The 1993 game ‘Day of the Tentacle’ released by LucasArts came back in its remastered form in 2016. Its sleek version became available to other consoles such as the PS Vita, the PS4, and even on the Apple Store.
Some people may be surprised to know that Day of the Tentacle (DOTT) is actually a really old game. I know I was. It did remind me of the kinds of games I used to play via CD-ROM back when I was younger, but Day of the Tentacle was also released in a floppy disk! It was the sequel for the game Maniac Mansion, also released by LucasArts. For those of you wondering: Yes, it is under LucasFilm. You can expect a couple of Star Wars references and easter eggs. The remaster offers many features such as the developer’s commentary, concept art, and more, and gives you a lot of interesting trivia about the making of this awesome project.
Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie receive a letter from Dr. Fred Edison, an inventor and a motel owner, asking for help. One of his creations, a certain purple tentacle, drank the toxic waste being sludged out into the lake behind his motel. As a result, he grew arms and became a mad genius out to take over the world.
To reverse the events that just transpired, Dr. Fred’s plan is to use a time machine to stop the sludge from being excreted to stop the Purple Tentacle from ingesting it. He forces the trio into time machines called the ‘Chron-O-John’ which runs on a diamond. Since Dr. Fred used a cheap diamond, something goes wrong and Hoagie ends up 200 years into the past, and Laverne 200 years into the future. You’ll need to help each of them re-power each Chron-O-John in each era.
The ESRB rating for Day of the Tentacle is for Teens as it involves many suggestive themes and sometimes plays on adult humor. You switch through characters and get to know more about themselves by the way they talk either during cutscenes or during dialogue options. I think that this manner of letting the players get to know the characters is really interesting because rather than just providing a character profile, the players are left in suspense and wonder what they might say next.
These kinds of dialogue don’t only happen during cutscenes or interactions, but also when they reject items you ask them to use.
Bernard remains in the present, Laverne ends up far into the future where tentacles become the superior race, and humans are treated like pets. Hoagie on the other hand gets to meet America’s founding fathers. I myself am a Hamiltrash so this was really fun for me to explore, not to mention hearing a brief mention of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, and giving out correct facts. It gives you a realistic kind of feel despite the story’s absurdity and cartoon logic.
DOTT is an two-dimensional puzzle, adventure, and point-and-click. Starting the game, I was kind of confused and a bit taken aback — most point-and-click games don’t usually have a lengthy cutscenes where they really introduce the story.
The basics were left-click to move, and right-click to open the action menu. It somewhat reminded me of Gemini Rue‘s gameplay since it uses similar controls, but it actually showed so many instructions that I wasn’t exactly sure how to properly play. I figured it was just a point and click anyway, so I survived with just my mouse.
It was a bit frustrating for me because I wanted to skip and start clicking around, and it was a liiiiittle bit of a hassle to pick what to do with each item every time. Props to the developers though, since it requires more detailing.
I actually got this game for free thanks to my brief Twitch Prime subscription, and didn’t really touch it since to me, it initially looked like a game I would have played in grade school. It stayed in the back of my mind until my friend recommended I play it.
Since I got into playing visual novels, I’ve always wondered about backgrounds. For point and click games, you especially have to notice the background since you will need to inspect and be a little bit of a MacGyver to figure out these puzzles. You’d think that DOTT, being a much older game, the puzzles would be easy to solve, but I actually had to stop and find some… help… for a while. But anyway, according to the commentary, the background was actually hand-drawn artwork colored with markers.
The art really does make you think of cartoons, and that’s also what inspired the artists to design the characters after. Even the tentacles themselves are so hard to take seriously because though they’re evil, they’re still somewhat cute. Each character also has its own unique personality just from the way they walk. Tentacles “hop” on their suction cups, and Bernard, Hoagie, and Laverne all have their own distinct ways of walking as well.
The game almost seems like an RPG because you can also choose to converse with other non-playable characters. There’s a lot of text options to choose from to see what each character will reply. It felt almost like a useless effort because some conversation branches don’t really contribute to the story’s progression, but on the other hand, you can find many clues on how to solve puzzles, and get to know more about the characters.
I guess it’s an almost useless effort then, because at times you can continue to talk to some characters that will never respond, and the options don’t seem to run out. Though some people might want to explore content even though it’ll still just lead them to a dead end. But honestly, it’s really heartwarming for me to play a game that the developers just had a lot of fun designing. They even included Maniac Mansion, which you can play within the game. It even has its own save/load functions!
DOTT allows you to save/load as well, but it has its own autosave feature which saves you a lot of time and hassle. It also lets you choose to play in the high resolution remaster style or in the older version!
Another interesting tidbit I found out is that the lip syncing used was somewhat done manually — it was based on the sizes of the wave forms from the speech recorded by the voice actors. Super neat, but it also shows that it isn’t very synced, though it’s close enough!
Exploring many different rooms/places and having different events happening always constitutes that you use specific music to match the mood, and to make sure it is done in a seamless manner. There was really never an off moment switching to different rooms, even if the music would change. It was so unnoticeable. Not to mention each sound effect was so fitting, it was really like half watching a cartoon.
I found out that the game was originally text-based, and now the entire thing is dubbed (and dubbed well, I might add!). The only text you’ll really see apart from picking choices are from sound effects and times when the character you’re playing is confused. A pixelated little question mark pops up on top of their heads.
I mentioned that the cutscenes felt lengthy. It was really because you couldn’t skip text or make it appear faster — you really had to listen to what they had to say and finish watching their animation. It’s something you learn to deal with. This pretty much means it will be difficult to listen to your personal playlists while playing the game, and also it will definitely be a game that will take a while to finish, but not due to the story, more of the gameplay, really.
You can also choose remaster music modes to play with, to see how they updated it and to hear how it sounded back in the 90’s.
Honestly, this was a breath of fresh air especially after playing a game like Doki Doki Literature Club. 😂 It’s a kind of light and funny game. The dialogue made me laugh and even when the game approaches darker topics, the writers manage to find a hole to work around and make it amusing. They use a lot of absurdism. Though of course it won’t work for all, I personally didn’t like a small number of interactions but it does give character. Sometimes you realize, “did that character really say that even if [spoiler]?”. It’s pretty smart.
DOTT really opened my eyes a little bit more, due to the fact that it reminded me games aren’t always meant to be finished. Of course I finished the game, but a lot of the aspects forced me to stay in the moment, to wait and to actually look through some hidden things the developers left for players to dig. Forcing usually does not result in good things, but when you’re left with no choice but to progress you kind of learn to put up with it. I may be one of the few that learned to appreciate it.
I really enjoyed the game, but I have to admit even though the game does give hints really well, sometimes the hints themselves aren’t always easy to come across… and it ends up extending your playing time since you have to search different nooks and crannies in three different maps. I tried really hard not to get help, but I guess in a way, that’s the beauty of a puzzle game!
Day of the Tentacle still remains a classic and I encourage anyone (personally, at the right age range — though children may not understand some of it anyway. I mean, it’s technically under Disney) to try it out, at least once.
Rating: 7 / 10
Find more details about the game and where you can buy it on their website.
Thank you for recommending this game, Xavi!