing Stories, but learned the production costs would be too high, so he gave it to LucasArts (then LucasFilm Games). It went through several rewrites and had Orson Scott Card (from Monkey Island and Ender’s Game) and Brian Moriarty (who wrote several games for Infocom as well as Loom for LucasArts), before settling on Sean Clark, who had created the successful Sam & Max Hit The Road. With this kind of development, there had been extraordinary expectations on the final result, and when it didn’t reach those expectations, it tanked.  The Dig is widely considered the worst game in LucasArts’ catalog.

I, however, am not in that camp. The story, while not exactly original, is well developed. An asteroid is heading for earth and commander Boston Lowe (played by you), reporter Maggie Robbins, and archaeologist Ludger Brink are in charge of detonating nuclear explosives on the surface to change the asteroid’s orbit, thus making it another moon (a little more realistic than the plot of Armageddon). That’s just the game’s introduction, as inside the asteroid your team discovers something so extraordinary that they wish they had just headed for home after completing their mission.

Without giving away more of the plot, the game has heavy doses of science-fiction and is a change of pace from LucasArts’ humorous tongue-in-cheek plots.  However, this should still be enjoyable for the average gamer, as very few of the puzzles are difficult or frustrating, allowing the story to take precedence. There are a few plot twists; while some are obvious, they are engaging nonetheless. And there is still plenty of humour, especially when Lowe begins talking to himself.  I laughed out loud on more than one occasion.

Where the game runs into trouble is character development. All three run cliché for all its worth, and many of their motivations are just plain silly. Worse yet, the dialogue is so awful that one wonders if George Lucas actually had a hand in the scripting himself.  The actors give it their best, including rookie Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame, but they can’t overcome the juvenile writing.

Still, I enjoyed the experience throughout, thanks in part to beautiful graphics and one of the best soundtracks in video game history. I was ready to rank this game at the upper echelon of my collection until the resolution, which may be one of the most disappointing in video game history. There have been worse endings, but none so unbelievably bland in comparison to the material that precedes it. Yet, I would recommend it to adventure game aficionados, as there is much to take from the game.

Contemporary Rating: High.  A few obtuse puzzles is all that that would inhibit the modern gamer, but by that time, if you’re into the game, they wouldn’t matter.

Cruelty Rating:  Merciful.  The game won’t let you do dumb things.

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