After the so-called “Death of adventure games,” their “Telltale” resurgence and recent popularity in European markets, I did have a real worry that the classics and the style found in 90’s classics such as the King’s Quests, the Monkey Islands and the Maniac Mansions of this world would be truly lost in the ethers of time.
I’m so glad I was wrong. After the success of the Monkey Island and Grim Fandango remasters, Double Fine have remastered the critically acclaimed sequel to the timeless Maniac Mansion; Day of the Tentacle.
I’m sure that for many readers, this game needs no introduction, but I am obliged to give a short one. Day of the Tentacle is a legendary title; considered by many the best adventure game ever made, it is thought of as a true artistic merging of well-crafted puzzles, comedy and hilarious dialogue, which arguably makes cartoon logic make sense.
The story’s merit is a massive part of its acclaim. An evil Purple Tentacle drinks the polluted sludge of a local river and mutates, setting off to take over the world. In response, the scientist responsible for the polluted sludge enlists the help of three strange teenagers to go back in time and stop this from ever happening; regardless of the potential for paradoxes, and hilarity ensues. One ends up 200 years in the part, one remains in the present and the last end up in a dystopian future where the tentacle succeeded in his evil scheme; and no, that last section doesn’t include as much Japanese tentacle porn as you expect. It’s hilarious and frankly I can’t think of many games which have made me laugh out loud quite so much. There’s a comedic style here that you can see obviously inspired modern adult cartoon comedy, full of sardonic wit and dry humour.
The characters in the game are incredibly varied, with the three playable characters being prime examples. One is a roadie, complete with band tee and long black hair; the next is the geekiest nerd you could ever dream of, complete with glasses; and the final is a psychotic teenager called Laverne with a penchant for Squirrel murder. Despite this however, the game as a whole surprisingly makes sense. Puzzles themselves always have a clear foot in reality, despite the cartoon logic. They all make sense, strangely, even if they involve time travel. They’re taxing, but not too difficult, and usually result in that brilliant “GOT IT” moment which all adventure gamers crave.
So, in short, the game itself is utterly amazing. It’s the remastering itself I have a few issues with.
The graphical update is lovely, honestly. I also love the new updated icons replacing the verb bar, the updated music and the cleaned-up, remastered audio. The biggest issue for me is how similar the game actually looks in action.
Now I understand why, and I appreciate the act you can switch between old and new at will. I love the fact you can mix and match interfaced too, but the animation of the title leaves much to be desired. The original animations, whilst looking good for the time, don’t hold up quite so well now, and the fact they were left unchanged for the “original” side means that the remastered animations are invariably tied to the original length of the animations, leading to some jerky, stunted-looking moments in motion. Granted, they have updated screen-pans and other similar things, but this simple tying of animation length leaves much to be desired. Yes, I want it to be similar to the original, celebrating everything which made it amazing, but I also want it to reflect how far we’ve come in the last twenty years.
The package is full of fan-service, with the audio commentary providing loads of insider jokes and interesting information which will make fans squeal. Tim Schafer et al do a great job of discussing the title and how various puzzles and sections came about, bringing a “director’s cut” feel to the game. The inclusion of a variety of concept art also adds a load of extra value to the package.
My only issue whilst playing was the format itself. Whilst I’m glad Double Fine decided to release on console purely for the fact that the love can be spread further, I’m not sure it’s really a good fit. I just kept feeling like it would be much, much more satisfying and convenient to play with a mouse. Add to this the fact that there were certain moments where the game slowed for no reason; most commonly in menus, and I would highly recommend picking this up for PC over the console ports.
However, all in all Day of the Tentacle Remastered is an obvious labour of love. Whilst I have griped with the lack of additional animation frames, I can imagine this was purely a limitation of the engine rather than a deliberate choice, and the rest of the package more than makes up for it. Even if you choose to just play with the original graphics, it’s definitely an adventure worth having for any adventure/puzzle fan.