Day of the Tentacle
|Day of the Tentacle|
The cover artwork by Peter Chan depicts the three playable characters (Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne) running from the titular antagonist.
|Release date(s)||June 25, 1993|
|Distribution||Floppy disk, optical disc|
Day of the Tentacle, also known as Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle, is a 1993 graphic adventure game developed and published by LucasArts. It is the sequel to the 1987 game Maniac Mansion. The game's 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. The player takes control of the three and solves puzzles while using time travel to explore different periods of history.
Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer co-led the game's development, their first time in such a role. The pair carried over a limited amount of elements from Maniac Mansion and forwent the character selection aspect to simplify development. Inspirations included Chuck Jones cartoons and the history of the United States. Day of the Tentacle is the eighth LucasArts title to use the SCUMM engine, and the company's first title to feature voice acting.
The game was released simultaneously on floppy disk and CD-ROM to critical acclaim and commercial success. Critics focused on its cartoon-style visuals and comedic elements. Day of the Tentacle has featured regularly in lists of "top" games published more than a decade after its release, and aspects have been referenced in popular culture.
Day of the Tentacle follows the point-and-click two-dimensional adventure game formula, first established by the original Maniac Mansion. Players direct the controllable characters around the game world by clicking with the computer mouse. To interact with the game world, players choose from a set of nine commands arrayed on the screen (such as "pick up", "use", or "talk to") and then on an object in the world. This was the last SCUMM game to use the original interface of having the bottom of the screen being taken up by a verb selection and inventory; starting with the next game to use the SCUMM engine, Sam & Max Hit the Road, the engine was modified to scroll through a more concise list of verbs with the right mouse button and having the inventory on a separate screen.
Day of the Tentacle uses time travel extensively; early in the game, the three main protagonists are separated across time by the effects of a faulty time machine. The player, after completing certain puzzles, can then freely switch between these characters, interacting with the game's world in the separate time periods. Certain small inventory items can be shared by placing the item into the "Chron-o-Johns", modified portable toilets that instantly transport objects to the other time period, while other items are shared by simply leaving the item in a past time period to be picked up by a character in a future period. Changes made to a past time period will affect a future one, and many of the game's puzzles are based on the effect of time travel, aging of certain items, and alterations of the time stream. For example, one puzzle requires the player, while in the future era where Purple Tentacle has succeeded, to send a medical chart of a Tentacle back to the past, having it used as the design of the American flag, then collecting one such flag in the future to be used as a Tentacle disguise to allow that character to roam freely.
In Maniac Mansion, the playable characters can be killed by various sequences of events. LucasArts adopted a different philosophy towards its adventure games in 1990, beginning with Loom. Their philosophy was that the game should not punish the player for exploring the game world. Accordingly, in most LucasArts adventure games released after Loom, including Day of the Tentacle, the player character cannot die.
The whole original Maniac Mansion game can be played on a computer resembling a Commodore 64 inside the Day of the Tentacle game; this practice has since been repeated by other game developers, but at the time of Day of the Tentacle's release, it was unprecedented.
Five years after the events of Maniac Mansion, Purple Tentacle—a mutant monster and lab assistant created by mad scientist Dr. Fred Edison—drinks toxic sludge from a river behind Dr. Fred's laboratory. The sludge causes him to grow a pair of flipper-like arms, develop vastly increased intelligence and a thirst for global domination. Dr. Fred plans to resolve the issue by killing Purple Tentacle and his harmless, friendly brother Green Tentacle, but Green Tentacle sends a plea of help to his old friend, the nerd Bernard Bernoulli. Bernard travels to the Edison family motel with his two housemates, deranged medical student Laverne and roadie Hoagie, and frees the tentacles. Purple Tentacle escapes to resume his quest to take over the world.
Since Purple Tentacle's plans are flawless and unstoppable, Dr. Fred decides to use his Chron-o-John time machines to send Bernard, Laverne and Hoagie to the day before to turn off his Sludge-o-Matic machine, thereby preventing Purple Tentacle's exposure to the sludge. However, because Dr. Fred used an imitation diamond rather than a real diamond as a power source for the time machine, the Chron-o-Johns breaks down in operation. Laverne is sent 200 years in the future, where humanity has been enslaved and Purple Tentacle rules the world from the Edison mansion, while Hoagie is dropped 200 years in the past, where the motel is being used by the Founding Fathers as a retreat to write the United States Constitution. Bernard is returned to the present. To salvage Dr. Fred's plan, Bernard must acquire a replacement diamond for the time machine, while Hoagie and Laverne must restore power to their respective Chron-o-John pods by plugging them in. To overcome the lack of electricity in the past, Hoagie recruits the help of Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Fred's ancestor, Red Edison, to build a superbattery to power his pod, while Laverne evades capture by the tentacles long enough to run an extension cord to her unit. The three send small objects back and forth in time through the Chron-o-Johns and make changes to history to help the others complete their tasks.
