1993 was a huge year in video games. Doom, the archetypal first-person shooter, made its way to floppy discs everywhere, Ultima VII: The Black Gate redefined the modern RPG, and a sequel to one of the first and greatest Point-and-Click Adventure games of all time changed comedy and story telling in games forever: Maniac Mansion: Day of The Tentacle. Fast forward to today, and it’s practically impossible to run the DOS-based game without some serious know how in computers. Fortunately for all of us would-be adventurers, Double Fine Productions, made up of many ex-Lucas Arts members, swooped in to give us a proper reboot of the game.
Day of The Tentacle was a revolutionary adventure game that followed Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie on their travels through time to save the world from the evil Purple Tentacle. Throughout the game, you will meet a colorful cast of characters that are all about as weird or strange as they are unique and lovable. From a gag merchant trying to kill himself with a joke gun, to a very cold and spiteful John Hancock, absolutely every character is spot on and perfect in this adventure.
But, let’s take a look at our heroes. Much like Maniac Mansion, players can switch between the three main characters on the fly. However, unique to Day of The Tentacle is the concept of time travel. While Bernard stays in the present state that the mansion is, Hoagie gets sent to the past where the mansion stood as an inn for traveling politicians, and Laverne gets sent to a dystopian future where the mansion is used to house competitions for humans who have the best smile and hair. Each setting reflects the game’s story absolutely wonderfully as well as feeling vibrant and alive despite being two-dimensional. Even more, many of the puzzles revolve around you transferring items between the characters using your time machine, a futuristic port-a-potty.
As you can imagine, Day of The Tentacle gets pretty difficult. In fact, it’s often rated as one of the most difficult adventure games of all time. Beyond that, most adventure games can be completed in an hour or two if you know the optimal route. Day of The Tentacle can take upwards of four or five hours. So not only is it difficult, it’s massive when compared to other point and click games of the time. Without spoiling the solution, one of the biggest puzzles in the game is entering and winning the human competition in Laverne’s time. It involves perfect coordination between all three characters to send her everything she needs from each time line, some of which items are particularly baffling as to why she needs them, and the completion of puzzles that affect the overall timeline. The puzzle alone takes most of the game to complete, so without a guide, I can easily see it doubling your total play time. What I’m getting at, is Day of The Tentacle is not for the faint of heart. Perhaps it would have been nice to see some kind of hint system implemented into the Remaster for those who don’t have the mad scientist mentality needed for these types of games, like what Telltale used to use in their reboots of some of Lucas Arts’ series.
Being a remaster, there are a few interesting features to discuss, though. The most obvious of which are the redone graphics and music. The new art style is goofy, perfectly embodying the game itself. The new music is another story. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with it and the music itself is quite good, the out-of-place midi tracks feel kind of lazy compared to the incredible work that went into Grim Fandango Remastered’s soundtrack. The controls are also altered. While the original used Lucas Art’s SCUMM system (Something you can switch to at will with a simple press of Select), the new one opts for a more modern radial system. Highlight or touch something, and a series of options you can do will appear. Speaking of touch, I played this on the PS Vita. On the Vita, you can control everything with the touch screen. While it was definitely useful for somethings, such as highlighting your inventory or switching characters, it often felt like a chore to click on some of the more pixel perfect items like the dimes you need to collect early on. Fortunately, you can switch to a cursor on the fly, so I ultimately developed a hybrid system of using touch for certain things and the cursor for others. Regardless, the Vita version isn’t exactly the premiere edition of this game, though Day of The Tentacle does work surprisingly well as an on-the-go game.
Day of The Tentacle is an absolutely fantastic game. There’s a reason I avoided talking too much about the story or puzzles. You, absolutely all of you, deserve to experience it on your own. Perhaps the Vita version isn’t exactly the best way to go, but it’s certainly a fine way to choose if you do so. For 15 bucks, there’s zero reason anyone should pass up the chance to play this well-aged piece of gaming history.
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