You know when you visit a place of your childhood? A place you haven't seen since your grown up teeth started growing in and loony-toons t-shirts where all the rage?
Video games were a very integral part of my development. It suffices to say (wether this be good or bad) games are a prominent memory for me when I harken back to my younger days.
Whilst I lived in Sweden, my aunt and uncle lived very close to us, so frequent visits took place. Uncle Jocke worked at some PC software warehouse. So He always had a fresh selection of the latest in PC gaming. I swear, if it not for that man, I would never of been as involved with gaming as I am. I remember looking on in awe at games like Earth Worm Jim and OddWorld. But one in particular sucked me in entirely. It was a rather ignored LucasArts title, one that was a turn off to a lot of fans because of its stern and serious atmosphere.
There is a list of games that to my memory have no name. I just remember seeing them and playing them. Its rather unsettling, to want to play this game you haven't touched in years and not know anything about it except maybe a screenshot in your head. But when you do find it, its like coming across fucking Atlantis itself. One of these occurred a few years ago. I had not seen it in years, and finally finding it was look dusting off an ancient childhood book. Let me elaborate...
This was the second to last LucasArts point and click Scumm based game, the last being Money Island 3. And it is even by todays standard a visual masterpiece. This is truly a beautiful game. With hand painted back drops, excellent voice acting (the main character is voiced by ROBERT FUCKING PATRICK), and a soundtrack that completes what is already an outstanding atmosphere, there are no words to express how much I adore this game. Of all my memories, I remember the color palette the best. The cool blues and purples, contrasted by subtle reds and yellows. The only other thing that I remembered was getting a very deep vibe from it. I couldn't put my finger on it, but this game was special too me. And finally playing this again, I remember what it was.
The premise is as follows:
When a meteor is hurdling towards earth, you, commander Boston Low, along with Maggie Robbins and Ludger Brink, are blasted up there to place some charges on it to blast it into a safe orbit. Upon completion of your mission, you explore the astroid to find it to be some alien space craft and are whisked millions of light years from earth to a desolate, empty deserted planet. With no other living beings in sight, you must piece together what took place that eliminated the now missing beings of this planet, as well as finding your own home.
Im not going to spoil it, but things happen. Ludger starts going insane, Maggie starts to seclude herself, and a bunch of other way-too-heavy-to-appreciate-themes-for-my-6-year-old-head present themselves. The story is only so-so unfortunately, but it is easily forgivable with its spot on atmosphere.
The planet is lonely, strange, and unfamiliar, and it wants you to know.
The Dig left a huge impact on me. Being a rather young creatively inclined person, I am just starting to be able to explore what little experiences I have to create off of. And this is where the impact has come in. The Dig was perhaps the most deciding factor in my perception of what is "beautiful". not the visual kind of "thats pretty" beautiful, I mean the "holy shit this is gonna make my cry because I understand it in such resonating way" beautiful.
I find beauty in desolation and struggle. This game created a deep understanding of what it means to be alone, and what it means to be separated from everything you love and hold dear. It created an understanding of what it means to hold onto hope. It created an understanding of what can drive a man to complete homicidal madness. And most important of all, it created an even deeper need to explore these ideas and feelings in a mature and adult like manner.
The atmosphere, while desolate and empty, is almost like a safe haven for me. I can become lost in this beautiful, strange alien world. Whenever I just need to escape I turn up the speakers, blow scummVM to full screen, and just play The Dig. It has saved my sanity numerous times. This IS my child hood; or at least a memorable enough part to be comforting and safe. When I need some time to clear my head, I plant myself back into this lonely alien planet and just take a breather.
The "replay value" is different depending on what you want. In terms of basic story and puzzles, there's not much to replay for. But The beautiful artwork and brilliant musical score more than make up for this. Like I said, no game has ever nailed an atmosphere like this. Ever.
And that is why I shall forever return to this little thought of piece of brilliance.