Eventually, Bernard uses Dr. Fred's family fortune of royalties from Maniac Mansion to purchase a real diamond, both Laverne and Hoagie manage to power their Chron-o-Johns, and the three are reunited in the present. Purple Tentacle arrives, hijacks a Chron-o-John and takes it to the previous day to prevent them from turning off the sludge machine; he is pursued by Green Tentacle in another pod. With only one Chron-o-John pod left, Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne use it to pursue the tentacles to the previous day, while Dr. Fred uselessly tries to warn them of using the pod together, referencing the film The Fly. Upon arriving, the trio exit the pod only to discover that they have been turned into a three-headed monster, their bodies merging into one during the transfer. Meanwhile, Purple Tentacle has used the time machine to bring countless of versions of himself from different moments in time to the same day to prevent the Sludge-o-Matic from being deactivated. Bernard and his friends defeat the Purple Tentacles guarding the Sludge-o-Matic, turn off the machine and prevent the whole series of events from ever happening. Returning to the present, Dr. Fred discovers that the three have not been turned into a monster at all but have just gotten stuck in the same set of clothes; they are then ordered by Dr. Fred to get out of his house. The game ends with the credits rolling over a tentacle-shaped American flag, one of the more significant results of their tampering in history.
Following a string of successful adventure games, LucasArts assigned Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer to lead development of a new game. The two had previously assisted Ron Gilbert with the creation of The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, and the studio felt that Grossman and Schafer were ready to manage a project. The company believed that the pair's humor matched well with that of Maniac Mansion and suggested working on a sequel. The two developers agreed and commenced production. Gilbert and Gary Winnick, the creators of Maniac Mansion, collaborated with Grossman and Schafer on the initial planning and writing. The total budget for the game was about $600,000, according to Schafer.
In planning the plot, the four designers considered a number of concepts, eventually choosing an idea of Gilbert's about time travel that they believed was the most interesting. Grossman and Schafer decided to carry over previous characters that they felt were the most entertaining. The two considered the Edison family "essential" and chose Bernard because of his "unqualified nerdiness". The game's other protagonists, Laverne and Hoagie, were based on a Mexican ex-girlfriend of Grossman's and a Megadeth roadie named Tony that Schafer had met, respectively. Schafer and Grossman planned to use a character selection system similar to the first game, but felt that it would have complicated the design process and increased production costs. Believing that it added little to the gameplay, they removed it early in the process and reduced the number of player characters from six to three. The dropped characters included Razor, a female musician from the previous game; Moonglow, a short character in baggy clothes; and Chester, a black beat poet. Ideas for Chester, however, morphed into new twin characters in the Edison family. The smaller number of characters reduced the strain on the game's engine in terms of scripting and animation.
The staff collaboratively designed the characters. They first discussed the character personalities, which Larry Ahern used to create concept art. The drawings inspired further ideas from the designers. Chuck Jones cartoons like Rabbit of Seville, What's Opera, Doc? and Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century inspired the artistic design. Grossman also cited cartoons featuring Pepé Le Pew, and commented that the gag involving a painted white stripe on Penelope Pussycat inspired a puzzle in the game. The artists spent a year creating the in-game animations. Peter Chan designed backgrounds, spending around two days to progress from concept sketch to final art for each background. The script was written in the evening, when fewer people were in the office. Grossman considered it the easiest aspect of production, but encountered difficulties when writing with others around.
Grossman and Schafer brainstormed regularly to devise the time travel puzzles, and collaborated with members of the development team as well as other LucasArts employees. They would identify puzzle problems and work towards a solution similar to how the game plays. Most issues were addressed prior to programming, but some details were left unfinished to work on later. The staff conceived puzzles involving the U.S.'s early history based on their memory of their compulsory education. To complete the elements, Grossman researched the period to maintain historical accuracy, visiting libraries and contacting reference librarians. The studio, however, took creative license towards facts to fit them into the game's design.
