LucasArts' Secret History #11: The Dig Screw That Guy: What Does Everyone Else Think?

Mojo readers weigh in.

Byron Hooper

The Dig is probably one of Lucasarts' most oft-criticized adventure games. While some of the criticisms are accurate, I feel on the whole it is unjustly maligned.

The Dig has a lot of problems. This is no doubt due to the hellish development cycle and history it had to suffer through. One of my biggest problems with the game is the voice acting. There are really only three characters thoughout 80% or more of the game, Boston, Maggie and Ludger. Robert Patrick was cast as Boston and while it's great that they got a "name" actor to play the lead role, he read his lines with the emotion of a dead stump. Seriously, you can practically hear him counting the words he's reading to figure out how much he's being paid per-word. Ludger's accent is terribly fake, and while bad accents abounded in some of Lucasarts' early talkie games, having a cheesy voice in Sam & Max or DOTT was no big deal, because it fit in with the general wackiness of the rest of the games' world. Ludger's accent did not belong in The Dig's serious-minded gameworld. Maggie was voiced Ok, but I'll go into my problems with her as a character in a little bit.

The game also suffers from some serious cheesiness during the cutscenes. It seemed like the more dramatic and important the scene was, the more wooden and stiff the actors were. The animation also felt rushed often. Ludger's second death scene especially barely made sense when taken in context with the dialogue.

The characters themselves were fairly problematic as well. Commander Lowe was a pretty good everyman character, but he repeatedly gets his butt handed to him by a skinny archeologist, despite the fact that he is (as he points out) a trained military man, albeit retired. Brink's descent into madness was severely blunted by the fact that he was kind of a prick before his resurrection by the life crystals. If he had been depicted as kind and personable before his accident instead of an arrogant jerk, his downward spiral into a violent, moody sociopath would have been far more interesting. My biggest problems, though, are with Maggie. The reasons for putting a newspaper reporter on an important, world-saving space mission are never clear, except for a brief mention about her being a "prodigy at learning a new language". Her placement on the team really destroyed the suspension of disbelief. Also, her whole "Ludger fell down a whole and died so we aren't safe so I'm just going to leave" thing felt very contrived and out of left field. And she was so unpleasant and combative through most of the game, the "love story" at the end was completely forced and pointless.

My last complaints are regarding the puzzles. Too often the puzzles fell into "adventure game logic", where the only reason for doing something is because it's the only thing you can do, instead of being given a reason within the context of the story. There's also a fair amount of puzzles that seemed to be there simply to pad the length of the game and were far more frustrating then they were challenging and interesting (I'm looking at you dead turtle!!!)

So now that I've spent no less than four paragraphs complaining about the game, I'm going to tell you what it is about the game that makes it worth playing. Atmosphere. The game simply oozes atmosphere. From the moment you enter the inside of the asteroid, there is a palpable feeling of mystery, that transforms into danger and dread once you reach the planet. The constant feeling of "what could happen next" as well as the deepening mystery about what happened to the planet's original inhabitants becomes the primary feature of the game. Not the puzzles. Not the characters. The atmosphere. It's a shame the ending was so lame and forced, or the game's story as a whole could have elevated it to a better status.

All in all, The Dig was a rare stumble for Lucasarts, but proof that even when they did stumble, they could still create magic back in those days.

Capn Nacho

I played the demo of The Dig when I was a little kid. I vaguely remember space suits and dark, crystalline caves. I remember someone being hurt. And I remember being very, very confused.

I have never wished to play The Dig in my adult life. Perhaps this is something I will come to change someday.


Yeah, the dig was pretty sweet. I learned all I need to know about biology with that turtle puzzle.

