Year of Release: 1992
Original Platform(s) of Release: PC (DOS)
Due to the Easter bank holiday – and me contracting this national lurgy that’s going round – you may have noticed last week I was usurped from regular BFTP article by the loveable trio of Matt, Jon and Carl. Given Disney’s decision to close LucasArts, they mused on their favourite LucasArts games of years gone by. Luckily I’m here this week to show them all how wrong they were. In fairness to Jon, he gave this game an honourable mention, but I’m here to give it its very own BFTP, and that game is the hilarious Day of the Tentacle.
DOTT was released in 1993 as a sequel to the 1987 Commodore 64 game Maniac Mansion – which saw you play as Dave Miller in an attempt to rescue your girlfriend from the clutches of an evil scientist with the help of your friends. In that game you could select 2 friends to join you from a group of 6 – Scooby Doo style. In DOTT, you play as one of those friends – Bernard Bernouilli – but this time your 2 companions are fixed for the entire adventure, and comprise of a slightly disturbed medical student called Laverne and wannabe rocker Hoagie.
The game starts with us discovering that chemical waste is spewing from Dr Ed’s laboratory. This waste cause Purple Tentacle (One of the two tentacles created as experiments in the original game) to grow a pair of arms, and have a heightened intelligence. So naturally he now has dreams of world domination – we’ve all been there. His kinder-natured counterpart – Green Tentacle – fears what Purple might do, so enlists the help of Bernard and his friends to stop him. When they arrive, the plan of action is to time travel to the previous day (using Dr Ed’s latest time travelling machine that uses a crystal and three suspect looking porta-loos) and turn off the chemical waste before Purple got infected – hence preventing any possible world domination.
But if all goes to plan this would be a pretty short game, and a pretty naff BFTP, so luckily for us, the crystal shatters during the time travelling process which sends Hoagie 200 years into the past, and Laverne 200 years into the future, with Bernard sent back to the present day. To reunite the friends – and then ultimately save the day, Bernard must now source a replacement crystal in the present. The others must find power sources for the time machines to bring them back to the present – a particular challenge for Hoagie, given the lack of electricity 200 years in the past!
Like other point and click adventures, you’re given a set of standard commands to select from that form your interactions list. Commands such as ‘open’, ‘close’, ‘push’ and ‘pull’ let your character know how you want to interact with the environment. Using the correct combination of command and items and people will allow you to progress through the story. The items themselves are plentiful, but what adds to this adventure is that they are not always used by the character that finds them. Each character can “flush” items to the other characters loos for them to pick up, so part of the puzzle is understanding which items are for which characters.
Another dynamic which is played on heavily – and works really well – is that of cause and effect as a result of the different timelines. Things that you do in the past or present day can affect the future, and in most cases certain things have to happen in the previous timelines for the future timeline to progress. It’s a nice twist to the standard point and click adventuring, and will see you brewing your own vinegar and even redesigning the American flag to support your buddies in a future timeline.
As you may have guessed from previous BFTPs, I’m a big fan of humour in my point and click games, and this is another area where DOTT shines. Not only are there a lot of laughs to be had from the dialogue coming from the diverse main protagonists – the geeky Bernard, the unhinged Laverne, and the laid-back Hoagie – but supporting cast members also provide much humour. Particular highlights include a human beauty contest in the future, and the bizarre discussions on the future of America by the Founding Fathers.
As an added bonus, this game was the first of its kind to include a bonus game within it. What seems like a commonplace practice for certain games now, started with LucasArts and DOTT. It was fitting that the game that was included was the original Maniac Mansion that I mentioned previously. Now that’s a great bonus, especially for people like me who had initially missed the original release in 1987.
So all in all, DOTT was an excellent little title and for me was one of LucasArts greatest games. It combined the best bits from point and click adventure games gone by and added enough of its own twists through the separate characters and locations, as well as the well-executed time-travel dynamic. And overarching all this is a humour and charm that still endears itself to me 20 years later. So next time you’re on the toilet, spare a thought. Things could be worse, someone could have flushed you a scalpel from 200 years in the future, and you have to fish it out for the good of humanity. Things don’t seem quite so bad now right?