Technology and audio
Day of the Tentacle uses the SCUMM engine developed for Maniac Mansion. LucasArts had gradually modified the engine since its creation. For example, the number of input verbs was reduced and items in the character's inventory are represented by icons rather than text. While implementing an animation, the designers encountered a problem later discovered to be limitation of the engine. Upon learning of the limitation, Gilbert reminisced about the file size of the first game. The staff then resolved to include it in the sequel.
The title was the first LucasArts adventure game to incorporate voice work.[Note 1] Voice director Tamlynn Barra managed that aspect of the game. Schafer and Grossman described how they imagined the characters' voices and Barra sought audition tapes of voice actors to meet the criteria. She presented the best auditions to the pair. Schafer's sister Ginny was among the auditions, and she was chosen for Nurse Edna. Schafer opted out of the decision for her selection to avoid nepotism. Grossman and Schafer encountered difficulty selecting a voice for Bernard. To aid the process, Grossman commented that the character should sound like Les Nessman from the television show WKRP in Cincinnati. Barra responded that she knew the agent of the character's actor, Richard Sanders, and brought Sanders on the project. Denny Delk and Nick Jameson were among those hired, and provided voice work for around five characters each. Recording for the 4,500 lines of dialog occurred at Studio 222 in Hollywood. Barra directed the voice actors separately from a sound production booth. She provided context for each line and described aspects of the game to aid the actors.
Day of the Tentacle was one of the first games concurrently released on CD-ROM and floppy disk. A floppy disk version was created to accommodate consumers that had yet to purchase CD-ROM drives. The CD-ROM format afforded the addition of audible dialog. The capacity difference between the two formats necessitated alterations to the floppy disk version. Grossman spent several weeks reducing files sizes and removing files such as the audio dialog to fit the game onto six diskettes.
Day of the Tentacle was a moderate commercial success; according to Schafer, it sold around 80,000 copies upon release. The game was critically acclaimed. Charles Ardai of Computer Gaming World wrote, "Calling Day of the Tentacle a sequel to Maniac Mansion [...] is a little like calling the space shuttle a sequel to the slingshot". The reviewer enjoyed the game's humor and interface, and praised the designers for removing "dead end" scenarios and player character death. He lauded its voice acting with the statement that it "would have done the late Mel Blanc proud", and compared the game extensively to "Looney Toons gems from the 40's and 50's"—particularly with regard to its humor, animation and camera angles. The review ended with the statement that "I expect that this game will keep entertaining people for quite some time to come". Sandy Petersen of Dragon stated that its graphics "are in a stupendous cartoony style", while praising its humor and describing its sound and music as "excellent". Although the reviewer considered it "one of the best" graphic adventure games, he noted that, like LucasArts' earlier Loom, it was extremely short; he wrote that he "felt cheated somehow when I finished the game". He ended the review, "Go, Lucasfilm! Do this again, but do make the next game longer!".
Phil LaRose of The Advocate called it "light-years ahead of the original", and believed that its "improved controls, sound and graphics are an evolutionary leap to a more enjoyable gaming experience". He praised the interface, and summarized the game as "another of the excellent LucasArts programs that place a higher premium on the quality of entertainment and less on the technical knowledge needed to make it run". The Boston Herald's Geoff Smith noted that "the animation of the cartoonlike characters is of TV quality", and praised the removal of dead ends and character death. He ended, "It's full of lunacy, but for anyone who likes light-hearted adventure games, it's well worth trying". Vox Day of The Blade called its visuals "well done" and compared them to those of The Ren & Stimpy Show. The writer praised the game's humor, and stated that "both the music and sound effects are hilarious"; he cited the voice performance of Richard Sanders as a high point. He summarized the game as "both a good adventure and a funny cartoon".
Lim Choon Wee of the New Straits Times highly praised the game's humor, which he called "brilliantly funny". However, the writer commented that the game's puzzles relied on "trial and error" with "no underlying logic". He stated that the game "remains fun" despite this issue, and finished by describing Day of the Tentacle as "definitely the comedy game of the year". Daniel Baum of The Jerusalem Post called it "one of the funniest, most entertaining and best-programmed computer games I have ever seen", and lauded its animation. He wrote that the game provided "a more polished impression" than either The Secret of Monkey Island or Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. The writer stated that its high system requirements were its only drawback, and believed that a Sound Blaster card was required to fully appreciate the game. In a retrospective review, Adventure Gamers' Chris Remo wrote, "If someone were to ask for a few examples of games that exemplify the best of the graphic adventure genre, Day of the Tentacle would certainly be near the top".
