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Day of the Tentacle Remastered is a point and click adventure puzzle game by Double Fine, available on PC, iOS, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Digging up this spruced up relic is Alan Stock for Comiconverse.
Game Review: Day Of The Tentacle Remastered
A little history lesson. In the heyday of point and click adventure games, LucasArts, founded by Star Wars’ George Lucas, ruled the roost, with great looking puzzle games full of character and humour. Following classics like The Secret of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the company continued their fine form. Day of the Tentacle was a sequel to Maniac Mansion, which was one of their first puzzle adventure games. Headed by renowned developers Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, the cartoonish game was considered a classic, combining time travel puzzling with funny dialogue and colourful characters. This was way back in 1993.
Hop into a Chronojohn (the game’s time travel portaloo) and transport yourself over 20 years in time to the present day. Although the era of point and click adventure games is over, they’ve seen a slight revival over recent years through remakes and remasters. Tim Schafer, now at the helm of popular dev studio Double Fine has been on a mission acquiring the rights to LucasArt classics he worked on, and making remastered versions of them. This started with Grim Fandango Remastered and then Day of the Tentacle Remastered, with Full Throttle Remastered coming this year. These remasters are great for older gamers wanting to relive these classics with a lick of paint, and introduces a new generation of players to the glory days of point and click adventures.
Whether you’re coming in fresh, or reliving the memory, you wouldn’t be able to tell this is a remake of a 20 year-old game. The colourful graphics have been completely redrawn by hand, bringing crisp high-res visuals that stay remarkably true to their pixelated old counterparts. The environment graphics have even been extended to fill the wider 16:9 screens of today. In a wonderful trend of videogame remasters, you can hit a button at any time to instantly switch the game between the new and old graphics and sounds – and truly appreciate the attention to detail that’s been made in preserving the original as closely as possible. Music has been revamped, with smooth synths fleshing out the original’s bleepy score, and the quality voice acting remains intact. The remaster looks and sounds great, and is a (Double) fine example of how to treat the source material (badoom tish).
The interface has been tightened up as well. The interaction command defaults to the most sensible option for the target object saving you having to pick from a list of verbs. There’s also a new interaction wheel when selecting objects, but this and the inventory/verb system can still be clunky in practice – although it’s a big improvement on the original. Other than that, the only notable new additions in the remaster are some unlockable concept art and a welcome developer commentary featuring some of the team behind the original game.
Having last played Day of the Tentacle over 15 years ago and having only vague memories of it, I can write this review from the perspective of a newcomer (albeit with plenty of point and click adventure experience). The intentionally silly plot has three friends – Bernard the nerd, Hoagie the death metal roadie, and Laverne the unhinged medical student, caught up in a quest to stop an evil genius purple tentacle from taking over the world. The wacky and cartoonish theme continues throughout the game, filled with jokes and absurd situations and characters – but it’s all thoroughly entertaining. Its well written and frequently amusing. The game doesn’t hang up on details, character development or plot intricacies, just rolls with the scenario and throws you right in there – which really isn’t a problem – you just enjoy the ride.
The three students arrive at the mansion (from the game’s predecessor Maniac Mansion) and the inhabitant – inept mad scientist Dr. Fred – sends them back in time to stop evil Purple Tentacle being mutated in the first place. The plot immediately takes a twist as the trip goes wrong, leaving each hero trapped in a different time period. Hoagie is at the mansion 200 years in the past, where the founding fathers of America are drawing up the constitution. Bernard is stuck in the present, where the mansion is a motel populated by Dr. Fred’s bizarre family and host to a novelty goods convention. Laverne is 200 years in the future, where the tentacles rule the world, with the mansion home to the evil Purple Tentacle and human slaves. The three friends must restore power to their time machines in their respective time periods, and stop Purple Tentacle’s nefarious plans.
The time travel mechanic makes for a great twist on standard point and click adventure puzzles. You can switch between control of the three friends at will across the time zones and they can send each other items through their time machines. And as you would expect – changing something in the past affects the mansion in the future. This provides the fuel for some really good puzzles and requires some lateral thinking – resulting in some real “Ah-ha!” moments. For those who haven’t played these old point and click adventures, you click around to move your character around the screens, and interact with objects in the environment. Puzzle solving comes through interacting with objects or people, and by using items from your inventory on things in the world. Exploration and figuring out what objects to use in what situation is the core of the game. This is broken up with humorous conversations with the numerous bizarre inhabitants of the mansion through a dialogue tree system.
The puzzles in Day of the Tentacle are perhaps the strongest of all the LucasArts adventure games. Although they’re often ridiculous, they usually make some kind of sense, and the time travel mechanic makes for some ingenious puzzle ideas. There’s also almost no “pixel hunting” or hidden areas which point and click titles are notorious for, where progression is barred because you missed a 2 pixel sized item, or simply missed visiting a poorly signposted area. A button which highlights interactive objects (new to the remaster) doubly ensures this. The puzzles are mostly logical, but not too logical. The balance is good- it’s no cakewalk by any means, but you don’t usually need to resort to the brute force “use every inventory item with every object” method that becomes a staple in many of these kind of games.
There’s also no way to get Game Over, allowing you to experiment at your leisure, and characters and cutscenes drop little hints about puzzle solutions. One of the game’s strengths, that raises it above many of its peers, is that it’s surprisingly non-linear for a point and click adventure. Most of the game’s puzzles can be solved in isolation, or with just a few pre-requisites, and the ability to jump between your heroes in different time zones also adds variety. What this means is that there are usually multiple problems for you to be solving and thinking about at once – so getting stuck happens less, and new ideas or solutions will pop into your head, often whilst you solving another problem. Unlike many other point and click games, you aren’t constantly hitting mental brick walls in Day of the Tentacle, which is a welcome change.
It’s not perfect though, suffering the same issues as other point and click adventures of this era. Despite the generally good puzzle design there will be times when you will be completely stumped – wandering around to see if you’ve missed anything, trying your inventory with other objects – and this is not helped due to the size of the game world spread over three time zones. There will be sticking points and by its nature there must be bottlenecks for the gameplay to advance – where you have overlooked one action with one character, or missed a crucial item. Such is the nature of point and click puzzle games. There are a few quite obscure puzzles, but thankfully a lot less than usual for a game of this type. To put it in perspective, I only resorted to a walkthrough once – a new record for me for these old puzzle games. Although I did get stuck a number of times. But I am an old gamer used to the strange logic and sneaky tricks employed by the puzzle game designers of that era. But people from a newer gaming generation are sure to struggle in places. A hint system such as the one provided in The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition would have been welcome.
Overall though, Day of the Tentacle’s character, charm, and originality win out. The plot and cast are thoroughly entertaining and for the most part the game soars along on a energetic high, bolstered with the puzzle design and time travel mechanics. The remaster does a brilliant job of updating Day of the Tentacle for modern times whilst staying very true to the original. The game encapsulates the best of point and click adventures and especially that golden age of LucasArts’ legendary output. It still holds up as a classic even today – although it does have flaws inherent to the genre, it’s undoubtedly one of the best point and click adventure games of all time. It’s definitely worth a re-visit by veterans and for newcomers its a great introduction to this type of game. And its cheap too – go on, there’s no excuse!
Alan Stock is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow us on Twitter: @ComiConverse
An excellent remaster of a classic point and click adventure. Flaws with the genre remain but the time travel puzzles, non-linear design and entertainment value set this apart, making this great for returning veterans and newcomers alike.