Day of the Tentacle Remastered Review – Return to Maniac Mansion (PS4)
Gamers of all ages rejoiced back at E3 2014 when Double Fine Productions announced they would be remastering the classic adventure game Grim Fandango for PlayStation 4 and Vita. Most of the people celebrating had probably grown up with the game and were relishing the chance to relive all the fun, humor and wacky energy that LucasArts put into those old PC properties. Well, the good news is that those revelers have more reason to celebrate with Day of the Tentacle Remastered on PS4 — but what might be even better is that those who have never experienced the wonder of Tim Schafer and friends’ old projects now have a chance to play an important piece of gaming history. Filled to the brim with wacky energy, weirdo characters and a winningly whimsical score by a trio of talented composers, Day of the Tentacle may not have the same impact it did when it landed back in 1993, but it’s still a fun adventure with buckets of charm to spare.
A Fresh Coat of Paint
Let’s get the “Remastered” bit out of the way first, shall we? Day of the Tentacle looks better than ever thanks to a new set of lovingly-crafted cartoon graphics, which maintain the charming aesthetic of the originals while making them even more vibrant and detailed. In addition to bringing Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne into HD, the new visuals also provide a much more intuitive and modern interface that makes interacting with the world that much more of a pleasure. If you’re opposed to this newfangled “remastering” business, though, or just curious to see what gamers were looking at back in 1993, you can seamlessly switch back and forth between the classic and new graphics on the fly by pressing the DualShock 4’s touchpad (obviously if you’re playing the PS4 version).
Wired for Better Sound
No matter what version of the visuals you’re looking at, you’ll get to reap the benefits of the updated soundtrack, which makes the original score by Clint Bajakian, Peter McConnell and Michael Land sound even bouncier and more playful than it originally was. You can even turn on a developer’s’ commentary to get insight from Schafer, the former two composers and more, who have a lot to say about their 23-year-old creation. The only aspect of the presentation that hasn’t been totally fixed is the voiceovers: there’s nothing really wrong with the performances themselves — on the contrary, they’re hilarious and a big part of the game’s charm — it’s just the fact that some are delivered at a barely-audible volume, while others are annoyingly loud. The former can result in the missing of important details, so you might want to turn on subtitles in order to catch all the dialogue.
Does It Hold Up?
The biggest question, of course, is whether or not a more than two-decades-old title like this is any fun to play anymore — and I’m happy to report that it absolutely is. Whether you played Day of the Tentacle on a floppy back in ’93 or are experiencing this influential LucasArts treasure for the first time, there’s an amazing amount of humor and classic point-and-click adventuring to enjoy. Of course, those who have fond memories of the game have the added benefit of nostalgia, but that’s not necessarily an exclusive benefit — if you’ve ever enjoyed the warm and fuzzy joy of a classic adventure game, you’re likely to feel the memories flooding back whether or not they were with this particular entry.
As a sequel to Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle Remastered uses the old “time travel” plotline to inject new life into the bizarre setting and characters of the original game — and while that may seem like a cliche from a modern storytelling mindset, it’s used to delightful effect here. When Purple Tentacle drinks from the polluted water behind Dr. Fred Edison’s lab, he grows a pair of arms, sees a massive spike in his intellect and gains a sudden hankering for world domination. But when Dr. Fred plans to solve the problem by killing both Purple and his simpleton brother Green Tentacle, a plea from the latter brings one of the original game’s heroes — token geek Bernard Bernoulli — back to the mansion to solve the issue. Bernard brings along his friends Hoagie and Laverne, and Dr. Fred vows to send them back in time using his diamond-powered time machine. Alas, Dr. Fred is a horrible tightwad and attempts to use an imitation diamond in his own invention, which sends the three to entirely different time periods: Bernard gets stuck in the present-day mansion; Hoagie ends up in the past when it served as an inn for early American founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; and Laverne ends up in the future, when Purple Tentacle rules the world and tentacles own human beings as pets.
Past, Present and Future
Naturally, the game has all sorts of fun with this triple time period premise, adding an extra layer to the item-based puzzling of the classic LucasArts games. Using the toilet in each of the time machines (humorously called the “Chron-O-John”), you can send items back and forth between the three characters, where they can then be further combined and/or used for solutions to the game’s numerous puzzles — often altering the situation in the different time periods as well. These are often humorous (and full of satisfying “a-ha!” moments): you’ll change the shape and design of the American flag, freeze and thaw a hamster, and even recreate Ben Franklin’s famous kite exercise by the time you’ve run through all Day of the Tentacle Remastered has to offer. Unfortunately, not all of the solutions are totally intuitive: as is quite common for this sort of old-school adventure game, there are quite a few puzzles that are frustratingly obtuse — which will have more than a few players groaning and Googling a walkthrough, a stark contrast to the great “Eureka!” moments of the best ones.
Alas, Poor LucasArts! We Knew Them
With LucasArts reduced to a licensor under Disney at this point, Day of the Tentacle Remastered serves as a sobering reminder of the brand’s storied past as a home for some of the most talented storytellers and developers in the gaming industry. Overflowing with buckets of self-aware humor and charm, and bringing the beloved point-and-click cartoon adventure into gorgeous HD, this should be a priority for both fans of the original game as well as anyone looking to play an important and influential part of gaming history. While not all of the game stands toe-to-toe with modern expectations — with some puzzles remaining obnoxiously hard to figure out and voiceover volume that’s sometimes inconsistent — the vast majority of this Maniac Mansion sequel passes the old “test of time” with flying colors.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.