Day of the Tentacle is perhaps the greatest adventure game of all time. It’s been well over twenty years since it made its debut on PC, and since then, the genre has seen its ups and downs, with newer and more modern titles making use of the fundamentals set by golden age Lucasarts and Sierra adventure games. With the current trend of remastering older games, the announcement that Tentacle would be having its own re-release came as no surprise, especially after the extremely positive results that Grim Fandango received last year, as our own Gareth Brading attested.
The good news is that Day of the Tentacle is still a fantastic game through and through. This remaster further improves the classic by having completely redrawn visuals, cleaned up voice work and music, as well as an easier to handle interface based on the old SCUMM engine give, use, pull, push’ adventure game fans came to love over the years. The clever and hilarious writing remains intact and is just as humorous as it’s ever been.
Adventure game logic is a tough concept to get right, as numerous releases over the years have proved. Many of these games have suffered from problems like inane item combination and pixel hunting, so it’s refreshing to see how well Tim Shafer, Dave Grossman and their team managed to come up with concise, smart puzzles that work so well within the limited confines of one central game setting. Granted, the version of the mansion that Bernard, the lovable nerd, Laverne, a googly-eyed med student, and Hogie, metal head sandwich enthusiast, each see in the time period they get stuck in is different, but basically work within the very same structure, with the same amount of screens, floors and rooms, some of which aren’t available in all three sections.
Much like an adventure game of its time, Day of the Tentacle plays around with the concept of having you pick up a lot of different items and using them in the correct order, with the extra layer of having you switch between three separate characters, who can freely trade what they pick up, bar some exceptions. And while it feels and plays like a game of its time, it becomes apparent that it was already an improvement upon other LucasArts releases that came before it. There are less scenarios in which you’ll be hopelessly stuck at thanks to the limited scope of each of the characters’ setting. The game does a brilliant job in pointing out where to go to and what to do next naturally and logically, a flow that very few adventure games have managed to achieve.
There’s also plenty of praise to be given to how well the entire cast develops throughout the game. The main characters are extremely likable right off the bat and grow beyond the stereotypes they would quickly be fit into if the writing wasn’t as good as it is. Once you’re through the game, it’ll be hard to pick favorites, since they’re all so endearing, even down to the secondary characters and their variations spread throughout the time periods you’ll be mucking around in. Even tentacles have plenty of heart in this world!
And while you won’t find a hint system anywhere in this game, it’s the features that ended up being included that make Day of the Tentacle Remastered extra special. Aside from a concept art gallery that is bursting at the seams with a ton of never before seen original drawings and paintings scanned directly from LucasArts’ vaults, of just about every single room, character and animated segment from the game, we’re treated with a commentary mode featuring the team behind both the original release and the remaster. They have a lot of very interesting annecdotes to share about the both versions’ development. Since the game’s running time isn’t particularly long, clocking in at around four hours, the extra incentive to jump back in and replay it alongside the devs’ commentary track is a particularly entertaining reason to spend a little more your time with DOTT, especially if you’re a returning fan.
Not only that, but there’s also the entirety of Maniac Mansion to be played through tucked away somewhere within the game, just as it was in the original release of Day of the Tentacle. This review could go on about how important of a role Maniac Mansion played in making adventure games what they are these days. For as old as it looks and plays, it’s more than worth it to check it out. Regardless if you’re an established fan or a newcomer to adventure gaming, there’s no denying the charm of some of the devious situations you’re put in in that particular game, which happened to suffer under the thumb of censorship at the time it came out.
It’s worth noting again how well this new version of Day of the Tentacle plays, but extra noteworthy is how unaggressive it is about its new presentation. Sure, the well done remastering of the visuals to today’s widescreen ratios is cool and all, but if you’re into the idea of replaying the game as it existed in 1993, you’re welcome to, along with the original, metallic and extremely compressed audio. It can’t be stressed enough how good the voice work and score sounds after the clean up and instrumental re-recording, but there’s no denying the absurd amount of quality the original release held back in the day, being the very first LucasArts “talkie” title thanks to the advent of CD-ROM technology.
This is the first time Day of the Tentacle has been readily available since its release. It’s a shame that a classic such as this had to wait over twenty years to see the light of day again, but then again, that’s even more reason to appreciate its absurd influence and ageless content. Regardless of your standing in regards to what adventure games evolved to, you owe it to yourself to give this remaster a spin. If this is your first dabble in this style of game, there’s absolutely no better choice to go with, other than jumping into your own makeshift time machine and heading back to the early 1990s, that is.