Eurogamer Retro: Day Of The Tentacle

By John Walker on March 29th, 2010 at 9:30 am.

OMG spoilers.

Day of the Tentacle is one of those exceptional games. A game that occupies a place in my memory as a defining game, and one that remains every bit as brilliant when played seventeen years later. In order to celebrate this, and discuss just why it’s so brilliant, I replayed it and wrote about it for Eurogamer, which you can read here. It contains this:

“I think if you surveyed people for their favourite LucasArts adventure, the chances are Grim Fandango would come top. For me it’s always been Day of the Tentacle. Not because it’s a deeper story, richer idea, more brilliant world, because it’s definitely none of those things compared to Grim. But because it’s a pure comedy. And that’s one of the rarest gems in the world of gaming.”

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48 Comments »

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  1. Risingson says:

    Masterpiece. I can’t read eurogamer here (thanks god my proxy allows access to rockpapershotgun) but the virtues of DOTT is as simple as great production values, great design and balanced puzzles with just the right ammount of clues.

    It never stops being brilliant, and the game is generally pleasant until you find one of those big slapstick gags that makes you rotfl loud, like the mummy puzzle.

  2. bill says:

    Played it for the first time on a gp32 with scummvm about 5 years ago… it looked stunning on a 3 inch screen… with lots of great animations. But fiddly with the controls though.
    LIke most adventure game though, i got fed up with the annoying puzzles that got in the way of the story and adventure.

    Always wondered why lucasarts didn’t re-release all their scumm games on the DS.

    • Risingson says:

      Bill, that’s the point of adventure games: puzzles that, once solved, move the story forward. What makes a puzzle good is if it has a context or enough clues.

      But you can’t blame an adventure because of this, as you can’t blame a FPS for shooting.

    • Rich says:

      Monkey Island on the DS? Yes please.

      In a similar vein, I hope they remake MI3, but without the changes in art style they tried for MI1+2.

    • John Walker says:

      ScummVM works on DS. So if you’ve got a copy of the game you can create the nds, and play them that way.

    • bill says:

      @Risington:
      I know, i’m not blaming adventure games, i’m just saying it’s a mechanic that totally frustrates me. It’s my personal thing, but it always feels rather like the game is trying to prevent me from playing the game.
      @John W:
      Yeah, I know. But if I pick up a DS flashcart to play scummvm games then i know the temptation to download ds games “just to try” will be too great. I’m weak willed like that. :-(

      Quite why Lucasarts hasn’t done it officially though is beyond me. It’s something people said was obvious ever since the DS launched. Old lucasarts was evil, but with the recent resurrection and MI special editions i was thinking they’d go for it…

    • jsutcliffe says:

      ScummVM DS won’t let you play DOTT. I think its compatibility ends at The Dig — the DS simply doesn’t have enough RAM for later Scumm games.

      It is totally worth getting a flash card for ScummVM DS though — being able to play the Monkey Island games (and Loom, and there’s a bunch of other compatible titles I haven’t played) on my ride to/from work was excellent.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      @jsutcliffe DOTT pre dates The Dig by a long, long time. Or, you know, probably about six months. But it seemed a long long time when I was waiting for it to come out – the mythic LucasArts adventure with a story by Steve Spielberg and visual effects by ILM, cancelled and restarted countless times and endlessly delayed.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @somnolentsurfer

      The basic point, that DOTT and The Dig (and Full Throttle, and Curse of MI, and Sam & Max…) don’t work on the DS ScummVM port still stands. :)

    • dan. says:

      @jsutcliffe
      According to this list both DOTT and Sam & Max work on the DS.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @Dan

      Gasp! That’s what I get for believing things I read on the Internet. Now I am glad I didn’t toss out my DoTT/S&M disc when I was cleaning my drawers the other week.

    • MWoody says:

      It says something very disturbing about my relationship with old games that when you typed “drawers” I thought you meant “pants.”

