Dig, The

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1995). LucasArts. Designed by Sean Clark, Brian Moriarty. Platforms: DOS (1995); Mac (1996); Win (2002).

The Dig is a graphical Adventure game using a point and click interface, based on an idea by Steven Spielberg which combined the haunted world of Forbidden Planet with the tense relationships of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Dialogue was contributed by Orson Scott Card. The game's tone is more serious than that of previous LucasArts Adventures such as Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle (1993), though a certain wry humour remains. The story begins with a scenario similar to that of the later film Armageddon (1998); an asteroid is detected on a collision course with Earth, and a team is launched by Space Shuttle to divert it. The player adopts the role of the mission commander, Boston Low; other significant characters are the geologist Dr Brink and the reporter Maggie Robbins. After completing the simple puzzles required to alter the asteroid's orbit, the player will discover that the body's surface conceals an alien starship. Without warning, the ship then activates itself and transports the characters to an extrasolar world. The player must engage in a xenoarchaeological "dig" to uncover the planet's secrets if the characters are ever to return to Earth.

The game contains a range of well-designed and often difficult puzzles, elegantly justified as the artefacts of an apparently dead civilization. As players move further into the alien environment, the gradual revelation of the fate of the planet's inhabitants evokes a real Sense of Wonder. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the game, however, is its fusion of the aliens' embedded narrative with the linearly plotted story of the three explorers (see Interactive Narrative). Prescripted events triggered by puzzle solutions are used to show the gradual disintegration of the group, as their personal priorities triumph over their need to work together to survive. Brink dies, is resurrected by alien technology, and goes mad; Robbins abandons Low to pursue her own agenda. In the end the player, in the person of Low, can save only himself.

Related works: The Dig (1995) is a novelization by Alan Dean Foster. In addition to the characters' story, it contains sections narrated from the point of view of the alien starship builders. [NT]

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