"I almost said 'no brainer' there, but that doesn't feel like a proper endorsement for an adventure game."
I've given details on a number of my reviews about my long-standing love for the point & click adventure genre, and the LucasArts games in particular. So this time, suffice it to say that I played Day of the Tentacle long before the remastered version and had very fond memories of it. That said, when I grabbed Day of the Tentacle Remastered on a recent PSN sale, I knew that my prior experience was far enough back as to be of no help at all.
Day of the Tentacle (DotT) is a sequel to another LucasArts classic, Maniac Mansion, but you can definitely jump straight in without playing its predecessor. In DotT, you play as an unlikely trio of friends out to save the world from being taken over by a sentient, purple mutant tentacle. (He's not attached to anything, just a big tentacle.) In the game's opening cutscene, you unwittingly aid Purple Tentacle in the first steps along his journey to conquest, and mad scientist Fred Edison realizes that the only way to save the world is to send the three of you back in time 24 hours to stop the chain of events from even starting.
Of course, something goes wrong, and although nerdy Bernard doesn't move in time at all, his heavy metal-loving friend Hoagie becomes stranded 200 years in the past, and airheaded pre-med student Laverne gets stuck 200 years in the future. If they're going to reunite and save the world, they've got to work together despite their separation, but how?
Well... Fred Edison takes a different approach to time-machine aesthetics than Back to the Future's Doc Brown. Fred built his time machines out of portable toilets, or "chrono-johns." They're not stylish, but the three of them are still connected, allowing you to flush items in one timeframe and retrieve them in any other. You can switch between characters at any time, but flushed items can only be picked up at the time machine, which leads to a lot of backtracking.
Obviously, those mechanics are central to many of DotT's puzzles, and as mind-bending as time-travel issues can be, most of those puzzles make sense. For example, Laverne arrives in the future atop a tree and can't get down. Hoagie, in the past, finds himself at a gathering of some of the USA's founding fathers, including George Washington, so basic knowledge of American folk tales
makes it clear what Hoagie needs to do to get Laverne down.
Unfortunately, there are also a number of puzzles that come out of left field, an issue that is compounded by the time-travel question. You can tell that someone needs the horse's dentures, but you don't know who or when, so you don't necessarily know whether your inability to figure out how to get them is actually holding you back right now, or is simply because it depends on something that hasn't happened yet. When you get into that situation, I highly recommend this walkthrough
, which provides multiple levels of useful hints before it gives you outright answers.
When DotT was originally released in 1993, it was the first LucasArts game to feature voice work, and I'm happy to report that the great work done back then has been retained in the Remastered version. The music is the same as the original as well (although it was redone in a new format for technical reasons), and it doesn't feel at all out of place. If you're not down for a nostalgia trip, you may find it dated, but I'd encourage you to embrace it alongside the rest of this package of mid-90s goodness.
New to this version, however, is developer commentary from a number of folks who were involved in the original game, including co-leads Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. If you're a fan of classic LucasArts games, it's definitely worth checking out, although I'd recommend that you leave it for a second playthrough, since the commentary often gets in the way of both audio and subtitles in cutscenes.
While you're listening to that on your second time through, you might want to take the opportunity to watch the original visuals as well. They're included alongside the remastered HD graphics, and one button press switches you between the two at any instant (even during cutscenes, which is pretty cool). On your first time through, you'll be working out puzzles, so I recommend the HD version, which looks great. I love the cartoony style this game uses in both versions, and the upgrade is very obvious when you jump between them, including filling in the text on some pieces of paper that were just squiggles back in 1993.
If even that is not enough nostalgia and old-school pointing and clicking for you, the original Maniac Mansion is also included (use the computer in Weird Ed's room to play it)! Give it a shot, lose in the first couple of minutes, and find yourself really appreciating that even the dated elements of DotT are way more compatible with modern gaming expectations than Maniac Mansion is. It's the rare kind of adventure game where you can actually die or render the game unwinnable, so be prepared for that if you do play it, but you can have fun with it if you go in with the right mindset. And a walkthrough.
In terms of controls, DotT Remastered gets the job done on any platform, but it's better on a touchscreen or PC with a mouse. I played on Vita, where the X button just walks you over to something but doesn't interact with it in any way. You have to hit a different button to bring up the radial menu that allows you to pick how you want to affect whatever you want to use. Doors are particularly frustrating, as you have to remember to open them before you can "click" in the open doorway to walk through them. There is one puzzle that requires you to close a door behind you, and it really feels like the developers included it just so there was a reason to force you to open and close doors. This is the one item that feels out of date even in the Remastered version, and as I said, it still gets the job done. It's just not a particularly fun way of doing that job.
At the end of the day, I clearly have some complaints about Day of the Tentacle Remastered, but please don't take them as a damning indictment of the game as a whole. It was fun in 1993, and it's fun in 2016, even if you do have to deal with a few frustrating puzzles and controls that aren't the best they could be. I caught it on a PSN sale for $3, a price point that takes this game from "worth playing" to "obvious purchase." (I almost said "no brainer" there, but that doesn't feel like a proper endorsement for an adventure game.) Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to practicing my motorcycle fighting skills for the 2017 release of Full Throttle Remastered.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.