I Feel Like I Could….Like I Could…
In the first article in this series, I gave you background on what LucasArts was (before they joined the dark side and started exclusively popping out Star Wars games) as well as how the landscape of adventure games has been shifting in the past few years. Today we’ll be discussing the SCUMM-powered sequel to Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle.
As I wrote in the previous article, SCUMM had been developed exclusively for use in Maniac Mansion. However, with the huge success that the game had, the company decided to continue using different iterations of the script-creation utility for other games as well.
Six years after the release of Maniac Mansion in 1987, LucasArts returned to the mansion to create a brilliant sequel to the first game. Day of the Tentacle focuses exclusively on Bernard – the only character that you could play as in the first game. Along with his two friends, Hoagie and Laverne, the game involved a time-traveling plot to stop the purple tentacle from taking over the world.
Now, you may be reading this and wondering if perhaps playing through Maniac Mansion first would be best. The simple answer is that Maniac Mansion is still an amazing adventure game, but it has not aged as gracefully as DoTT (abbreviation for Day of the Tentacle). Not to mention that in 1993 when the game was released, the technology had increased to such a degree that the original Maniac Mansion is playable INSIDE DoTT (in the computer inside the stamp collector’s room).
The game opens up with the green and purple tentacles talking next to a river. When purple tentacle drinks from the river, he suddenly gains two hand-like appendages and then claims that he will take over the world. It is at this point that Fred Edison, owner of the mansion, calls over Bernard and his friends to solve the problem. He has devised a clever plan to stop the purple tentacle. Edison has created what he calls the Chron-o-Johns, or three time-traveling port-o-potties. Using a huge diamond inside his machine, he is able to send Laverne, Hoagie and Bernard back in time.
However, because Edison is not the greatest of scientists, his plan backfires, leaving Hoagie stranded in 200 years in the past and Laverne stranded 200 years in the future. Bernard returns back to the present, where Edison explains that he didn’t use a diamond of the highest quality to complete the experiment. All three characters only moved in time, and are therefore still at the same mansion they were before, just at different points in time. In Hoagie’s time, the mansion is playing host to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In Laverne’s time, tentacles have taken over the world and treat humans as pets to parade around.
I would continue, but the story itself is the real treat of this game. The most interesting new gameplay feature that LucasArts included in DoTT was the ability to send items through the Chron-o-John backwards and forwards in time. For example, at one point in the game, you realize that Laverne will need a tentacle-costume to move around in the future. To this end, you send Hoagie in the past to talk to Betty Ross in the mansion, giving her a design for a tentacle-shaped flag (actually a diagram of the anatomy of a tentacle from the future). She then proceeds to make the tentacle flag – which Laverne finds in the future hanging from the flagpost at the top of the mansion.
This time-mechanic is by and large the reason the game works so well. The developers took special care to make sure that every action taken in the past is represented perfectly in the future. Occasionally, the game requires some jumps in logic, but nevertheless, if you’re one for challenging puzzles, then this game will suit you perfectly.
Ultimately, the testament to LucasArts is DoTT’s relevance even in today’s gaming world. The game netted the #1 spot in a top adventure games count-down, as well as a spot in the "Top 200 games of all time" feature. Most importantly, unlike other games prior to it, it still retains that nostalgic feeling that you had when you first played it. If you haven’t played it yet – what are you waiting for? DoTT has officially been downgraded to Abandonware (a term for software no longer supported by the parent company) and is therefore available for FREE:
This post is part of the series: Commentary on LucasArts
- LucasArts Retro Part 1 – A Primer
- LucasArts Retro Part 5: Outlaws
- LucasArts Retro Part 4: Full Throttle
- LucasArts Retro Part 3: The Curse of Monkey Island
- LucasArts Retro Part 2: Day of the Tentacle