Day of the Tentacle has been featured regularly in lists of "top" games. In 1996, Computer Gaming World ranked it as the 34th best game of all time, writing: "DOTT completely blew away its ancestor, Maniac Mansion, with its smooth animated sequences, nifty plot and great voiceovers." Adventure Gamers included the game as the top entry on its 20 Greatest Adventure Games of All Time List in 2004. The game has appeared on several IGN lists. The website rated it number 60 and 84 on its top 100 games list in 2005 and 2007, respectively. IGN named Day of the Tentacle as part of their top 10 LucasArts adventure games in 2009, and ranked the Purple Tentacle 82nd in a list of top 100 videogame villains in 2010. ComputerAndVideoGames.com ranked it at number 30 in 2008, and GameSpot also listed Day of the Tentacle as one of the greatest games of all time.
Elements of Day of the Tentacle have appeared in facets of popular culture. Enthusiasts have created fan art depicting the tentacle characters, as well as participated in cosplay based on them. Fans also created a webcomic, The Day After the Day of the Tentacle, using the game's graphics. The 1993 LucasArts title Zombies Ate My Neighbors features a stage dedicated to Day of the Tentacle. The artists for Day of the Tentacle shared office space with the Zombies Ate My Neighbors development team. The team included the homage after frequently seeing artwork for Day of the Tentacle during the two games' productions. In describing what he considered "the most rewarding moment" of his career, Grossman stated that the game's writing and use of spoken and subtitled dialog assisted a learning-disabled child in learning how to read. Telltale Games CEO Dan Connors commented in 2009 that an episodic game based on Day of the Tentacle would be "feasible". However, he cautioned that such an endeavor would hinge on the sales of the Monkey Island titles released that year.[Note 2]
According to Kotaku, a remastered version of Day of the Tentacle was in the works at LucasArts Singapore before the sale of LucasArts to Disney. The game was reportedly greenlit and was nearly 80% complete, according to one person close to the project, but was later shelved in the days before the closure of LucasArts.
- Another LucasArts adventure game, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, predates Day of the Tentacle by a month. However, the Indiana Jones game was originally released without voice work in 1992. An enhanced version with voice acting was released in 1993.
- Telltale Games co-developed the 2009 game Tales of Monkey Island with LucasArts
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- LucasArts (June 1993). Day of the Tentacle DOS. "Bernard: Ok, you're free to go.
Green Tentacle: Thanks Bernard!
Purple Tentacle: Yes, thank you, naive human! Now I can finish taking over the world! Ha ha ha!
Green Tentacle: Wait!
Bernard: Oh, yeah. Now I remember. He's incredibly evil, isn't he?
Green Tentacle: Uh... I'll try to talk him out of it."
- LucasArts (June 1993). Day of the Tentacle DOS. "Dr. Fred: Our only hope now is to turn off my Sludge-O-Matic machine and prevent the toxic mutagen from entering the river!
Bernard: Isn't it a little late for that, Doctor?
Dr. Fred: Of course! That's why I'll have to it... YESTERDAY! To the time machine!"
- LucasArts (June 1993). Day of the Tentacle DOS. "Dr. Fred: My dials say that the larger specimen landed two hundred years in the past and the other is stuck two hundred years in the future!
Bernard: Well, hurry up and bring them back!
Dr. Fred: I will, as soon as I get a new diamond! Then all your buddies have to do is plug in their respective Chron-o-Johns and—
Bernard: Plug them in?!? Where is Hoagie going to find an electrical outlet two hundred years in the past!?!
Dr. Fred: Yes... well... He'll be needing my patented superbattery then, won't he?"
- LucasArts (June 1993). Day of the Tentacle DOS. "Purple Tentacle: You can't turn off the machine if I get there first!
Green Tentacle: Don't worry guys! This time I know I can stop him!"
- LucasArts (June 1993). Day of the Tentacle DOS. "Purple Tentacle: You see, I've been busy. These are all versions of myself from the future. I've been bringing them back here using the Chron-o-John. Together we will conquer the world!!"
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