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The Dig

Note: This is a guest post by Casey “Chip” Cochran

The Dig is a Sci-fi adventure game that appears to have mixed reviews. Here is the deal, The Dig is a great mid-nineties adventure game storyline with some poor puzzles and great soundtrack. The biggest issue with this game is that I felt like the puzzles were only added after they wrote the whole story. This is bad adventure game design. Either way, I would still recommend playing this game because in the end it is still fun.

What Worked

The plot was very interesting. The story pulled me in and kept me seeking what would happen next. The environments were well thought out and were unique enough to not seem repetitive. Soundtrack was top-notch.

What Did Not work

I don’t think I could have solved this without looking online for some cheats (I am not sure how people solved this game without the internet). Another problem with this game is the repetition in the puzzles. There is a puzzle for unlocking the doors. The interface for the puzzle sucks, but whatever you only have to do it one right. Oh no, there are like four of these doors and it gets annoying. there are at least 4 other puzzles like this and it is just annoying.

The plot was great but I felt the end was a bit of a letdown. I dont want to give away the end however it is not clear to me how I saved the day. The end just felt a bit rushed.

The jokes, they sucked.

Space Quest IV

Random Thoughts While Playing

This game is not much better than Space Quest I. Still the same use of real-time action puzzles with a crappy user interface.

This man-eating slime puzzle is terrible. I found out from hints that you are supposed to catch it in the jar. But there is no reason you would ever do that without playing through the game and discovering later that you need it. I would need to be stuck in the sewer with no way out to try that. I just assumed it was there to kill me (like the zombie and laser robot on the surface). This puzzle is terrible.

Ugh I’m not going to play this one out. Maybe I’ll come back to Space Quest later but these games (I and IV) both seemed low on creativity and high on frustrating puzzles.

Space Quest I

Hooboy this game is old and sucky. I realize it’s the first in the series and all but the puzzles are simple and the interface is aggravating. Why were the “smell” and “lick” icons there? I never used them once but I had to cycle past them every time I needed to switch from walk mode to using an item.

Also I realize it’s supposed to be a farce and spoof of sci-fi movies but some things felt more ripped-off than spoofed.

Again with these real-time action sequences. It makes the flaws in the interface come to the forefront and pulls you out of the game.

Luckily this game is very short. I finished it in a few hours.

Kings Quest VI

KQVI has a reputation as the best game in the Kings Quest series and I definitely enjoyed it. The puzzles were good and highly motivated by the plot. The story was really well done and the characters were varied and real. I got a bit confused by the multiple solution paths aspect because I played out part of one and got stuck and then went back and ended up on the other track so I was always kind of wondering when they would converge again.

Random Thoughts While Playing

This game has good “feel”. I really am pulled into the story and the world of the game. Nothing feels out of place – the items I can access and the actions I can take are well motivated by the environment. None of the puzzles so far have felt arbitrary or bizarre.

The game is more “serious” than others I’ve played in the sense that it strives to maintain a consistent story and world. There are no asides to the camera or jokes about adventure games. The third wall is intact!

What Worked

The game manages to avoid the problem where you have too much shit you are carrying around and you feel like you just have to try every inventory item on every in-world object. The puzzles gradually opened the world up and provided inventory when needed and then consumed them for the most part once they were no longer needed. This reduced the frustration of having some item clogging up your inventory the whole game on the off chance it holds two uses.

I love the idea of the pawn shop where there are four items available but you can only “check out” one at a time.

The beginning of the game is nice and small with a limited number of locations and items you need to work with. It allows you to really get into the story and meet some of the recurring characters before you are faced with anything too difficult. The book seller tells you a bit about the island and suggests you talk to the ferry captain and visit the castle. Immediately  at the castle the core dramatic conflict of the story is revealed. Cassima is supposedly going to marry this sketchy Vizier. You know that dude is up to no good but it will take the entire game to figure out why and what to do about it. Now the game has your attention and it really opens up – the magic map you get right now lets you visit three more islands.

This limited opening which forces you to meet the main characters and sets up the fundamental challenge of the whole game is an excellent way to begin.

Where I got Stuck

The book worm puzzle was very confusing to me. I hadn’t noticed the book of spells on the counter of the bookshop so I never had the rare book conversation with the book seller which kept the bookworm from talking to me. So I kept trying to apply the boring book to the bookworm puzzle. No matter what I did the worm just told me to go away so it wasn’t clear at all what I needed to be doing. This could have been alleviated by making the spell book more obvious on the counter or having the bookworm change his response to something which hinted at the solution after a few tries.

I’m always thrown when a game like this has small parts which are time sensitive. Most of the game feels almost turn based but some of the puzzles require a quick response. This is how I failed to figured out the spider web puzzle. I pulled the loose thread in the web but then didn’t immediately try to get the paper when the spider moved.

This also kept me from pursuing the short-ending where you need to put the song-bird decoy in the hallway. I got so sick of being caught by the guards when I tried to hide in the alcove and try different things that I just figured there had to be an easier way. I had actually tried putting the bird at the end of the hall but since the error response was just general (“you don’t need to do that” kind of thing) and didn’t give a clue like “The guards wouldn’t see it there” then I just gave up. This problem has happened in other games as well – where you need to do something in real-time but the consequences of failure are a long wait or restore (especially the cottage in The Secret of Monkey Island II).


Kings Quest I

This game is a classic. I remember playing it in a computer store when I was a little low res kid. Still fun though!

Random Thought While Playing

This game has a really friendly narrator who tells you in a polite way when things aren’t going to work or if you’re doing something stupid.

nice narrator

I’m really interested in the text / graphical interface combination. I totally forgot that this was part of the game – is this the way all those Sierra Online games were?

I like how the puzzles can all be solved in multiple ways. I let the goat out of the pen but that never made any difference because I could get across the bridge by bribing the troll with one of the many treasures. My score wasn’t optimal but that’s fine – I could still complete the game.

On the other hand there are things (like the little dwarf stealing your shit) which can cause the game to be un-winnable and you need to save/restore all the time to avoid that. Not to mention the little walking puzzles where you fall off shit and die all the time.

I like this game – it’s short and sweet and although I got stuck and had to get hints a bit I didn’t feel looking back that the puzzles were illogical or bad. There was some pixel-hunting and some of the puzzles would have been easier if I knew anything about fairy tales.

Discworld I

Random Thoughts while playing

This game is a thorough pain in the ass. Puzzles hinge on finding tiny little visual attributes of characters and mousing over them. The sleazy guy in the Library has a banana behind his ear. Or a 6 pixel smudge which look like hair … whatever. Anyway you better click on that because it holds the secret to the whole first half of the game. Same thing with the lady getting her haircut… you better mouse over every fucking pixel in her body to realize that she has a hair curler in her hair. And if you didn’t notice well… just wander forever with no clue how to proceed. These are bad puzzles and there’s a lot of them.

Well after bashing my head into this one for a week I’m moving on. Tedious pixel-hunting, puzzles which require trying every inventory item with every on-screen item (stick the frog in the drunk’s mouth… OK), and honestly for all its reputation as being hilarious I’m just not sold on the humor. It did grow on me and I was enjoying the brief moments of progress where I was figuring things out using logic but overall… Jesus make it stop.