Day of the Tentacle is a 1993 graphic adventure game developed and published by LucasArts and is the sequel to the 1987 game Maniac Mansion. The plot follows Bernard Bernoulli and his friends Hoagie and Laverne as they attempt to stop the evil Purple Tentacle - a sentient, disembodied tentacle - from taking over the world.
Day of the Tentacle is a point-and-click adventure game and a sequel to Maniac Mansion. The player controls Bernard, and later also Hoagie and Laverne, being able to switch between them at any time. By using the commands at the bottom of the screen, the character can pick up items, use them on other things, talk to people, and more. Any of the three friends can also send his items across time to another friend.
The game takes place in the same area, but in three different eras, and thus affecting history takes a vital part in some puzzles. For instance, Hoagie can hide an item in the 18th century, and Laverne discovers it in the 23rd century - but by then, the item may have been affected by time and changed its properties.1
I’m not going to try to hide it - Day of the Tentacle is probably one of my favourite adventure games of all time. Though it can take 6-8 hours to finish without a walkthrough, I’ve played through it enough times that I was able to burn through it in about 45-50 minutes for this article.
Though I’ve played it countless times, from the moment you boot it up and the title sequence starts your attention is immediately grabbed and you are sucked into this weird world where tentacles can move around and talk. If you haven’t played Maniac Mansion the existence of the tentacles won’t really make any sense (I think it’s elaborated on there), but it’s not really all that important to the advancement of the plot.
Once you gain control of Bernard you’ll have a short sequence that encourages you to explore a single room until you realize you can open the clock to find Dr. Fred’s secret lab in the basement. I think this is meant to be a sort of tutorial sequence to get players used to the verbs available (bottom left) and the inventory system (bottom right).
Since this is a game from 1993 the interface and layout was pretty intuitive, so I appreciate that you could quickly progress beyond the scripted sequence, meet the other two characters you’d eventually be able to control and advance the plot to the time travel subplot.
The two characters that accompany Bernard on this adventure weren’t present in Maniac Mansion - though Hoagie seems to be a cross between Jeff and Razor. Hoagie finds himself sent back in time where he gets to meet the founding fathers, and Laverne is shot into the future.
A large part of the games mechanics is to make changes in the past to create changes in the future. For example, as soon as the Cron-O-John sends everyone their separate ways Laverne lands in a tree and gets stuck. You only get access to Hoagie and Bernard as a result as you can’t actually use Laverne until she’s free.
To solve this puzzle you need to get rid of that tree - but this needs to be done in the past.
Hoagie strikes up a conversation with George Washington and challenges him to see if he’s “still got it” when it comes to chopping down cherry trees. If you’re not an American (I’m not) knowing this is the solution to a puzzle might be a bit confusing, but the game only gives you so many dialogue options so it’s not that hard to figure out (also, apparently this was a myth).
You paint the fruit on the tree red, talk to Washington, he chops the tree down and Laverne is free!
Dr. Fred’s relatives can be found throughout the time periods and they’ll help advance the story. Your goal is to recharge the Cron-O-John in each time period and get back to the present to stop the Purple Tentacle. You’ll do this though myriad fetch quests and item puzzles.
Need a vacuum in the future - put a flyer in the suggestion box in the past that says all basements must have vacuums. Need a hamster in the future - put one in the ice box in the present and then thaw him out in the future and give him a sweater to warm him up.
Though a little contrived, these puzzles are typically pretty straightforward and the game gives you plenty of clues as to how they need to be solved.
Though I love this game it’s important to note it’s not perfect. The voice acting can be rough to listen to at times, but the writing is so good you’ll likely let this one slide. There are a handful of characters you can interact with, but most of them offer extremely limited conversation trees and typically exist as a barrier between you and some item you need for some puzzle.
The solution to certain puzzles requires you to be aware of certain concepts that a child likely wouldn’t understand. The notion that “it always rains right after I was my car” is needed to solve a puzzle in the past, but this is not something a child would be aware of and would result in the puzzle being unnecessarily complex. I played this game for the first time when I was 14 and I seem to remember getting past this just based on in-game clues, but the cause and effect of washing the carriage resulting in rain made zero sense to me then.
Day of the Tentacle is an extremely approachable adventure game for new players to the genre. It has the right mix of humor to keep the plot progression enjoyable, is well structured and balanced and doesn’t contain dead ends or unwinnable scenarios.
A really cool easter egg you can find is that the original Maniac Mansion game is hidden on the computer in Ed’s room. Just clicking
LOOK on the computer will allow you to play though the entire game if you want - though this didn’t work for me during this playthough. When I tried to play the embedded Maniac Mansion my instance of ScummVM crashed:
Assertion failed: (endP >= beginP), function BaseString, file str-base.cpp, line 118.
 22698 abort scummvm
I ended up have to restart from the beginning because I didn’t save my game once … oops. I also filed this with the ScummVM team as #14892 - DOTT: Crash when trying to play MM on Ed’s computer.
If it were possible to play more games in this series or in this universe I’d be all in, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like this will be the case anytime soon. As a result, if you haven’t played Day of the Tentacle I’d highly recommend either the original version or picking up the remastered version on GOG
|Day of the Tentacle
|June 25, 1993
|DOS, Mac OS
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