The first half of the 1990s was something of a golden age for PC gaming. Driven by advances in technology and incessant consumer demand, game development studios created an abundance of revolutionary games that pushed the boundaries of technology to deliver rich and interactive worlds as well as realistic (for the time) immersive simulations.
This period saw the release of seminal strategy games Dune 2 as well as Warcraft 1 & 2; first-person shooters Wolfenstein 3D and Doom; and various revered role-playing games by Strategic Simulations Inc. and Origin Systems Inc. However, it was also possibly the peak of a genre that has since dwindled and is mostly forgotten nowadays: the point-and-click adventure game.
The most popular games in this genre came mainly from two companies: Sierra and LucasArts. Sierra was a well-established studio known for series such as King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry among others. LucasArts (now Lucasfilm Games), on the other hand, is the game development arm of film studio Lucasfilm, and created the Monkey Island series as well as several properties in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, among others.
Day of the Tentacle, one of LucasArts' classics, came out 30 years ago on June 25, 1993. A sequel to their 1987 hit game Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle is a return to the mansion featuring some familiar characters and jokes, but the setting is somewhat different. The mansion, home to mad scientist Dr. Fred and his family, is in fact now being used as a motel since Fred is not that great at making ends meet.
The game's graphics have aged surprisingly well for a 30-year-old title, although newer generation gamers might prefer the sharper 2016 remaster. Sporting a distinct cartoonish art style - inspired in no small part by Chuck Jones of Looney Tunes fame - and smooth animations, Day of the Tentacle is particular for its crooked architecture and goofy characters.
The story begins as two lab-grown tentacles approach a river of toxic waste being spewed from the mansion. The purple tentacle drinks from the polluted water and becomes a maniacal genius intent on taking over the world. As it is too late to stop the purple tentacle, Dr. Fred sends the three main characters - Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne - back in time to prevent the catastrophe from happening in the first place. However, Dr. Fred's plan goes awry. Bernard lands back in the present, whereas Hoagie is stranded 200 years in the past, and Laverne is captured 200 years in the future when the purple tentacle has succeeded in its plans for world domination.
Due to its setting, Day of the Tentacle supplements the usual verb-based interaction typical of point-and-click adventure games with multiple characters and time travel. In order to solve some of the puzzles, the three characters must in fact pass objects to each other through time, or otherwise change the course of history for the benefit of one of the future characters.
Day of the Tentacle's humour is top-notch. It is packed with physics-defying antics clearly inspired by cartoons, as well as lots of mischief. The game is also filled with references to popular culture, including Lucasfilm movies (such as Star Wars) and other LucasArts games. It is also quite fun to interact with key figures from American history, although the unfamiliar might not initially understand who some of these characters are without additional research.
To celebrate its anniversary, I have just published a detailed walkthrough for the game with almost 500 screenshots. Gamers who want to play the game but might be stuck or prefer more hand-holding might benefit from following the walkthrough as they play. Others who might not have time to play games or want to simply get a taste of what point-and-click adventure games were like in the 90s might also like to give it a read.
To read the Day of the Tentacle walkthrough, please visit https://www.swordsandsoftware.com/dott.php or scan the QR code below.