Day of the Tentacle

Day of the Tentacle is a mega classic game that was ranked the best adventure game of all time by Adventure Gamers in 2001 and took a honorable 6th place in more recent top-100 adventure games of all times. Both, the original and the remaster got 5 star rating on their reviews and seems to be loved by adventure game fans worldwide and is included in most my-favorite-adventure-games lists.

Is the game really that good, or is it nostalgia kicking in? The only one way to find out is play it yourself. I did, and enjoyed the game a lot, but it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be.

The story is completely crazy, but at the same time rather simple: mad scientists named Fred Edison created two sentient tentacles (named Green and Purple) and keeps them as pets. They wonder outside the lab, where Fred pours toxic waste into the river. Purple drinks some, grows arms and sets to conquer the world and eventually kill all humans. Fred captures them and plans to kill them both.

Desperate for his life Green writes his friend Bernard who sets to rescue Green together with his best friends: a metalhead named Hoagie and a crazy chick named Laverne. Bernard finds the tentacles, rescues them both and Purple escapes. The only way to stop them now is to travel back in time before all this mess happened. Unfortunately some stuff go wrong and Hoagie ends up being 200 years in the past, Bernard stays where he is, and Laverne is sent 200 years into the future.

This is where the actual game begins. The goal is to get Hoagie and Laverne back to the present, fix time machine and eventually stop Purple. Unfortunately, this is also where the story ends. During the actual game no further development is made, it’s all puzzles from now on.

There is no reward for cracking puzzles. You run around being stuck for an hour, take your dog out, suddenly realize what you’ve got to do, bingo! it works! Aaaand… nothing! Perhaps you can now reach another item, or go somewhere you couldn’t go before, but basically it is just more puzzles to solve. Or if you solved something ahead of time, nothing happens at all. Being used to newer games, I found this a bit lacking. I want the story to move forward during the game, as it literally felt like crawling through endless puzzles.

On the other hand, the puzzles are as great as they are difficult. First of all (and what is really brilliant about them), in order to solve the puzzles you need to think like a cartoon character. Nothing in this world makes sense, so why should puzzles? If you’re stuck, just ask yourself what would Looney Tunes do!

Second, the characters seem to be able to read each others mind and know exactly what others need and pick up most bizarre items imaginable to share them among each other over time periods through the time travel-toilets. So you if you pick something in the past, you might need to send it to the future and at some point send it back. And some items have to be shared using other methods! Hide something in the past and someone might discover it in the future. But if they can share tools, why couldn’t Fred just send power source to those stuck in other time periods to get them back?! (The correct answer is that we wouldn’t have a game that way, but still..)

To add to the complexity, the game is extremely unlinear. You can walk around and do almost anything with any character until you get hopelessly stuck and need help from someone in another time period. This is where it gets really tricky: it could be that you’ve missed something in this period, or you’ve missed something in another. Now go figure it out. I’m not a huge fan of unlinear approach: I ended up getting a lot of items that didn’t make much sense when I got them.

With almost any item you can use number of commands: push, pull, open, close, use, give, look at, talk to and pick up. I was stuck 3 times and had to use the walkthrough only to discover that I hadn’t tried the correct command, which is both, frustrating and relieving: I’ve managed to solve the puzzles all by myself, but unfortunately the use of guide is still on my hands.

You’ll meet many different characters in the game: the founding fathers in the past, the crazy Edison family in the present and the tentacles in the future. The tentacles are by far the best. I couldn’t help but laugh every time I had an interaction with them, they are just so likeable, dorky, funny and actually not two dimensional! The other characters are a bit lacking though as they are kind of flat. I didn’t find founding fathers to be that interesting (though they are kind of dorky as well) and Edison family is just crazy and that’s it. The main characters are the most boring and we do not learn much about them other than being some kind of stereotypes.

The visuals are really nice and fit well with the over the top story and situations our characters end up in, but I couldn’t care much for the music. Of course, the type of music I like in my adventure games — ambient — wouldn’t be fitting in this type of game, so I guess it’s alright. It fits the visuals, the story and does a good job in creating the crazy mood.

Overall, even if I was ranting for most of this review, I greatly enjoyed Day of the Tentacle. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s difficult, but the kind of difficult where you can most certainly solve it yourself, and I already miss it, but it’s not the best adventure game I’ve ever played.