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LucasArts' Secret History: Day of the Tentacle Second Opinions

Mojo's readers chime in.

Alex

About 10 years ago (already a while after the game originally came out), I was a 10 year old kid who had just moved to the united states and didn't know a shred of english. With my hard-earned (maybe not so much) allowance, the first thing that I spent my money on were LucasArts Archives I & III.

I mainly bought them for the Star Wars games, but also for the cool looking Full Throttle, The Dig, Sam & Max, and so on. But the one game that immediately caught my attention was Day of the Tentacle, and out of all the other games, this was then one that I played first.

I just could not pull away from the amazing artwork and characters. And even though I couldn't understand what the hell was going on and what the characters were talking about, I still immensely enjoyed every scene. Of course then I got really frustrated because I still couldn't get to the second floor of the mansion (guess how far I've gotten), so I actually looked up a walkthrough and started *reading* it. I actually felt a great sense of accomplishment. Not only was I making my way through the game, but was also totally reading something in a completely foreign language and understanding it. Even my parents were impressed (not so much about the walkthrough part).

So basically, I feel that DOTT is still at least partly responsible for helping me learn the english (american) language.

BBrox

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Even if the MI lovers will hate me, DotT is for me the best adventure game produced ever (tied in first place with Grim Fandango but for different reasons). Even if MI is the most 'quotable' with some pretty compelling characters and funny situations, I vastly preferred DotT's puzzles and way the story was constructed (case in point: I finished it in one week of play without having to resort to reading any hints whereas it was not the case for MI2). And the play on time travel puzzles is pure genius...

And finally, as a former Amiga user, the intro sequence for DotT was the revelation that the future lay in the PC :-)

Byron Hooper

For some reason, I didn't get around to playing DOTT until like 2003. I have no idea why... I had a demo for it on one of the many other Lucasarts games I got in the early-90s and loved it, but somehow never got around to actually getting it. When I finally did, it made me wish I could use one of Dr. Fred's Chron-o-Johns to go back in time and play it earlier :(

Seriously though, it may be one of the wackiest games I've ever played. When the IRS agents wrapped Dr. Fred up in literal red tape, I thought I was going to give myself a hernia laughing.

Capn Nacho

For me, DOTT takes the already extremely high presentation quality of the earlier Lucas games and kicks it up to staggering levels. The incredible animation, voice, and iMuse music, combined with the game's seamless, non-linear integration of puzzle and story (in three different time periods!) all reach the absolute highest standard of quality. I love the way the plot constantly moves forward, with characters changing attitude and location throughout the story, particularly the IRS mishap with Dr. Fred. Great, great, great.

Elliot Ridgway

Day of the Tentacle - where on earth could I possibly start with this game? For one thing, this was the very first adventure game that I actually played and completed - the game responsible for hooking me on the genre. But even after all these years, after playing so many other adventure games, Day of the Tentacle remains the absolute #1 adventure game in my mind, the pinnacle of all adventurey goodness. The story and characters are unbelievably hilarious, the puzzles are in perfect balance with each other, the sheer amount of detail is staggering, and the visuals as well as the soundtrack all work together seamlessly for the overall cartoony feel of the game. The entire game comes off so well as a whole that it seems as though DOTT's design team was in perfect synchronization, and the duo of adventure game giants leading this team - Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman - probably played no small part in pulling off such a magically delightful game.

I'd definitely have to say that the game being split up into the same location in three different time periods, in addition to being a stroke of genius, is one of my absolute favorite aspects of the game, and the designers took full advantage of the hilarious ramifications of doing things in the same place at different times. But that's just one of the great things about playing this game - it is an absolute treat from beginning to end, and if you only play one Lucasarts adventure game, make it this one - every Lucasarts adventure before it was building up to this point, and every adventure after it was great though not as much so as this one. Day of the Tentacle is one of the adventure genre's crown jewels, and there is no way I could recommend it any more highly.

Gabez

I've played a little bit of this game on my mum's DS, and I did like it, tho' I didn't have a huge urge to play it through to the end. It was very funny, and very cool, but I lack the interest somehow or other... maybe I'll try it again on the PC. My mum did complete it on the DS, though, and liked it very much.

Haggis

DOTT is a great game. The way in which it has puzzles you have to solve across time is sheer genius. And the characters are great, too.