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @MWoody

      Yeah, that was intentional :)

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      @jsutcliffe Sorry, LucasArts adventures were the games that used to get my childhood savings for day one purchases. So, that was more just pedantry bought on by nostalgia of waiting for release dates to come round.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    It has also been my favorite Lucasarts game. Everything is just so brilliant and I replayed it again a few months ago and it’s still just as great.

    • Howl says:

      Mine too. They nailed it on every aspect. The humour, the art, the storyline, the puzzles. etc. etc.

      The dead uncle with spaghetti hair (hmm meaty), on rollerscates, had me in tears as a teenager when this came out. Great memories.

  4. Shadowcat says:

    I also played this for the first time just a few years ago (I’d owned it for a great many years more, but had somehow never gotten around to it), and it was absolutely brilliant. That kind of game simply doesn’t age. Well… it ages a smidgen due to the low resolution, but the wonderful ScummVM deals to that so successfully that it simply wasn’t noticeable.

  5. Dan (WR) says:

    I played it for the first time a few months ago and I thought it was brilliant – really funny and some of the puzzles are a real delight. And as you say in the EG piece, the voice acting is really great. God bless twitchy Laverne.

  6. Leonard Hatred says:

    Is it just me, or does the eurogamer favicon look a lot like the HMV logo?

    Great game, and one of the few genuinely funny funny videogames. Christ, i can barely remember the last time i had a genuine lol in a SP game.

    That said, i bought a bunch of lucas games on steam a whileback to relive the halcyon days of my youth with pointy clicky adventures and i found the whole experience to be tiresome – prolonged periods of time watching characters stroll veeeeerrryy slowly across the screen when moving between areas, swiping the mouse all over the screen looking for a 2px by 2px clickable, trial & error puzzle solving that only ever made sense with the benefit of hindsight. the list goes on.

    so yeah, absolutely first rate games, but of little interest to anybody who didn’t play them the first time around. Still at least they actually had clicking, replaying the Police Quest games in all their EGA glory was worse.

    • Risingson says:

      Leonard, that’s weird. What games had those flaws?

    • Leonard Hatred says:

      Off the top of my head? The Dig was particularly awful for all of them (including some thankfully skippable proto-FMV every time you got on a tram. which you will want to do quite often) although it’s clicky interface was acceptable.

      The earlier (and crapper) indiana jones and the last crusade had a horrible pre-streamlining interface which made even the most rudimentary actions a chore. i got about half an hour in before my will to play gave way and i plummeted back to the desktop in frustration.

      Simon the sorcerer (not lucas, i know) had the most insanely rockhard puzzles that made demi-sense, but only after you’d solved them by randomly clicking. I’m pretty sure they designed these puzzles backwards, starting with the outcome and then quickly cobbling something vaguely logical together to facilitate that.

      Imo (and this is strictly IMO obviously, i’m sure somebody will be along any second to point out that actually i’m wrong and they are right) most Point & Click adventures were slightly shonky. We were spoiled by lucasarts’ monkey island, DoTT, sam and max, and when we think back to the mid 90s we compress ten years of videogames into warm fuzzy-feelings for a handful of titles from one glorious studio. All of which is slightly off-topic tbh.

      USE submit button

      I cannot use that.

      PUSH submit button

      It does not move.

      USE cursor WITH submit button

    • Igor Hardy says:

      I don’t understand your problems with Simon The Sorcerer. It’s one of the few adventure games I was able to solve without having to look even once into a walkthrough.

      Now, Simon The Sorcerer II that’s an entirely different story (pick up the dog that is threatening you).

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      James G says:

      ‘Pick up dog’ is not the strangest solution involving a dog in StSII. ‘Wear dog’ is the strangest solution involving a dog, not only in StSII, but possibly in the whole adventure game genre. It even beats the solution for turning off the pump in Monkey Island II, which at least was based on a slightly less obtuse pun based clue. In the case of StSII, I wonder if the dog being described as ‘very quiet’ was an attempt at hinting that he was a ‘hush puppy’ but given the mental gymnastics that requires after the fact, its hardly a sensible clue beforehand.

