Adventure games (Day of the Tentacle)Posted: November 2, 2005
I never really thought it would happen, but I actually play a lot of video games these days. And as far as I know, I am the only person who plays video games for the artistic merit, and not the technological. The video game industry seems to be in this creative rut where people only play the newest prettiest games, and anything that came out more than year ago pretty much doesn’t exist. Honestly, apply this way of thinking to any other art form (movies, books, music). It’s absolutely ludicrous. The video game industry is even more disgusting than Hollywood.
What games do I play? Well, the only stuff that I’ve ever really liked isSpace Quest, stuff by Doug TenNapel (Earthworm Jim, Neverhood), and early LucasArts stuff (mostly by Tim Schafer). What do all of these things have in common? They are all adventure games, a long dead genre of video game. This seemed to be the only place in the industry where anyone was interested in telling a story, or really being artistic in any way.
Halo is not very artistic, it is functional. The level design doesn’t have any theme or idea behind it, as demonstrated by things like doorways that are three stories off the ground that lead to nowhere. And plain boring walls. And nondescript machines in the middle of a hallway that just happen to make excellent cover. These games have no personality or ideas behind them, but can be fun to play. Find one boring, non-beautiful, uncreative inch in the game Psycohnauts. You’ll be there for a while.
I won my first eBay auction the other day and won Day of the Tentacle, an early game by Tim Schafer. Exactly as expected, this was a great game. It was really funny, really well designed (both in that the backgrounds were great, and I enjoyed solving all of the puzzles), and I cared about what was going on. The game is a sequel to ManiacMansion, a pretty good game that pretty much started the adventure game genre. Day of the Tentacle took what little story and characterization was in Maniac Mansion and went wild with it. Basically Dr. Fred’ pet tentacle drinks some toxic waste and grows arms, enabling him to hatch a scheme that will allow him to take over the world. You play as three different characters: Bernard the geek, Hoagie the metal roadie, and Laverne the tweaked out med student. Dr. Fred sends you back in time to yesterday to stop the tentacle from drinking the sludge. But of course, there is a mix-up. Bernard stays in the present, Hoagie goes two hundred years in the past (and meets over the top versions of Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin), and Laverne goes to a tentacle dominated dystopian future. You have to work all three characters in conjunction in order to solve the many many puzzles in the game.
The art is pretty good, but it’s just wacky and cartoony. Pretty standard animated sprites, and fun house mirror type backgrounds. Not bad by any means, but it doesn’t really make a comment on anything either, other than the humorous nature of the world the game is set in. The writing and characterization is the real highlight of this game. All the characters are distinct and specific, and their personalities of the source of most of the humor in the game. The thought of actual characters in a game is a pretty foreign concept to most games.
I’ve seen Day of the Tentacle is regarded by at least a few people as the best adventure game of all time, but it’s not. It is very high up on the list, but it is not very heavy in concept. It is however really fun to play, and very funny.
Pretty much, this industry is going to have to start making games that are actually good (like this one) if they don’t want to get caught in the rut that comic books and animation did and be considered a “lesser” form of expression forever. But I’m pretty sure that the video game companies are making too much money to consider changing their strategies, so I don’t really see this happening. Never has the formative years of a new form of expression been so dismal.
Writing: 8 Graphics: 8 Gameplay: 9 Number of puzzles I had to use the walkthrough for (stupid fucking cat): 3 Overall: 8