Have You Played… The Dig?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Space! Often we go there in our spaceships to zoom about pew-pewing at one another, and other times we go there to have a big old think about life, the universe and everything. While The Dig is more the latter than the former, it’s not all contemplation and character study. Lucasarts’ sci-fi adventure is one of the earliest non-comedy point and click games I played, and despite some hideous puzzles, it’s one I’d still heartily recommend.

Interstellar is the most recent big budget example of science fiction as a frame for soul-searching, and The Dig is still one of the strongest examples of the same from my childhood. To say that it is concerned with character is not to suggest that it’s interest in space is only surface-deep. The stars are more than a backdrop in this drama.

Spielberg’s involvement might make you believe otherwise, but the beauty of The Dig is in its low-key approach to science and humanity. In a retrospective on Eurogamer, John said that the game was about “the gaps between the noise, the fear in the silence, the danger in the wasteland”. That sounds about right.

There are some irritating puzzles but they’re a thousand times less irritating in the age of easily accessible online walkthroughs than they were back in the day, and the game is worth playing to see how sometimes the quiet of space can be as devastating as the sound and fury of a thousand laser-fleets.

And, yes, I have no idea how sound actually works in space.

37 Comments

  1. Keiggo says:

    Does anyone have any idea how one might go about obtaining and playing this game these days? As legally as possible please…

    • thaquoth says:

      It’s one of the few games LucasArts put on steam a few years ago. I think that’s the only way for now, apart from used copys.

    • Perjoss says:

      Not only is this on Steam but it also stands the test of time really well, I played and completed this recently and loved every minute of it, fantastic game!

      • XhomeB says:

        What’s incredible to me is that applies to pretty much every single LucasArts adventure. Playing them today feels just as good as it was back in the day, they never lost their *charm*.

    • Shadowcat says:

      GOG recently introduced some classic LucasArts games, with more said to be on the way.

      “The Dig” isn’t included yet, but if you like your games DRM-free, then I suspect it would be worth waiting to find out. I can only presume that it’s coming.

  2. elhisai says:

    I’ve bought it through Steam for a few euros, works perfectly on Windows 7

  3. blind_boy_grunt says:

    i played this on a pda with a scumm emulator (pirated copy, without videos). I’m the original mobile gamer.
    But i can’t remember much about the game except that i liked it.

  4. montorsi says:

    Damn, young early teenage me was so fascinated with the demo of this game back in the day. I never did play the full game.

  5. kalirion says:

    Screenshot uses the not-so-good filtering option. Better turn it off and play the game in its original pixelated glory.

    I gotta say, while I found the game all right, it was never one of my favorites.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Yeah. Even if you generally love those filters (I don’t), they really don’t work for the non-cartoony style of The Dig.

  6. kael13 says:

    If you’re not in the mood to play it yourself, I highly recommend watching three American guys play it instead!

    Sean ‘Day9’ Plott and his game designer buddies Bill Graner and Sean Bouchard play and criticise the game over a few drinks in a rather awesome series, Mostly Walking. It can be eye-wateringly funny at times.
    I watched them play it start to finish, and though the game’s dialogue is a bit irritating at times, these three make it lots of fun. Check it out!

    • Geewhizbatman says:

      They are hilarious, no doubt about it, and I highly recommend them if you like commentary.

      However–if you don’t, here is another option. Given that The Dig was originally a movie script that was turned into a game only because the special effects at the time were deemed insufficient to capture the cooler moments, I strongly believe that watching it as a movie is appropriate.

      However you get the story, playing, watching with people who joke or watching it by itself it is definitely something to see:

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Wait, why would anyone ruin a perfectly fine LucasArts adventure game with commentary?

      edit: ah right, youtube monies.

  7. drygear says:

    I remember being stuck at the part where you have to rebuild a turtle. I looked at a walkthrough and it didn’t make any sense. It turned out my monitor settings weren’t bright enough and I couldn’t even see the bones. I think it was a few years later that I figured it out and finished the game.

  8. fuggles says:

    Plus it has two endings… Spoiler!