Icebox Destroyer of Worlds (Grif)

Day of the tentacle made me laugh harder than any other Lucas Adventure game, and that's a fact. Curse was generally more of an "Oh, that's clever, type of humour", and Sam and Max is all madcap Nihilism and Spontaneity. But DoTT at its best is zany gold. The entire scene with the IRS, complete with deadpan smalltalk and obtuse logic, nearly suffocated a young Grif. And pathetic though it may seem, this is in truth, the only of the Adventure classics I could beat without using a FAQ.

I tell my friends often that 8-bit snesibilities are impressionistic, and old school games can be reinterpreted in one of any number of contexts. Rather than taking the easy way out, though, from the obviously much darker Maniac Mansion, and instead of rendering its sequel as a horrific nightmare adventure, Tim and Co. Played up the new Lucas Brand Immortality(TM) and transposed the old favorite characters into a Tex Avery inspired wonderland, complete with puzzles resplendified in twisted reason.

Then, there's the issue of the salesman. I played through the game mirthfully until that point, drinking in the gnarled atmosphere like a rich cup of coffee (Not Decaf). But then I met the salesman. The whole scene reeked of black comedy, but upon seeing him put the gun to his head, real or fake, I knew that adventure gaming had evolved to a point where it could convey true emotion. I nearly cried. And that sad music from Snuckey's played, and a shattered individual's life story and suffering were related, clear as day, to an utter stranger... So really, it brought me sorrow and joy alternatively, dual doses of mirth and dour seriousness.

Slammin' Game, Killer Experience, Tim is God, End of Story!

Jennifer

I remember when I was a little girl, and my parents stopped into Radio Shack. They had the Day of the Tentacle demo playing on the computer. I just sat there, amazed at the beautiful animation playing before me. I never imagined that computers could possibly pull off such a feat. The characters moved so smooth. DOTT looked like a cartoon rather than a computer program. And the music was so wonderful, and was so zany that it fit the animation so perfectly. The sound effects were also wonderfully cartoony, and really added to the atmosphere.

I just had to have it, but since the computer was still a family computer, we ended up getting MS-DOS 6.0 instead. It wasn't until years later that I finally was able to play Day of the Tentacle, and I wasn't disappointed in the least. I was a huge fan of Maniac Mansion, spending a lot of time on it on the Nintendo Entertainment System when it first came out. Day of the Tentacle surprised me by taking everything I knew and throwing it on it's head. The Edisons were still recognizably themselves, but many years had passed since the first adventure, and the characters had changed believably with time.

Weird Ed was so scarred by the whole ordeal that he spent years in therapy. He's no longer a commando-entusiast, but now he collects stamps in order to remain at peace. The mansion has been turned into a hotel in order to make money to take care of the family as well as fund Dr. Fred's experiments. As a result, Nurse Edna no longer throws non-family members into the dungeon, but she still keeps a keen eye on the mansion through security cameras.

Day of the Tentacle introduced me to a concept that I know vastly prefer over straight sequels. It's the same game world, but other than sharing the characters of the Edisons and the nerd from the first game, Bernard, it's a wildly different game.

You still control three characters: Bernard, a roadie named Hoagie, and a medical student named Laverne. But, as the game unfolds, the reasoning for controlling three characters becomes much more important. Where in the first game, the characters were used to get other people out of the dungeon, and use their unique abilities to solve different puzzles and see different endings, here the ability to use three different characters was of complete importance. Each of the three characters end up in different time periods. Bernard is in the present, Hoagie is in the past, and Laverne is in the future. You can share inanimate objects between time frames as long as they fit in the time machine. This brought a big feeling of exploration that is seldom felt in adventure games. The mansion was there to explore in three different time periods, and doing things in any of those time periods could cause things to change for future periods. It was a wonderful scenario that I'd love to see explored again in another adventure game.

Johnny Walker

Day of the Tentacle is arguably LucasArts's finest point and clicker. The storyline, characters, humour and puzzles were perfectly balanced. The mixture of Dave Grossman's zaniness, Tim Shafer's depth and the desire of both of them to make a name for themselves created what is probably the most fully rounded, matured and consistent adventure game ever produced. If they'd made the heroes a little easier to identify with and maybe shown us why (how?) they were friends, the game probably would have been as big as, if not bigger than, Monkey Island. Ignoring that one minor quibble, it is still, in my mind, the apex of the comedy point and click adventure. Superb storyline, developed characters and a great and satisfying ending -- not to mention excellent and logical puzzles. Sam & Max was too wacky for its own sake and Full Throttle tried unsuccessfully to work in action-based puzzles. Only The Curse of Monkey Island stands as a serious contender, but as broad and chucklesome as it was, it never reached the heights of sublime excellence set by Day of the Tentacle.

jp-30

Day of the Tentacle remains my all-time favourite computer game. The time-puzzles are brilliant, and being able to swap between characters at will was excellent (though not entirely new to LucasArts adventures).

