Day of the Tentacle first released in 1993, and was the follow up to Maniac Mansion. It is largely considered the better of the two games, and has remained popular over the years since it’s release. The game has been remastered and re-released. Tim Schafer is no stranger to this process, having already done it with a number of his other adventure hits from when he was with Lucas Arts. However it has been over twenty years, so how has the game aged?
Day of the Tentacle is set five years after the events of Maniac Mansion. While there are a number of characters in both games, and the events of the first are mentioned, it’s not entirely necessary to actually have played both games. Most of what is absolutely needed to know is explained at some point during the game. The game opens with Green and Purple Tentacle come across a river of sludge. Purple drinks it. Doing so gives him the ability to grow arms, and the desire to take over the world. Green warns Bernard about this and he and his two friends return to the mansion to see if they can help. In order to stop Purple they attempt to go one day in the past. However they all end up in different points in time, and mania ensues.
The difficulty with giving impressions for a remastered version of a game is that you have to speak to two different levels. Gamers who never played the original, and gamers that have. Does this game stand on it’s own? And is it a good retelling?
Separating out the two elements would probably be best. Looking at Day of the Tentacle from a new perspective, it’s a relatively solid point and click adventure game. The story is zany, the characters unique, and the gameplay solid. You switch between the three leads as they each explore their own point in time. Gamers are challenged to solve puzzles that stretch across all three characters. For instance in order for Laverne to move freely in the future she has to get help from Hoagie in the past. Hoagie in order to offer his step might need something from Bernard in the present. What you end up with is rather interesting puzzles that take you a bit away from the standard point and click gameplay.
The problem is there is no hint system in this game. It is something I have ranted about before, and I will do so again. Point and click adventure games are not nearly as popular as they used to be. People picking up this game might actually experience their first point and click adventure ever. This creates a problem, because many people won’t understand what steps to take in order to figure out what you are supposed to be doing, and then do it. The lack of guidance will probably frustrate a lot of newer players, if not completely chase them off. However, those that stick around will be pleased at what they find here. The game is entertaining, challenging without being over the top, and compelling from start to finish.
The next question is how does this compare for people that do already know the game? The answer in short is it’s great. Tim Schafer has now been involved in “special editions” for a number of his games, doing it slightly differently each time. Day of the Tentacle keeps all of it’s original charm. The animation style remains totally intact, just with a much needed fresh coat of paint. Backgrounds were updated adding movement, texture, and more detail. Audio is also given some polish, making it smoother. What remains is a game that very much feels like you are playing the 1993 version, without having to be punished by the graphics and audio available at the time.
It’s actually really a great update. The problem with Secret of Monkey Island is the updates changed the game too much, Day of the Tentacle rises to that challenge, keeping it’s classic feel. Even returning gamers might be annoyed by the lack of hint system though. On the one hand it does give the experience more authenticity. On the other, no one would have been hurt by adding it so why not?
The humor is still great, some of the jokes might have suffered a little with age. Overall though the game will still give people some giggles, and it’s safe to say it retains it’s uniqueness well. There are also extras in the game including concept art, and commentary.
The game is fun. Despite my complaints about the hint system I would still highly recommend this. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and massively entertaining. It has nostalgia for people that miss the Lucas Arts games of the past, but enough updates to bring in new gamers as well. If you like adventure games, humor, and stories that stand out as being singular then there’s no reason to pass this game by.