    • Matt_W says:

      I remember this as one of the first games ever to have a post-credits sequence. I have since watched hours of credit sequences to the end in the (almost always vain) hope of seeing another post-credits tidbit.

      • fuggles says:

        Not quite what I meant. How about it has an alternative ending!

  9. KenTWOu says:

    Still think this is the best Lucas Arts adventure, because I’m biased. Because I’ve played this game more than anything else, even more than relatively short Full Throttle. And each time I learnt more and more about it, because my English became better and better :) That’s why I know The Dig intro by heart: Of course I miss you, darling…

  10. Kaeoschassis says:

    Never played it. So want to. Thanks for reminding me about this, good candidate for my xmas buys…

  11. MadTinkerer says:

    ” the game is worth playing to see how sometimes the quiet of space can be as devastating as the sound and fury of a thousand laser-fleets.

    And, yes, I have no idea how sound actually works in space.”

    No, no, you were correct. The sound and fury of a thousand laser-battles in space sounds exactly like everything else in space. Real outer space lacks THX.

  12. LionsPhil says:

    Easily the worst LucasArts adventure. My god, the writing chews scenery like it’s made out of beef jerky.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    It is a flawed game, but it is one of the few hard sci-fi games and one that really gets what all these classic books from Bear, Benford, Clarke and Varley are about. There is pure sense of wonder here.

    BTW: it was not a script that was going to become a movie. It was a story that was going to become part of Amazing Stories, then something given to Lucasarts to do a game with it, that suffered many changes with different developers (Noah Falstein, Brian Moriarty) until it ended up in the direction of Sean Clarke who, frankly, did a wonderful job tying all the sparse ends to make an adventure game.

    The characters were annoying and the melodrama was off, but that is something that is common in many of the Scott Card books (yes, the Ender’s Game is a good book blah blah blah). The ambient music was wonderful, the animations felt pure sci fi, and this one and the Legend sci fi adventures (MIssion Critical! Gateway!) are the best and purest sci fi stuff that has been released as a videogame.

  14. The Dark One says:

    The best adventure game feature of all time

    (e: skip to 25 seconds in)

  15. activity_coordinator says:

    God I love the voice acting in this game. Being a 15 year old who loves sci-fi when this came out, and playing games that didn’t often have voice acting, this game will always have a special place in my memories.

  16. Ejia says:

    No. But, strangely, I have the novelization here on my bookshelf somewhere.

  17. waltC says:

    Yes. Played the entire game back when it was new, believe it or not…;) Liked it at the time quite a bit as I recall.

  18. Fontan says:

    Ah, so many good memories of playing this as a kid. I remember being fascinated by its sci-fi, must’ve been one of the first places where I got in contact with themes of space exploration. Hm, come to think of it, now I wonder if it had such an impact on my infant mind that planted the first seeds to make me into an aerospace engineer. One of the games that made me, I suppose.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    I remember thinking that I had exhausted pool of good adventure games, but then I came across this one a few years later, and after a few hours of playing, I had a huge grin on my face because I had found another good adventure out of no where. Of course, then I found out that I had missed a whole lot of good adventure games, but ‘The Dig’ signifies the beginning of an era of rediscovery for me.

    • TheTingler says:

      If you haven’t played all the LucasArts adventures then you haven’t exhausted your pool! Seriously, every one they made is worth playing, particularly from Secret of Monkey Island onward.

  20. Grey_Ghost says:

    I think this might be the only adventure game I played with my sister. It was a lot of fun.

  21. Sandepande says:

    I love it. The big mission to save civilization was just prologue….

  22. Bobtree says:

    Yes, and it’s still in a box on my shelf. I like that the Steam page shows the original 1995 release date.

  23. Sivart13 says:

    This is actually the LucasArts adventure I’ve replayed the most, by far.

    I think it’s because comedy wears thin over time, while drama and the sheer awe of exploring crazy-assed techno future environments stays about the same.

    And now I know the solutions to all the puzzles by heart (including the turtle skeleton situation) so I can just click it straight through.