I usually like the books from Boss Fight Books. They tell the stories of classic video games and are often more personal stories. Day of the Tentacle by Bob Mackey does this, but I wish there were more to this book.
I like the book, but it isn’t one of my favorites. It tells the story behind the game, but I wish there were more about Bob’s experiences. The books that weave the author’s experiences with the game into the history of it are my favorite type of video game books.
It is a good book and a ton of fun to read. I always like learning about a game I didn’t play as a kid. Knowing that I can come back and play it today is fantastic! It is also great that Bob could take his previous work and make it accessible to a broader audience.
A Brief History of the Adventure Game
We start with a brief look at the history of adventure games. These were originally in text and on computers. Home Consoles in the ’70s and early ’80s couldn’t do what computers could. Things changed when Sierra Online added graphics to the game.
It wasn’t anything elaborate, but it was much better than reading a wall of text at the time. These games weren’t easy. If you made a mistake, you might not know that the game was over for several hours. You also might not know what you did wrong.
In contrast to the Sierra adventure games like King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Gabriel Knight, the Lucas Arts adventure games were straightforward. You might have to think about a puzzle a bit, but the solution was there, and you wouldn’t find out if you lost the game several hours later.
The history of Lucas Arts’ entry into adventure games is gone over. They were very different, and much of the difference had to do with being user-friendly. They tried to help the player out with control schemes and puzzle difficulty. They also wanted to move away from the High Fantasy setting that had been done to death.
At this point, and quite frankly, I should’ve done this earlier, we’re given some of Bob’s history of the game. It isn’t too different from many of the kids in the 90s who got their first computer later in the decade. Not every family could afford a computer in the 80s, and not every family knew of the budget computers made at this time. I know this might sound odd to some people, and this might go against what people on the internet have told you.
We also find out that this book is based on Bob’s series of articles for USGamer. In some ways, this is an exercise in preserving his work on a video game that he cared a lot about. Bob put in a lot of work and talked to the development team behind Day of the Tentacle, and this book helped to make a record of it.
It is great that he was able to do this. USGamer could’ve said no, but to their credit, they agreed, and we have this physical copy of the articles and the additional information that Bob gathered. I find the story behind the book to be as good as what is inside the book.
About the Game and the People Who Made It
Much of the information from the book comes from interviews, panels, and podcasts that the developers participated in. I like that we hear more about the creative process behind the game. It goes beyond game design and extends into music and art.
We hear about how hard it was to get the voice acting into floppy disks. This is something that is lost to time, especially with digital downloads. Reading about what they needed to do to get everything into the floppy disks was very interesting. I remember this, but I don’t remember having more than four disks. What I do remember is having to use a separate CD for campaigns in Command & Conquer.
We hear how Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman got the leading roles on this project. The two learned from Ron Gilbert how to make an adventure game. He greatly influenced the direction Lucas Arts would take when making adventure games.
They wanted to challenge the player but didn’t want the player to give up and never return. There is a fine line between challenge and frustration. They tried to do the opposite of the adventure games of the 80s.
Bob also goes over how the music for the game was created. It is fascinating to hear about. Not many stories about video games focus on things like sound and music. It is very cool that we get to learn more about this.
I’m not sure what else to talk about here. For a relatively short book, there was a ton jammed into this book. In some ways, it resembles the game itself, where the developers got the most out of the technology at the time. Bob did an excellent job with this book and the articles that it was based on.
Thoughts on Remasters and Remakes
Right before the last chapter, which is awesome, Bob talks about the remaster of Day of the Tentacle. This isn’t a remake; it is the original game with cleaned-up graphics and a more accessible interface as optional features. You can stick with the original graphics and user interface or mix and match them. It is very cool!
I picked up the remaster on my Xbox. I had no idea there was a remaster of the game because I wasn’t paying attention. No one can keep up with every released or re-released game.
Bob didn’t comment on how this remaster was received, or I missed it while reading because I don’t see it in my notes. I’m sure some people hated it because they always say something like that just to be different. People didn’t like the Actraiser remake, and I’m sure there was some backlash over the Tactics Ogre remaster.
I’ll repeat something I said about the Tactics Ogre remaster. I’m glad that it exists so more people can play it and hopefully see why fans of the game enjoy it. Previously, the game was stuck on the PS1 and the PSP (It might have been released digitally; I’m not sure). This created a barrier to playing the game.
While I wouldn’t say I like how watered-down the remaster is, it is a more accessible version for new players. Not only do you not have to buy old hardware and software that is becoming too expensive and rare to get a hold of easily, but you can play it on more systems than back in the 90s and 2000s. I can still return to the version I like, but not everyone has that option.
In many ways, this book is a remaster of Bob’s work at USGamer. Those digital articles are lost in a search engine, but more people can read them thanks to this book, just like more people can play Day of the Tentacle and maybe see why people are fond of adventure games from the 90s. It is one of the reasons I like this book. It shines a light on a game I had previously passed over and shared the game’s history with me.
I wouldn’t say I liked this one as much as other books that Boss Fight Books has published. Bod did a great job with this, but I would’ve liked to hear more about his experiences with the game. It is here, but I wish it were more of the book.
The game and the other media connected to it are gone over, and it was interesting to learn more about the TV show. Since this isn’t a game I’m overly familiar with, I like that Bob put everything in here. It sent me down a rabbit hole, which is more than what most of the books I’ve read have done.
I feel similar to how I felt after reading the Super Mario 2 book that Boss Fight Books put out. It is a good book, but I wouldn’t say I like it as much as the other books. While it won’t be on a list of my favorite books of 2023 or books from Boss Fight Books, it is a well-written book with a ton of great information.
I did like this book, but I liked other books more. Part of that has to do with my connection to the game. I don’t have the same nostalgia for this game I had for others. I enjoyed learning more about it, and I will try out the game at some point.