Also, this is the first (and possibly only) game my wife and I have played through together. Humour was top notch throughout too. Absolute classic.

Keith

I had played the original Maniac Mansion many times and truely loved that game. Then one day, my brother told me they made a sequel. I flat out called him a liar. A few days later though, he showed me the floppies to the game and I spent the next few hours watching him play the game. When I later got my chance to play it myself, I found myself stuck at the copy protection because he had hidden the manual from me.

Since it came out, I've played through the game at least 12 times, introduced it to half a dozen friends, and found myself drawing sketches of the characters over and over again. Day of the Tentacle is one of my favorite LucasArts games every, second only to Monkey Island 2.

Kroms

I think I can sum this game up in one sentence: "This must be that Woodstock place mum and dad are always talking about." Pure brilliance.

Lagamorph

Today people, we're gonna talk about the first point click adventure game I've ever played. The one that started it all, so to speak.

I remember it so fondly, I was about 8 years old, my nephews had this weird computer game that looked like a cartoon. When they showed me the intro, I was hooked. Although I had to play it every time I was at their place (no way my parents were gonna let me use 8 floppy disk's for a game), every time I saw it I was more fascinated.

I couldn't get very far with my limited English skills. Most of which I had dug up watching Ninja Turtles and playing Commander Keen, but the game just got to me.

One day, my nephew, Mark, showed my a savegame he had, where you could play with the girl from the intro! I was so impressed, and he let me tinker with his savegame too! I could let the girl walk through the laserbeams, and then make her say "Mr. Tentacle Guard? I don't feel so good." It was funniest thing I ever saw. Yeah, I was easily pleased back then...

A couple of years later, I got my own version of a cd with all kinds of adventure games. Since there was a copy protection on the game, the challenge was not to beat the game, because that was impossible. It was to get as far as I could without getting the plans.

Some time later, Mark got me this really neat notepad file which contained the copy protection codes! I nearly jumped through the ceiling! About seven years after first playing it, I could finally play the whole game!

A year or two later, I got the cd version, from a friend's friend. This opened another door for me. A full talkie door!

Of course now, years later I fully understand the game, I understand the layers of humor, the references and the origin at heart. I can talk hours about this game, the design, the characters, the superb Imuse soundtrack, the uniqueness of it all, but I'm not going to. You can read all of that on page one, and probably in the comments above and beneath this one.

As you all can see, I went through a lot of steps playing Day of the Tentacle. Most of them probably lost to most of the players.

It's more than a game to me. It represents a personal journey, a quest. It's an integral phase of my childhood, a dream I chased until I finally saw the ending.

This is the game that triggered my love for the point click adventure games, and it took me a damn long time to finish it!

Mario Colbert

I am convinced that if it wasn't for Day of the Tentacle, I wouldn't be here right now. I don't mean that I wouldn't be a fan of LucasArts' most impressive roster of excellent games, but that I would not exist at all. Some may point out that I was conceived more than a decade prior to the game's appearance in the world, and therefore it is impossible for the game to have had such an effect, but I assure you that I had to have been borne into the universe in which this game exists, for it was made for me to love, and for me to be loved by it.

In August of either 1994 or 1995, the Summer Physics/Mathematics Camp I was attending (in Russia) got a videotape full of code sent from some country where video games were marketed and sold. Since the technology was limited - you could "download" only little chunks of stuff at a time - we (read: coders in early 20s, who let my barely-teenage self observe) were viewing the contents a couple of games at a time, deleting them afterwards. I'll note that the computer we were viewing it on was a 486 with a sound blaster, or in other words, "awesome."

I will never forget the opening to Day of the Tentacle, as the Russian older kids who ran the game immediately stated that "the bird needs to make noise." And they actually made fun of it, while I was trying very hard to summon each and every bit of English I knew to understand the intro cinematic. What I figured out can be summarized as follows:

  • waste
  • aliens?
  • arms?
  • evil. (the period means I was sure of it)

And, let me be honest - that was more than enough. They had me at the bird and the fishes. The stupid guys pressed ESC right before the single best intro credits sequence ever, and I had to wait one half of a full year to actually see it. They walked around the mansion, they clicked on a few things, and then dismissed it as being "not Monkey Island 2." Thus, they quit, and despite my efforts to convince them to throw it on some floppies (I think it was 5 or 6 if you used ARJ archives), I was denied the game for 6 long months.