    • Risingson says:

      Leonard, so there are specific flaws for each game, not the entire genre. I don’t like Simon The Sorcerer at all, and I didn’t like it when it was released even: I found it slow, clumpsy, horribly designed and with a main character who was simply mean and stupid.

      Indy 3 has the pixel-hunting issue. The Dig has problems in its 7th guest-like puzzles which doesn’t fit the rest of the game. And those last interface issues belong to BAD interfaces, not Lucas or Sierra or the later icon-based (indeed, I find those more related to interactive fiction than adventures). So you can’t blame an entire genre for that, as you can’t blame FPS for always being repetitive, or RPGs for having so much statistics.

      Maybe we don’t have to play every genre, or every genre isn’t for everybody. In my case, I like RTS but I’m terribly bad at their dynamics, and I KNOW it’s my problem. Because other people, most people, like them for the same reasons I’m bad at.

    • Risingson says:

      Anyway, you can blame me for my grammar :(

  7. Baboonanza says:

    I was just talking about playing this again last weekend. What an absolutely wonderful game, definitely my favourite Lucasarts adventure.

    now I just have to work out how to get it and play it…

  8. Richard Clayton says:

    DOTT is still my favourite game after all these years. I agree with others that there is a real joy in playing on modern miniaturised hardware like PDAs or smartphones.

    The abstract solving of puzzles by using time and the chronojohns was just inspired. Like Portal it made you feel very clever: solving very silly puzzles by utilising your 400 year time anomalies.

    And very funny too as John says. It is, as Hoagie continually reminds us, “bitchin'”.

  9. Kester says:

    “Best game ever” doesn’t really seem good enough for DotT. Maybe “Greatest achievement of Western civilisation”, although it does face strong competition from the Muppet Show.

  10. Premium User Badge

    phlebas says:

    I’d agree that DOTT is a better game than Grim Fandango, but for a different reason – it’s more committed to being a game. GF was great, but compromised with its experimental console-friendly interface and the desire to develop story, world and character at the expense of usability, player agency and puzzles. It’s still pretty wonderful, but it isn’t the best game they made.

  11. Plopsworth says:

    The slow movement-speeds reminds me of how Westwood’s Blade Runner game made the non-Deckard guy sprint after double-clicking … and then you could keep double-clicking, clicking, clicking as long as the distance permitted until the guy reached inhuman speeds (obviously a replicant!). This was especially fun in some of the larger expanses… at least to my 13 year-old self.

  12. nabeel says:

    Great writeup. I absolutely love DOTT, but back then it was the floppy version that I played, so I do intend to play the CD version with speech some time.

  13. RLacey says:

    Best adventure game ever. Grim is good, but this is something else entirely.

  14. sfury says:

    I really can’t think of any game as genuinely funny as Day of the Tentacle :)

    I still like Grim Fandango a little bit more – as you said, for very different reasons, but yeah those two are my favorite adventure games.

  15. Igor Hardy says:

    DOTT is indeed something great – I could never get enough of Laverne’s demented voice and purple tentacle’s villainous ways. But Grim Fandango remains my favorite adventure game (and game of any genre) ever.

    • Mr_Day says:

      The biggest disapointment for me right now is that I can’t get Grim Fandango to work – I shall try again in a bit, actually. I was trying to think of games which made me cry for another website, and have just realised GF is one of them – for example, the florist who is now a nervous wreck because of the weird way his work has changed meaning. Poor sap.

      Kind of irritating, though – that screenie up there ruins one of the best jokes in the game for anyone that hasn’t played it.

  16. Wulf says:

    Don’t have much to add really.

    I played this when it was originally released and quite liked it. It wasn’t my favourite LucasArts game (Monkey Island 2, Fate of Atlantis, and Full Throttle rank above it) but it was very good, and really very funny.

    I also remember trying to play this a little bit later with the Pentium patch (anyone remember that?) and the intro ran hilariously fast, as did the music.

    Ahh memories.

  17. DMcCool says:

    Day of The Tenticle was one of the cornerstones of my childhood, but I still prefer Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. The first Monkey Island is the truely timeless one, for me.