Eliott Ridgway

Suffice it to say that The Dig is the only Lucasarts game that I've never found the incentive to go back and play multiple times. That's not to say it's a bad game - the graphics are breathtaking (even for today), the puzzles are logical and (mostly) fun if you want your brain picked, and the characters' personalities are very three-dimensional. But my interest in the story really ground to a halt once I reached the alien planet and had to start looking around; after this point, I felt no shame in picking up a walkthrough and keeping it by my side for the rest of the game. Even subsequent twists in the plot weren't enough to really jumpstart my enthusiasm for the game in the way so many other adventure games from Lucasarts' near flawless library have done. The middle of the game seemed way too non-linear, there were a handful of puzzles that were way too hard (like the turtle skeleton), and the cutscenes of nonstop dialog seemed to go on way, way too long. It's not Lucasarts' best game, but it's certainly a mixed bag if you were raised on Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island.


My experience of playing The Dig is getting bored five minutes in and not touching it again. I suspect I've missed out on a great game, though.

Aliens? Astroids? Limited characters and setting? Steven Spielberg?

It's probably amazing.

Jennifer McMurray

The Dig is the one LucasArts adventure game that I did not complete when I was younger. In fact, the Secret History articles were the catalyst that finally made me complete it.

I'm not quite sure why I never took the time to finish it before. I always loved the animation in this game. The cutscenes feel so cinematic, which is perfect since this is a project conceived by Stephen Spielberg. The voice acting is great, and the storyline is intriguing.

If anything, it probably has to do with it's more serious tone. The other LucasArts adventures, with the exception of Loom, are all comedic adventures. When I was a young girl, I suppose I loved the LucasArts adventures because of their humor rather than their compelling storylines.

Now that I'm an adult, I appreciate story in any medium more, so I have a new found appreciation for The Dig. The storyline is very compelling. It has many interesting turns, especially once you're knee-deep into the search of the alien planet.

The Dig isn't among my favorite adventure games, but The Dig is definitely worthy of it's place among the other LucasArts adventures. The animation in the cutscenes is still beautiful, even today. And the story is quite compelling. It's well worth experiencing at least once.


When I first started the Dig, I was twelve or thirteen. I got it with the Lucasarts Archives Volume III, which I miraculously found in a local toystore. I loved the cutscenes, but was absolutely puzzled by the game itself. I had to finish it using a walkthrough, but I was impressed anyway.

This must be the most serious Lucas Arts adventure to date, and the feel of it is really great. Everything, from the music to the scenery and the characters reactions, feels desolate, lost, with madness lurking around every corner. It may not interest everyone, but this feeling really packs a punch.

The developement history is really interesting too. I would've loved to play a version of Moriarty's the Dig, or the one with the fourth player. Also, since I read about it, the falling acid room really took to me, it's a really great concept I think.

Technically speaking, it's beautifull really, allthough the cutscenes really look very different from the playable scenes, especially the characters in some situations, the special effects are really beautifully integrated into the background, and the music is classic and alienating at the same time.

The voice acting is really great too. Robert Patrick really does a great Boston Lowe, and the other voice actors do a tremendous job too.

All and all, the Dig is a great game. Not the best in the Lucasarts vault, but an underappreciated classic nonetheless. The feel, the atmosphere, the music and the characters, really make for a memorable playthrough. And isn't that what we all want from a game?

Mr Sneeze

I remember seeing a preview for the game in an issue of PC Gamer (or some sort) when I was a kid (I think before Sam & Max: Hit the Road). Longest anticipated game for me back then, and it never let me down when I my parents bought it [for me] as soon as it had come out.

The Tingler

The Dig is one of only two LucasArts adventures (the other being Zak McKracken) that I just didn't get into, and so consequently haven't finished. I found the whole thing boring, and the lack of any humour just sucked all interest out for me.

I'm not usually a graphics whore, particularly where LucasArts are concerned, but I feel this is the one adventure that would've really benefitted from not being traditional SCUMM. The alien world needed stunning vistas, beautiful pieces of hi-res artwork to make the player eager to see every background. What we got was a lot of similar-looking blurry blocky fuzz. If the rest of the game was fun to play it would've had mattered, but it wasn't. And just to bang the final nail in the coffin, I hated the characters too.

This was not worth the wait.

No news post