How I finally got the game isn't all that much fun to recall, but I'd like to stress that I actually purchased it (though it was in Russia, so LucasArts saw none of them roubles). I will say that it was pretty difficult, locating a game the name or contents of which I did not know, since most people had no idea what game "had that bird that died at the beginning." But obtain it I did, and play it I have. To understand the full thing completely took years, over the course of which I learned of IRS, particulars of the English language, and of the quaint fact that mail-order items exist in nations in which television sells things all the time (ah, the post-Soviet 90s).

Day of the Tentacle is a perfect game. It's the funniest of the LA collection, best looking, best written, best animated, most spectacular for implementing both time travel and the ability to play several characters in parallel, and also one which did not feature any puzzles that required outside help. If Monkey Island 1 was tarnished by my pyro fingers, which burned the damn "Get a Head" leaflet on the ship first time through, and Monkey Island 2 featured the elitist Monkey Wrench puzzle, the likes of which could only be "obvious" to evil native English speakers, DOTT ended up being the most perfect adventure (and non-adventure) game to ever grace the universe. While most games give you one or two sequences of "awesome" - Day of the Tentacle seemed to lose its breaks somewhere in the first two frames of the intro, and charge through sequences that felt action packed to the max despite actually being calm adventure puzzles with no itchy trigger fingers required. It has challenged everything I knew about adventure games up to that point, and made everything else seem pale, uninspired, and dated. It still stands up tall with the best of them - full fifteen years later, despite not giving you the ability to scale a monumental Colossus, or rewind time all the way to the beginning of a level.

Most of all, Day of the Tentacle is a celebration of video game scribes. Its innovation is not in gameplay mechanics or even puzzles - it is in the writing of the game as a whole, just as much as it is in writing of the dialog itself. DOTT is a perfect example of a game which has one foot planted deeply in tradition, convention, and all other things "familiar" while the rest of its appendages seem to flail wildly with extreme prejudice to canned or predictable humor, situations, or settings. The preservation of this game over the years has been unprecedented, as its stylistic look, remarkable sound, and hilarious writing does not seem to get old, despite the apparent lack of cell phones, ebay deals for real diamonds, and other things that did not exist in 1993. I've had friends who were force-fed that game by yours truly as late as two years ago, and who came out of the experience wide-eyed in disbelief at the amount of awesome they just witnessed. If you haven't played the game yet, that could be you.

Honestly, if there is one game that I must concede to being "the most perfect gem in existence, which needs be preserved at all costs," this one is it for me. Its mere name is a four-word response to the superfluous argument regarding games somehow not being art, as it is also a four-word counter-example to claims that originality and inventiveness make for a pretentious and unplayable product. But to me, it's an experience so strikingly original, that comparing it to anything else seems to miss the point entirely. Day of the Tentacle is in a league of its own, and it sits along very few titles in existence truly capable of calling themselves such. Coincidentally, a fair bit of these have been dreamed up by Tim Schafer, but I'm sure he's just lucky like that. After all, these are just games, not works of art, and everyone can make, what, four? five? six? titles in a row which are celebrated and remembered many years after their creation, right? But I don't mean to concentrate too much on Schafer here, as I do not doubt that Dave Grossman's involvement with the title sets it apart from their later solo achievements. It's hard to mention those two without mentioning the whole of the development team for the game, so I'd like to go on record as thanking everyone who had anything to do with this game, including George Lucas from the past, before some unspeakable horror has happened to him.

Lastly, I'd also like to express my condolences to the very same team of the very same people responsible for making Day of the Tentacle a reality, as none of them could really experience this game as I did - while knowing nothing, and surprised at every turn. If those simply ignorant of the game can fix their half-lives tomorrow, Grossman and Schafer (among many others) will never be able to truly experience the best game ever. Perhaps that explains their endless drive for consistently bringing the very best into the world, but as long as they are successful (and in my humble opinion they most certainly are), they are really missing out on the most enjoyable and amazing experiences the medium has to offer. They've bit the bullet for us all on this one. So let's have a moment of silence.

Word.

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