Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Day of the Tentacle is one of my favourite games


Hey hey folks, and welcome to another installment of Dave’s Favourite Games. This time around, Day of the Tentacle. This video will be an exploration of my history with the game, and the reasons I love it to this day. Hopefully it will inspire those who have not played the game to try it, and for those who have to find new appreciation of it. Let’s continue.

One thing that I am appreciative of when it comes to nostalgia is that a lot of my favourite games are adventure games. The reason is that adventure games are primarily narrative focused, and that means dialogue. What ends up happening is that the lines from games such as Day of the Tentacle are planted in my brain right next to all those movie and cartoon quotes. I often say “Mmm, I’m thirsty” when I’m thisty, sometimes out loud, and sometimes in my head. I then follow it up with a “I don’t think you should drink that. It looks bad for you.” For a lot of this playthrough of Day of the Tentacle, I was quoting the lines along with the characters on screen, and yes, I was doing the voices.

Unlike the trouble I went through to play what’s considered to be the best version of Loom, all I had to do with Day of the Tentacle is to buy the remastered version by Double Fine. I’m able to have my cake and eat it too when it comes to the game’s options. The voice files are finally in an uncompressed format, there’s remastered music and sound effects, and yet I can choose for the visuals to use the original pixel art. It’s entirely subjective, but I feel the pixel art holds a lot more charm than the new smooth line art. It’s funny because I think the old sound effects have a certain charm to them as well, but after some deliberating, the choice I ended up going with was new sound, old art. I had a wonderful time playing through the game this way.

One reason I love Day of the Tentacle is how the developers managed to make such a complex and silly premise work. You control three characters over a 400 year time span, and yet with that mammoth scope, everything seems managable and self contained. And this is a story about a crazed purple tentacle trying to take over the world. I think it’s the sheer courage of the premise, the surity of its narrative that helps it along. Oh, the tentacle drank polluted water, that means I have to turn off the pipes yesterday. That means we have to use the time machine. Oh, the time machine broke and one character is 200 years in the past and the other is 200 years in the future. They have to get back, and we have to get a new diamond to make that happen.

Meanwhile Hoagie in the past and Laverne in the future have clearly defined goals in order to facilitate their return to the present. Hoagie has to build a super battery. Laverne’s goals are a little more complicated. She has to first escape from the tree she’s stuck in. Then she has to find a disguise. Then she has to win a human competition in order to take a guard out on a date, so she can free human prisoners, allowing her to access the basement. Bernard doesn’t have an easy time either as he has to trick Dr. Fred into falling asleep so he can record him opening his safe, so he can have a contract filled out, that can be sent back in time so the Edisons have enough money to buy a diamond to power the time machine. You also need to rescue Dr. Fred from the IRS.

The steps needed to complete these goals are not really puzzles, but short snippets of situational comedy. But like most adventure game puzzle solutions, it involves being a bit of a dick. Oh, this artist is sculpting his brother? What if I were to switch mallets on him. Ed really likes his stamp collection? What if I were to spill ink on it? Oh, an exploding cigar? Why don’t I give one to George Washington? While the goals are clearly defined, the steps required to complete them are wrapped up in these little moments of gleeful chaos. It means that often you’re approaching the game not as a series of puzzles to solve but a series of “I wonder what would happen if I did this?” questions to answer.

And while so many of the game’s funny lines were in my head after all these years, the same could not be said for all the puzzle solutions. Due to the nature of trying out funny things, and fragments of ideas lodged in my memory, I was making consistent progress right up until the end of the game. Then I got stuck. I had forgotten where I could get quarters for the dryer. I had forgotten how to get the chew toy away from the cat, and I had forgotten how to swap Dr. Fred with his replacement. To the game’s credit, at this point I knew why I wanted to do these things, I had just forgotten how. Although the Dr. Fred problem was caused by forgetting the utility of the ‘use’ verb.

All up, replaying Day of the Tentacle was an absolute delight. The game is as charming and funny as its always been, and the remastered version allows for  different ways to experience it. Even though I love the original pixel art, I’m also curious to play through it with the new art style. Perhaps next time. If you like adventure games, comedy, or stylised cartoon visuals and you haven’t played Day of the Tentacle yet, you owe it yourself to give it a shot. For those of you who love Day of the Tentacle, tell me some of your favourite lines or moments from the game in the comments.

Thanks for watching.

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