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Day of the Tentacle Remastered

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: March 22, 2016


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PS4 Review - 'Day of the Tentacle Remastered'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 21, 2016 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Day of the Tentacle is a mind-bending, time travel, cartoon puzzle adventure game in which three unlikely friends work together to prevent an evil mutated purple tentacle from taking over the world!

Back in the heyday of adventure games, Maniac Mansion by LucasArts was developed on an adventure game engine known as SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), which  became the basis for many of the famous LucasArts adventure games. While Maniac Mansion might have been the originator, its sequel Day of the Tentacle is easily the more popular of the two. It was more refined, more focused and overall better than the first game. Over two decades later, Day of the Tentacle Remastered gives players a chance to revisit the classic to see what all the fuss was about.

Day of the Tentacle follows the events of the original Maniac Mansion game. The insane Dr. Fred is pumping toxic sludge into the river behind his house, but two of his experimental pets, Purple Tentacle and Green Tentacle, stumble across it. Purple Tentacle drinks the ooze and evolves into a mad genius with plans for world domination, prompting Dr. Fred to lock both tentacles in the basement. Green Tentacle asks his old friend, the super-nerdy Bernard, for help. Bernard promptly enlists his roommates Laverne and Hoagie, and the three try to help the tentacles. Unfortunately, a series of wacky antics occur, and the three friends are lost in time and space. They must find a way to get everyone home before Purple Tentacle takes over the world.

Day of the Tentacle is a time capsule of the late '80s and early '90s. The wacky and random humor, style and voice acting bring that era to mind. As such, it's a bit of an acquired taste. If you're nostalgic for that era, it's a clever and creative game. If you aren't, then it's more mixed. Some of the humor is funny, but some puzzles and jokes are pretty dated and are bewildering for people born in this millennium.

The puzzles in Day of the Tentacle are fairly basic SCUMM-style puzzles that use one of a few basic commands. You can OPEN something, PUSH or PULL it, or USE it, in addition to other optional commands. If the game allows it, then one of the three characters interacts with it. You can also use items on objects, such as tying a rope to a pulley or moving a squeaky mattress from one frame to another. The remastered version allows you to streamline the selections by picking them from bubbles that pop up when you highlight an object. The big gimmick in Day of the Tentacle is time travel. Each of the three characters is trapped in a different time period and can interact by sending items through their time-traveling outhouse. This means puzzles involve trips back and forth over a 600-year time span to add some complex thinking to otherwise simple ideas.

The puzzles require a person who's versed in cartoon logic. One puzzle involves getting a hamster to the future, so Laverne can use it to solve a puzzle. Obviously, the answer is cryogenics. Shove the hamster into a nearby ice machine, and let the rules of cartoon logic take their course. Laverne can defrost it a few hundred years in the future by using a combination of a futuristic microwave and a sweater. It's that specific combination of dream logic and cartoon logic that only works if you let it. Almost every puzzle eventually makes sense. There are a few where the solution will probably make you groan at a hidden joke, but none require too much insanity.

For the most part, the puzzles in Day of the Tentacle are creative and clever. Once you wrap your brain around the logic, they feel oddly intuitive. The only real frustration can come from the fact that tools you need to solve the puzzles can be spread across time and space. This means that if you get stuck, it can be tough to figure out how to proceed. This can devolve into the time-honored tradition of trying everything on everything, which can involve passing items through the time portals and hoping to find the right solution. Fortunately, complete hint guides for Day of the Tentacle have been floating around since the dawn of the internet, so nobody should be stuck for too long. Still, be prepared for a lot of back-and-forth travel and trial and error.

Overall, very little has changed in the remastered version. There are few tweaks to smooth out gameplay, but they're relatively few and far between. The game has two graphical styles, and you can swap between them at will. One is the classic SCUMM visuals, which are nearly identical to the original presentation, and the other is a new HD remaster with redrawn artwork. While in the Remastered view, the interface is replaced by a pop-up menu that shows available options for any item in the environment. It makes it faster to choose your options, but it's not mind-blowing. Similarly, you can swap between characters at the touch of a button, which is a nice minor speed boost to the gameplay. The game also has a commentary track that can be activated by using the d-pad. The commentary is available by default in some areas, and in others, it's only triggered if you solve a puzzle or make a change to the environment. There are some neat bits of information buried there, such as the fact the game was originally intended to mimic Maniac Mansion with more playable characters. Certain areas also unlock concept art from the game, which you can view from the menu.

The big thing that soured the experience was a game-ruining bug. Partway through the game, the background sound began to skip. I saved my game, closed the program and opened it again only to find that the save files refused to start, including the built-in autosave and a manual save. They would play music over a black background, so I was forced to restart the entire game. It didn't happen again on a second playthrough, but it disruptive enough to be worth mentioning. Overall, the playthrough was smooth, but I noticed some odd sound bugs, and the game briefly locked up when concept art was unlocked. Assuming you don't get hit with the save bug, it's a solid remaster, but it's a doozy of an annoyance.

For the most part, the improvements to Day of the Tentacle's visuals are top-notch. The new artwork looks a little rough in places in that it mimics the lower frame rate of the original graphics, but the sprites are crisp and clear and capture the feeling of the original game quite well. There are even nice bits of extra detail that aren't present in the original style. The text and letters on some items in the environment are clear instead of being blurry messes. The fact that you can swap between the two styles means that even those who dislike the new graphics can stick with the older style. The voice acting is cheesy, which is appropriate for the time period but will sound odd to those who've never heard it before. It's low-budget acting, and it'll be up to the player to decide if that's charming or distracting. The soundtrack sounded crisp and clear aside from the aforementioned audio skipping bug, and it should hit the nostalgia buttons for Day of the Tentacle players.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered is a solid port of an excellent cult classic. The new features are largely for the best, although some annoying bugs drag down the experience. The game has aged relatively well, but the humor is fixed at a specific point in the early '90s. The puzzles are creative and clever, if sometimes obtuse. It's easy to see why Day of the Tentacle is considered one of the SCUMM engine's finest. It's not a game for everyone, but fans of old-school adventure games or Loony Toons-style humor will find a lot to like here. Gamers both young and old should get some laughs out of this quirky classic.

Score: 8.0/10

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