Purple Tentacle is back in action!
To relive the experience of playing an older game for the first time is a special thing. But when playing an outdated game there’s always a separate lens applied, an unconscious awareness of technologies that exist in games made today. “Nostalgia” becomes the buffer that allows us to remove or at least placate those biases, but regardless this lens still lurks in the background.
Remastered games give us the closest experience to what it must have been like to originally play without any buffers or biases (with the exception of living your existence in a cave). I never had the pleasure of playing Day of the Tentacle when it was fresh, but I’ve been granted a second chance with updated technology and it’s one I won’t pass on this time around.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC [reviewed])
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Released: March 22, 2016
Day of the Tentacle is the sequel to the classic Ron Gilbert hit Maniac Mansion, following one of its original cast members Bernard back to Dr Edison’s twisted mansion to save the day from an evil Purple Tentacle who aims to take over the world. