Day of the Tentacle Remastered
Day of the Tentacle Remastered is the latest winner of the recent trend where people everywhere have shown that they’re feeling nostalgic about games of yore — which, in computer game time, means games more than 15 years old. We’ve seen all sorts of HD versions, Enhanced Editions, and Remastered games, and sometimes new developers with iconic employees — like Double Fine Productions with Tim Schafer — make new games reminiscent of old games. Hollywood has tried this, too, but in their case it’s way more about being lazy than anybody clamoring for remakes of WarGames or Jumanji.
Before I can talk about Day of the Tentacle Remastered, I have to give a short history lesson. Once upon a time (back in those “yore” days again), LucasArts was a developer of excellent adventure games, including all-time classics like The Secret of Monkey Island and Sam & Max: Hit the Road. In 1987 they released Maniac Mansion, where a group of high school students travel to Dr. Fred’s mansion to rescue one of their friends from an evil fate. In 1993 LucasArts followed up that game with Day of the Tentacle, where one of Dr. Fred’s tentacles takes over the world, and you have to send three high school students through time to stop it.
In Day of the Tentacle, you control the three high school students: Bernard (a science geek, complete with physics text book, who was also in Maniac Mansion), Hoagie (a rock band roadie with a penchant for belching), and Laverne (a crazy blonde with a disturbing laugh). After Purple Tentacle drinks some toxic sludge that turns him super intelligent and aggressive, you decide that the only way to stop him is to go back in time to the day before, and turn off the Sludge-O-Matic machine in Dr. Fred’s basement. However, instead of traveling as intended, Hoagie is sent 200 years into the past, Bernard stays in the present, and Laverne is sent 200 years into the future. This sets up some kooky and whimsical puzzles, where not only do you need to stop Purple Tentacle, but you also have to get Hoagie and Laverne back to the current time.
Unlike Maniac Mansion, where the students could work together to solve puzzles, in Day of the Tentacle, they’re separated by a lot of time, which makes things more complicated. The students can share inventory objects by flushing them into their Chron-O-Johns (which they used to travel through time), and some of the more creative sequences involve how solving a puzzle in one time period can affect what’s going on in the other time periods. For example, when Laverne arrives in the future, she lands in a tree, and she’s unable to do anything. So one of the earlier time period characters has to solve a puzzle to cut down the tree in their time period, which causes it to disappear in hers.
Day of the Tentacle was an excellent adventure when it came out in 1993, and it’s still an excellent adventure today — even in its original format. However, discussing Day of the Tentacle the game is not really my objective today (although if talking about it causes more people to discover it, then excellent). No, the target of this review is what Double Fine Productions did to Day of the Tentacle to create the Remastered version.
Day of the Tentacle came out just before Windows really took control of PC computing. That is, it’s a DOS game, which means getting it to run now requires a little bit of work (and some knowledge of utilities like DOSBox or ScummVM). So the first thing Double Fine did for the Remastered version of the game was to make it work with modern operating systems, including Windows and Mac OS X. Better yet, they also added support for wide screen monitors, so you no longer have to play it windowed or stretched out or with black borders.
Next, Double Fine improved the graphics and the sound of the game. Day of the Tentacle used some form of VGA graphics when it came out, but now all of the pixelation is gone, and the Remastered version looks just as good as any other modern day adventure (or at least those with an intentionally cartoony style). For the sound, however, I couldn’t tell the difference. If anything major happened there, it’s subtle.
But probably the biggest improvement to the game came through Double Fine’s modernizing of the interface. The original interface had a block of verbs, the current character’s inventory, and the student portraits all on the screen all the time, which greatly reduced the playable area (but made all of the scenes “widescreen,” which probably made it easier to convert them to the Remastered version). The new interface uses a context-sensitive menu. You right-click on an item, and then you choose one of the actions that spring up around it. The new system doesn’t require any space, and it makes the game a little bit easier because it only includes relevant actions for an object, so you have fewer things to choose from when you’re stuck and you start trying everything. The new interface also includes a key to show the hotspots for the current scene (well, most of them anyway). About the only feature the new interface is missing is double clicking to instantly exit one scene for another, and so you have to watch the characters do a lot of walking.
Along with the improvements, Day of the Tentacle Remastered also includes some fun extras, like a developer’s commentary (including Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, who were the creative directors for the game), Steam achievements, concept art, and a button to switch the game between the old and new looks. Plus, since the original Day of the Tentacle included Maniac Mansion (Bernard can play it in his part of the game), Day of the Tentacle Remastered includes it as well. However, Maniac Mansion didn’t get remastered, so it’s pretty much just like its 1987 version, albeit with only one save slot.
Overall, Day of the Tentacle Remastered is a by-the-numbers but effective update of the original Day of the Tentacle. Double Fine didn’t add any new content to the game — like some other remastered versions have done lately — but it’s easy to make an argument that Day of the Tentacle didn’t need anything extra. Currently, the game has some synching issues between the dialogue and the subtitles, but that seems like an easy thing for Double Fine to fix with a patch. So if you’ve never played Day of the Tentacle, or if you’re like me and you haven’t played it in 20 years, then Day of the Tentacle Remastered is an easy game to recommend. Now we just need Double Fine to tackle some of the other LucasArts adventures.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
This review is based on a digital copy of Day of the Tentacle Remastered for the PC provided by Double Fine Productions.