  18. LionsPhil says:

    Honestly, John, at the end you say how lucky the reader is if they haven’t played it—after reading an article full of spoilers. ;)

    I suspect Sam & Max would probably win the popularist vote if DOTT didn’t. Grim may have been better in ways, but I don’t think it branded the collective memory so hard.

  19. Anita says:

    I sooo want to play DOTT again, but the game seems to be way to old for my computer to handle.
    How are you able to play it??? Please spoonfeed me the information :-) Thanks a lot!

    • LionsPhil says:

      1) Grab ScummVM Windows installer: http://www.scummvm.org/downloads/
      2) Copy the entire contents of your DOTT CD into a folder somewhere. (Technically you don’t quite need anything but you said simple and the days of pennypinching every last megabyte on the desktop are gone.) After this, put the CD away safely again to be preserved for future generations.
      3) Start ScummVM, hit Add Game, point it to the folder you copied DOTT to, thwack Choose and OK everything.
      4) Select DOTT in the list and hit Start. Remember that it’s F5 for the Load/Save/Quit menu.

      http://www.scummvm.org/documentation/ can probably answer anything else.

  20. sudogamer says:

    It looks terrible, but I just stumbled upon a DOTT2 fan game. .
    http://www.dott2.de/

  21. MWoody says:

    One of the great paradoxes of DoTT is that, despite having better graphics, better story, voice acting, delightful characters, tremendous amounts of humor, etc etc – Maniac Mansion, the game to which DoTT purports to be a sequel, is a better game. MM had multiple playable characters each with their own abilities, multiple wildly different endings, freeform nonlinear plot development, characters that moved in real time around the mansion… It’s like in terms of everything but presentation, MM is a modern sequel to DoTT.

    I still hold that if developers had followed the lead of Maniac Mansion and not Day of the Tentacle – or perhaps more fairly, had acknowledged what DoTT did so very right without letting its brilliance blind people to the step backwards in gameplay it represented – adventure gaming would still be alive and well today.

  22. Vinraith says:

    Ah DoTT, the only Lucasarts adventure game I played to completion in its own era (I dabbled with Full Throttle and Fate of Atlantis but never got through them at the time). I really must try and get Scumm VM DS running so I can take another swing at these.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Full Throttle is absolutely brilliant and you are a poorer person for not having played it through.

      (I suspect that people would probably say the same of me for slacking on the Indiana titles…lack of voice-acting is a real barrier, though, and was even fifteen-odd years ago. Good VO does so much for engaging atmosphere. :/ )

    • Vinraith says:

      @LionsPhil

      No doubt, although it was so long ago I doubt I’d remember the game very well even if I HAD played it through at the time. It’s one more reason to get Scumm VM DS going, though I fear my present impatience with adventure games might sabotage attempts to go back to the classics.

      Oh, and VO is never an issue for me, I tend to view it as a waste of resources in most cases. Generally I turn on subtitles and skip forward as I read, rather than waiting around for an actor to read the dialogue aloud for me. Obviously it’s a matter of personal taste, I’m sure for some folks it’s a key feature.

  23. Helm says:

    ” Day of the Tentacle is so refreshing, at no point attempting anything bordering on pathos, never reaching to make a serious point, only ever wanting to be funny and silly. It seems this takes far more bravery from a writing team than any amount of allegory on any topic. […] But to be pure comedy, to be a cartoon for the sake of being a cartoon, funny because you want to make people laugh – it’s as if there’s something wrong with that. Something unacceptable. “Yes, sure, it’s funny, but what’s its deeper purpose?” ”

    Yes this happens, but to go against that grain takes more bravery than to actually make a point about the human condition? Are you sure you’re not taking your apologia of DOTT too far?

    ” What’s most splendid about this is just how intuitive it is in its absence of logic. ”

    What? W..what.

    Well besides the usual John Walker complaints, I do agree that the temporal puzzles were cool and the art’s tremendous, still. I find these games are best played with friends together so the getting stuck is minimal and people can give you positive feedback you for solving something ’cause the games sure never did besides ‘here’s the next puzzle’.

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