Day of the Tentacle


Review by · February 18, 2002

Porta-Potties are really underused as far as plot devices go. I mean, when you consider their many attributes, you wonder why they don’t show up in art and literature more often. After all, not only are they horrifying and loathed like a pariah, but you can even sense their evil from miles away. How many other mobile shed-like objects can you say that about? Fortunately, LucasArts decided to give them the recognition they deserve with one doozy of a game dedicated solely to their praise… Oh, and they threw in a bunch of stuff about tentacles and time travel and world domination and a three-headed monkey and called it Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle. Here’s my review.

It’s been five years since that fateful incident at Dr. Fred’s mansion. Dave and his true love are but a distant memory in the mind of Bernard, computer geek extraordinaire, and now his life’s only worries are getting through college and surviving his unique roommates, Hoagie (greasy-haired overweight roadie) and Laverne (adorably homicidal med school student). Soon, he will graduate and get to spend the rest of his life as a computer guy with a huge paycheck and a comfy job w/ swivel chair. Life is odd, but peaceful.

One day at the ancestral Edison home, Purple and Green Tentacle were exploring the grounds when they stumbled upon a toxic waste-filled river. Without caring for the consequences, Purple quickly drank of the carcinogenic creek and underwent a startling change. His mind became cunning and devious, his soul became twisted and black, and his torso sprouted a pair of cute little arms. He quickly formulated a scheme to gain control of all the major governments, but fortunately Dr. Fred found and tied up the two in the basement before the world could become conquered. Danger was thwarted, but for how long?

Bernard received the hamster-gram at his front door on a dark and relatively quiet night, and was shocked by what he read. His old friends Green and Purple Tentacle were being held captive in the basement of the old mansion! Summoning all of his courage, he managed to get his two roommates to help him break in again and save his old pals, no matter how many creepy Edisons stood in his way. After one minor concussion, the mission was successful and the tentacles were freed. Sadly, Purple Tentacle was still evil and ran off to take over the world. Whoops.

Now, Dr. Fred has a plan to stop the Purple one before all is lost. Your only hope is to go back in time to yesterday and clean up the toxic waste before he drank it, thus preventing the whole situation. Using the good doctor’s amazing Chrono-John invention, the three sophomore saviors of humanity are warped through time, but as usual, something goes wrong and the trio is mailed off to random points in history. Only through teamwork, resourcefulness, and strategic toilet-flushery will history be saved and the Tentacle menace stopped.

Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle is a LucasArts point-n-click adventure game – if you’ve played one before, you know what to do. If not, let me explain. You control your set of heroes by clicking on the screen, telling them where to go as they wander through the mansion. Along the way, you pick up pretty much every item you see, using them to solve puzzles and unlock new areas to explore. Also, you get a variety of actions to perform, ranging from “Open” and “Close” to “Talk To” to “Push” and “Pull”. Whenever you drag your mouse over a usable object on screen, its name will show up, and by mixing one of the actions with the object, you’ll form a simple sentence and do it.

For example, say there’s a “Raging Fire” in front of you and you see a “Fire Extinguisher” on the wall. First, you’d “Pick Up” the “Fire Extinguisher”. Then, you’d go to your inventory and “Use” the “Fire Extinguisher” on the “Raging Fire”. It’s a simple and effective gameplay system, and while it seems basic now, please realize that the actual puzzles involve far more ridiculous items, such as can openers, wet spaghetti, and a chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle (oops, wrong game). Also, remember that no game with time travel is complete without being able to tinker with history, so feel free to destroy the future however you wish.

The amount of bizarre logic required makes a few puzzles a bit trickier than would seem fair, but hints can be found nearly everywhere as long as you talk to everyone and look at everything. It’s actually pretty hard to get stuck for too long, and you should enjoy most of the puzzles that come your way. They definitely include some of LucasArts’ finest work, and considering what else they’ve made, that ain’t bad.

Along with actual puzzles you can solve, you can play with pretty much anything you can find. For instance, one of the items you find is a scalpel. Just IMAGINE how many possible jokes they could have worked in with this. Find a cat? Perhaps a little dissection is in order. Some overgrown bully pushing you around? Give him some vengeance surgery-style. See a balloon that ticks you off a bit too much? Vent some steam and blast the sucker to oblivion. Simply goofing around with all the toys to be found in the game is half the fun.

