NEED TO KNOW
What is it? The classic LucasArts point-and-click adventure, remastered.
Expect to pay £11/$15
Developer Double Fine Productions
Reviewed on GeForce GTX 970, Intel i7-5820K, 16GB RAM
Link Official site
Released in 1993, Day of the Tentacle is widely regarded as the best, and funniest, of LucasArts’ beloved point-and-click adventures. Created by a dream team of adventure game developers including Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman, Peter Chan, and Ron Gilbert, it’s the story of an evil tentacle who wants to take over the world, and three time-traveling teenagers on a mission to stop him.
Hoagie, a laid-back heavy metal roadie, is stuck in colonial America. Laverne, a deranged medical student, is trapped in a dystopian future where tentacles rule the world. And Bernard, a stereotypical nerd, is in the present day. But despite the vast temporal gulf between them, they have to work together to stop their squishy nemesis.
They do so by altering each other’s timelines and trading items through a malfunctioning time machine disguised as a portable toilet. The puzzles are brilliantly designed, and the running joke of the characters carelessly meddling with the fabric of time to achieve relatively insignificant things—like changing the United States Constitution to make a certain item appear in a room 200 years in the future—is a source of constant amusement.
Of course, being a LucasArts adventure game from the ‘90s, some of the puzzle solutions are comically absurd. But unlike most adventures from that era, they rarely feel unfair or deliberately obtuse. Paying attention to the environment and listening closely to dialogue always yields clues that push you in the right direction. There are a few puzzles that will have you reaching for a walkthrough, but over time you feel yourself slowly settling into its weird cartoon logic.
The game has a Looney Tunes approach to physics, and this extends to its time travel, which is more Bill & Ted than Primer. Hoagie needs vinegar, so he puts a bottle of wine in a time capsule. 200 years later, the wine has turned to vinegar, and Laverne sends it back to him. It’s slapstick, Saturday morning cartoon time travel, and bearing that in mind will make some of the puzzle solutions clearer.
One of the achievement names, a new addition to this remastered version, acknowledges this when you solve a puzzle that’s particularly Wile E. Coyote-esque: “Oh Right, I’m Playing a Cartoon!” It’s a wonderfully expressive, colourful game, and genuinely funny too. Like the classic cartoons that inspired it, its humour is timeless, although a few of the best gags in Hoagie’s timeline might go over your head if you aren’t familiar with some basic American history.
There’s only one location—a mansion owned by the eccentric Edison family—but each version is wildly different. In the present day it’s a seedy motel; in colonial times it’s an inn being used by America’s Founding Fathers to spitball the Constitution; and in the future it’s the headquarters of villain Purple Tentacle. Peter Chan’s background art, inspired by legendary Warner Bros. cartoon artists Maurice Noble and Chuck Jones, is incredibly stylish, giving all three versions of the mansion a distinct personality. It’s remarkable that, even with so few locations, the game never feels visually repetitive.
As for the remaster, Tim Schafer’s studio Double Fine has done a splendid job. Everything has been redrawn, and it all looks great at high resolutions, but the original art style hasn’t been altered. It’s the Day of the Tentacle you remember, but with a fresh new coat of paint. But if you don’t like the new graphics, you can hit F1 at any time and revert to the old style. And, yes, you can still use the computer in Weird Ed’s room to play the original Maniac Mansion.
Double Fine also managed to locate the original master tapes for the dialogue recording sessions, and it sounds fantastic. It’s weird hearing all those lines I know so well without the hiss and crackle of compression, and it sounds like the actors could have recorded their lines last week, never mind 23 years ago. A simpler interface has also been included, similar to the kind seen in later LucasArts adventures like The Curse of Monkey Island, but you can still use the old wall o’ verbs if you’d prefer.
There are a few neat extras too. Schafer visited the LucasArts archive at Skywalker Ranch and unearthed a treasure trove of original artwork, some of which has been scanned and included in the game. There’s also an entertaining, insightful commentary track recorded by most of the original development team. Concept art galleries are usually desperately tedious, but the quality of the art in Day of the Tentacle, and the legacy of the game, makes browsing through this archive a rare delight.
Reasonably priced and passionately restored, Day of the Tentacle Remastered is the perfect opportunity to revisit one of the best adventure games ever made. The final act feels a little rushed, and its roots in ‘90s adventure game design are undeniable, but otherwise it’s hard to fault. You can still play your old copy in DOSBox or ScummVM, of course, but if you want a more streamlined, modern experience, with some fascinating insight into how the game was made, the remaster is worth investing in.