Hot on the heels of last year’s successful remastering of Grim Fandango, Double Fine has wasted absolutely no time in reworking another one of studio head Tim Shaefer’s other classic Lucasarts adventure games: Day of the Tentacle. Originally released 23 years ago back in 1993 (which will make a LOT of us feel so old), Day of the Tentacle is fondly remembered by many gamers (myself included) as one of the best point-and-click adventure games of all time. But has the time-travelling adventure stood the test of time? Well, of course it bloody has. Great writing, art direction, and puzzle design don’t age. If you have fond memories of Day of the Tentacle, I suggest you stop reading right now and go and download it, because it’s really is just as great as you remember.
If you’re still here, I guess you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Well, let me tell you a tale….
Day of the Tentacle is a sequel to Maniac Mansion, itself a pretty revolutionary point-and-click adventure game. After drinking the toxic waste being pumped out of Dr. Fred’s laboratory, Purple Tentacle (Dr. Fred’s lab assistant, who is literally a purple tentacle) mutates, growing a pair of arms and, with it, the feeling that he could TAKE OVER THE WORLD! In an effort to quickly solve the problem, Dr. Fred attempts to kill Purple, along with his brother Green. However, Fred’s plan is foiled when Purple tricks lovable nerd Bernard Bernoulli and his housemates – the vacant, and slightly creepy Laverne and hilarious metalhead Hoagie (who happens to be the brother of Full Throttle’s Ben) -to free him and his brother by convincing them that Fred has gone insane (not hard considering he tried to kill Bernard in the original Maniac Mansion).
Purple Tentacle then scarpers to fulfill his megalomaniacal plans for world domination (which may or may not involve cow tipping and general petty acts of vandalism). In order to stop Tentacle from even drinking the toxic waste in the first place, Dr Fred attempts to send the three teens back through time in his latest invention, the Chron-o-John – three time travelling toilets. However, things don’t exactly go to plan as the fake diamond Fred uses to power the devices breaks, Sending Hoagie two hundred years into the past, Laverne two hundred years into the future, and Bernard right back where he started in the present day. Thus it’s up to our three heroes, using the toilets’ bizarre ability, to trade items with each other and stop Purple from turning evil and save the day.
Upon its original release, Day of the Tentacle was lauded for being the first LucasArts game to remove a lot of the frustrations associated with the genre at the time, such as the ability to die (because I guess Guybrush could at least drown in Monkey island), and the tendency to hit a dead end, unable to complete the game. This made Tentacle pretty special as, though the game features plenty of ingenious headscratchers, you were safe in the knowledge that you could always find a solution eventually.
Players could also find a fully playable copy of Maniac Mansion for them to play within the game and though games-within-games is a fairly common trick now, Day of the Tentacle is cited as the first game to ever pull this off, and I’m happy to say that it is once again fully playable in the remaster by using the computer in Ed Edison’s room. You’ll even get a trophy for your trouble.
Not only is the game absolutely hilarious, but Day of the Tentacle is a masterpiece of environmental puzzle design. The motel that serves as the backdrop for the entire adventure is easy to navigate and changes just enough between the past, present, and future settings to feel familiar without repetition setting in. Changing parts of the environment in one time will affect how the house is presented in the future. For example, if Bernard freezes a hamster in the present, Laverne can bring it out of its cryogenically-induced slumber in the future (just be careful not to zap it for too long).
Playing DotT again after over a decade has been a wonderful experience, and I’m surprised at how much I remember. The jokes still mostly hit their mark, even ones that are very much a product of their time (even if The Sharks did finally win a season), and the performances from the principle cast remains a highlight, made all the more punchy with the superb job the team have done of remastering the audio. Key scenes are just as memorable, like Purple’s transformation, Bernard’s conversation with a suicidal novelty salesman, and Hoagie’s encounters with the founding fathers.
It’s clear that this was a labour of love for all involved, and the team at Double Fine have been careful not to mess with one of the game’s biggest triumphs: its beautiful, Chuck Jones-inspired visuals. These have been recreated in new hand-painted scenes which sit wonderfully alongside remastered audio and voice work and make the game look and sound as good as you think you remember it did when you first played it on the Amiga way back in 1993 (except with a lot less disc swapping).
However, if you want to get the full retro experience, you can also switch back to the game’s original presentation, (complete with on-screen verbs and pixel art) at the push of a button, in the same manner as the recent Monkey Island remaster. It’s also possible to mix and match the graphics, audio and user interface between the remaster and classic mode to find your preferred setup. The new verb dial, which replaces the old box of the original, is a welcome change and one that makes controlling the game using a DualShock 4 just that little bit easier. In an odd move, there’s no option to use the trackpad on the PS4 controller as an input method, which surely would have made sense since it can fairly accurately replicate mouse controls.
However, the touch screen controls on the Vita version are by far my favorite way of playing the game. In a move that’s always welcome, Day of the Tentacle: Remastered features both cross-buy and cross-save functionality on Playstation systems, meaning you can continue your adventure on the go with the minimum amount of fuss.
Double Fine has done a (double) fine job of remastering a true classic, using a light touch to deftly update the game in such a way that what made the game genre-defining in 1993 remains true some 23 years later. If you’ve played it before, chances are you’ve already downloaded it. If you’ve never played it before, I pity you. Day of the Tentacle remains one of the finest games ever made, and Double Fine’s new spit-and-polish only adds to the masterpiece.
It’s time to go back to the mansion guys. It really has been far too long.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered was reviewed on PS4/Vita with a copy provided by the developer
Publisher: Double Fine | Developer: Lucas Arts/Double Fine | Genre: Point and click Adventure | Platforms: PC, PS4, PS Vita | PEGI/ESRB: 12+/T | Release Date: March 22, 2016 | Controls: Dualshock 4, Mouse