1: Day Of The Tentacle
There isn’t any doubt. It’s nice and easy: if you disagree that Day Of The Tentacle is the best adventure game of all time, you’re wrong.
The sort-of sequel to Maniac Mansion has you play as three characters, rock band roadie Hoagie 200 years in the past, slightly deranged Laverne 200 years in the future, and ultra-nerd Bernard in the present day. Switching between each, you must help to prevent a race of tentacle beings from taking over the world.
DOTT was the winning assault in the war between Sierra and LucasArts/LucasFilm. It confirmed that where Sierra was shackled by its 1980s past, Lucas were ploughing forward into what adventures would become – and indeed still are. Yes, it still had a verb interface, a step behind Sam & Max’s magic cursor, but it now, 22 years later, demonstrates how it could still be a workable system.
It’s not just that DOTT is incredibly funny – it’s also incredibly smart. Accompanying the crazy-gorgeous art, some stellar voice work (woe to those who hadn’t upgraded to a CD-ROM drive at the time of release, and were stuck with the voiceless floppy version), were puzzles that still shame every modern adventure. I can prove that in one example: interfering with the design of the American flag in the past in order to create a tentacle costume in the future. Okay, another one: shrinking a jumper small enough to defrost a frozen hamster by putting it in the tumble dryer for 400 years.
It’s sharp, witty, clever, and enormously satisfying. DOTT remains the textbook which all adventure game designers should study before they even consider conceiving a puzzle. On top of that, the care over the characters from an on-form Tim Schafer gives things an emotional depth that should surely have been impossible in such a silly caper.
That at 22 years old it’s still unbeatable is not a slight on adventure gaming – the last two decades have been packed with so many great point-n-clickers. It’s just that this one is so damned perfect.
Some will decry that this beats Sam & Max. I’ll tell you why. While S&M may have felt more slick, more flowing, it undeniably had weaker puzzles, and relied far more on cutscenes to deliver its humour. DOTT may not have had an excellent song, but its high points measure higher on the graph of goodosity, and that’s why it’s unquestionably no. 1.
Get it and play it again. Or heck, for goodness sake, for the first time. It’s one of the best games ever made.
The game was originally released in a rectangular prism-shaped box, to the horror of all gaming shops. Younger readers: yes, games were released in boxes! And sold in shops!
Double Fine are, of course, working on a remake of DOTT. Hmmmm, I say. Hmmmmmmmmmm.
Where can I buy it:
Astonishingly, nowhere is presently selling it. Good work, not-piracy! If you have a copy, you can get it running via SCUMMVM.
What else should I be playing if I like this:
Definitely check out Sam & Max: Hit The Road, Grim Fandango, and Full Throttle. Also, Time Gentlemen Please by Size Five Games.