This week I played Day of the Tentacle legally. Those of you who played it back in 1993 understand why this is such a big deal. And the rest of you? If you’re wondering “Why would he start off a review with such a banal statement?” then blame LucasArts.
See, Day of the Tentacle is the latest Double Fine re-release, following in the wake of last year’s Grim Fandango Remastered. Despite being a classic point-and-click—and many people’s favorite point-and-click of all time—it’s been pretty much impossible to buy Day of the Tentacle for the last fifteen or so years.
And now you can. With spiffy new music and graphics, to boot. It’s enough to make you throw up your tiny purple tentacle arms and cheer.
Every tentacle has its day
The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. And a purple tentacle creature named...Purple Tentacle...is drinking toxic sludge out of a river. The Lorax’s worst nightmare is Purple Tentacle’s coup de grace, a bit of nuclear-bolstered evolution that causes Purple Tentacle to grow arms.
And as is the case for all creatures-with-arms, his next step is to try and take over the world.
Three kids—a nerd named Bernard, a stoner named Hoagie, and a weird hippie named Laverne—are the only ones who can stop Purple Tentacle. Their plan? Travel back in time to yesterday and turn off Dr. Fred Edison’s sludge-making Sludge-O-Matic machine.
Brilliant! If only Dr. Fred hadn’t built a vital part of his time machine out of discount diamonds! And so it happens that the machine breaks, everything goes horribly wrong, and the three kids are stranded in different eras—Laverne in the tentacle-ruled future, Hoagie in the American Revolution, and Bernard in the present.
It’s goofy but clever, and serves as more than just a vehicle for jokes about George Washington’s teeth. Day of the Tentacle’s time travel is central to the game’s best puzzles, with the kids swapping items back and forth across time and occasionally setting up circumstances in the past so something changes in the future.
At the risk of doling out 23-year-old spoilers I’ll abstain from laying out any of the puzzle solutions here, but imagine: You’re tired of the sun shining through your bedroom window every morning so you go back in time 100 years and plant a seed and when you go back to the future there’s a massive oak tree in front of your house.
Take that puzzle and up the zaniness factor by a million—say, instead of you planting the tree you convince Johnny Appleseed to do it—and you’ll have a good idea of the puzzles in Day of the Tentacle.
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