Like the original Maniac Mansion, you control a team of three characters separately and can switch between them at will. However, unlike last time, each character is separated by a good two centuries. Each character has their own problems to deal with in their own time period (Bernard has to raise $2,000,000 dollars to buy a time machine diamond replacement, Hoagie has to collect household items to build a super-battery in the 18th century, and Laverne has to infiltrate a secret underground basement in order to plug in her Porta-Potty) and only by trading items between each other can they succeed.

Fortunately, by flushing items down the Chrono-John, you can easily get Hoagie’s lucky can opener to Bernard in the present as well as any other item swapping you need to do. Of course, when things don’t fit inside these time toilets, you’ll have to find other ways to transport them…

As an added boost to the replay value, LucasArts included the original Maniac Mansion within the sequel. It’s hidden fairly well, but if you manage to find it, you can enjoy the original in all its Tuna Head-flavored glory. If you haven’t played it before, it might be wise to take a break from the sequel and give it a spin. It’s not a bad game to play by any standards, and has a huge level of replay value that only adds to the already wonderful gameplay of MM2: DotT.

However, the best part of it all isn’t the gameplay; it’s the story. Like many LA titles, Day of the Tentacle tries to be as ridiculous as possible, and as usual, the jokes, insults, and one-liners are excellent. An extra serving of kudos goes to the writers who put this stuff together.

What really makes this one stand out though is the selection of characters. Bernard is the perfect mixture of Woody Allen and Orville Redenbacher, Hoagie’s ability to withstand 20,000 volts without flinching will not soon be forgotten, and Laverne’s just so cute when she gets sociopathic. All in all, the story and the characters fit together perfectly, but what really helped them develop was the voice acting.

Each and every line of dialogue is spoken, and while the sound quality is a bit dated, that can be expected. This is one of the earliest games with lip-synched dialogue after all, so some fuzziness here and there can be forgiven. Even with that handicap though, the voice actors are all perfect from the mildly irritating Bernard to that egotistical madman Ben Franklin. Of course, let’s not forget Cousin Ted, who put on the greatest performance I’ve ever seen in a game.

Aside from VA, there was quite a nice variety of sound effects used, ranging from the soothing hum of a chainsaw to a nice, solid explosion or two. Strangely though, the music was pretty much unnoticeable. Consisting entirely of cartoony elevator music, I can honestly say that I have no idea how large the selection of songs is. Whenever you moved from one room or character to the next, the musical accompaniments would flow together, often creating a clashing bit of composition that you’ll just barely notice over the flow of the game. The only thing I can say about the music is that you won’t notice it that often, and when you do you’ll be wondering what lunatic put it all together.

Graphically, DotT was years ahead of the competition when it first came out. It featured the best speaking animation the world had seen up to that point, and the blocky, heavily pixilated characters and backgrounds weren’t quite as blocky or pixilated as the competition at the time. Character motions have enough frames to seem almost-realistic (Hoagie exiting out a window for example), the backgrounds seem straight out of Looney Tunes, and there are even a few short movie cut scenes thrown in. They aren’t that great, but they make for a nice break here and there. While it didn’t age that well, the visuals shouldn’t chase you away.

Finally, the controls are the usual point-n-click style. To put it simply, first you point the mouse at something, and then you click. It’s about as simple as it gets, and they even made a few improvements on the original Maniac Mansion by making item transfers and character switches easier. Top it all off with a save menu that can be used anywhere in seconds and you’ve got a nice set of controls.

Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle is one of the greatest adventure games ever made with a perfect level of difficulty, a well-made control scheme, and enough entertainment value to make you go back through at least once. While it’s definitely worth the time spent hunting down, be warned. If you find the version released in 1992, it will not contain the same amount of voice acting. The game just isn’t the same without it, so pick the newer version if you have the chance. In any case, this is probably the most tentacle-themed fun you can have while still keeping a sub-X rating. Whether you played the first or just want a good Adventure game, you won’t be disappointed.

Overall Score 92
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Andrew DeMario

Andrew DeMario

Andrew went by several names here, starting as a reader reviewer under the name Dancin' Homer. Later known as Slime until we switched to real names, Andrew officially joined RPGFan as a staff reviewer in 2001 and wrote reviews until 2009. Andrew's focus on retro RPGs and games most others were unwilling to subject themselves to were his specialty.