Written by: Stoo

Date posted: June 1, 2003

The cartoony style of the graphics has aged well.

Hi all. This… isn’t Rik. A flick through our directories will show you that he’s handled much of our adventure section, particularly the Lucasarts ones. I feel he just has the knack for better describing how they work and what makes them appeal. However, quirks of fate led to him losing the CD. Or actually his sister could be the guilty party. So you’re stuck with me reviewing this one.

The Lucasarts adventures are a much-loved section of PC gaming history and I think most people in reading this will fondly remember one or two of them. Okay, there are some hardcore Sierra fans out there who prefer that company’s endless Quest games, but we do quite firmly believe the Lucasarts games were ultimately superior. More inventive, more likeable characters, funnier, and no annoying deaths to put you off.

DoTT is a follow-up to Manic Mansion, one of the earliest adventures from the Lucasarts archives. Once again it’s set in the tacky motel operated as a business sideline by mad scientist Fred Edision and his deeply creepy family. In the introduction we see a creation of Edison, the sinister Purple Tentacle, drinking the toxic waste being pumped out of the basement lab. You can probably guess that doesn’t go well. Purple gains arms, a boosted intellect and a feeling that he’s stronge, more powerful… ready to TAKE ON THE WORLD. His good natured brother Green Tentacle is understandably nervous and runs to call his friend, megadork Bernard. That’s where you take over.

You’ve probably worked out by now, this is a wacky comedy adventure. I can’t guarantee it will having you rolling about with laughter for the duration cos, well, I wasn’t myself. Then again I rarely laugh at jokes in games anyway (unscripted moments of hilarity in multiplayer with friends are another matter). I can say at least that it raised a few chuckles. The is tone consistently warm and engaging throughout, with a tendency to the amiably ridiculous. So it’s pretty hard not to get into the spirit of things and enjoy yourself. Only a few jokes fall outright flat, and they’re easily forgiven.

Hoagie meets America's Founding Fathers.

The visual style of the game is bold and cartoony, which suits its nature well. The backdrops look like they’re all viewed though a slightly surreal lens, and the characters are well-animated and carry expression convincingly. It’s a style that has aged well over the years, certainly more so than attempts of the time to look realistic. It’s not as hi-res and fluid as some of the last “cartoony” adventures (like Broken Sword) but still the visuals do a highly respectable job today. Cutscenes pop up every so often with major events and since they’re drawn in the same style it never feels jarring, or that you’re being pulled out of the game’s environment somehow. Rather, they fit perfectly.

Likeable characters greatly aid the experience of really getting into adventure, so it’s fortunate that Dott does well on this count also. Bernard himself is physically weedy but wise in the way of Unix manuals. Laverne is a geek of a more odd type and gives the impression her train of thought is somewhere off in the clouds. The kind of person you might see gazing into the middle distance and giggling in a vaguely worrying fashion. Finally Hoagie is an overweight roadie-type who looks like he could have stepped off the set of Wayne’s World (which was only a few years in the past at the time).

They’re basically all lovable losers, and I certainly warmed to them and their eccentricities. It’s definitely worth getting the “talkie” version if you can – Hoagie is almost worth the price of admission alone. As for the others you meet, a few of them got on my nerves unfortunately. That’s forgivable though and others like fussy hand-wringing Dr Fred are quite entertaining.

Cutscenes are inserted quite seamlessly into the gameplay.

A key feature of the game is how you control all three player characters at once, with each in a different scenario. An early mishap with Edison’s time machine leads to them being catapulted to different periods of time, via chron-o-johns (time-travelling toilets, no really), but still at the same motel. You can flick between any of them with a simple click.

So then Bernard remains at the present, where novelty joke-items salesmen are holding a convention. It’s all quite a wonderful sendup of a tacky american motel. Laverne finds herself 200 years in the future, where descendants of Purple Tentacle rule the world and keep humans as pets. Finally Hoagie is stuck way back in the eighteenth century, where the founding fathers of the USA (Washington, Jefferson etc) have come to work on drafting the constitution. The game isn’t afraid to poke fun here; bits of patriotic music play in the background, a woman works on drafting the Stars And Stripes, but then you end up nicking Washington’s false teeth.

There’s more to discuss about the structure here. See, some adventures essentially funnel you from one set-piece encounter to the next. You’re sat in one location, you use items or people at hand to solve a puzzle, then you leave that location behind and move to the next. Others might give you a wider range of locations to move back and forth between, at a given point in the story, but are still divided into discrete chapters with separate environments. Dott however all takes place in one large environment. Or rather, three versions of the same environment at once. You have access to two thirds of it – the past and present – from very early on, and Laverne in the future is opened up fairly soon after.

It's a future full of tentacles. (insert hentai gag here)

So rather than solving a puzzle to move to the next encounter, you’re moving back and forth across the three versions of the motel, usually with a few puzzles in mind at the same time. Each solution brings you closed to the overall goal for one of the three chracters. For example Hoagie needs a super-battery to repower the his own time machine, but he’s going to need to get his hands on components somehow. What’s a nice touch also is that there’s some interaction between time zones. Items can be freely passed between characters but more cleverly, actions taken in the past can affect the present or future. For example at one point in the present a statue is causing you problems, so you have to get Hoagie to somehow interfere with its creation to change its form.

Overall the level of challenge is well pitched. Some of the puzzles might have you scratching your head for a bit, but solutions are logical enough and you should get the satisfaction of reaching them before too long. It certainly never descends into anything too irrational. Also of course there’s no concept of dying or “game over” – Lucasarts having abandoned that as an unwanted distraction from the process of engaging with the story and characters, and enjoying solving the puzzles. I’m a bit rubbish and impatient with these games, so tend to rate them in how often I end up scampering to gamefaqs – in this case it was just a couple of times on the first run through. Which I think translates to “moderate difficulty”.

Through that in with the appealing visuals, the humour and Hoagie’s wry comments and I think we have one of the greatest of the classic adventures here. I try to avoid the dreaded words “everyone should play this”, as some people just plain aren’t into whatever genre we’re talking about at the time. However, if you’ve read this far then I’m going to assume you have at least some interest in the point-and-clickers of old. In which case, yes, you should play this – whether you missed it first time around or just haven’t played it in years. Rik mentions elsewhere on this site how adventure fans tend to have their own favourite Lucasarts title. For some it’s Monkey, others are Sam and Max fans. I certainly acknowledge the greatness of those ones, but my own opinion Dott is the top game from that esteemed set.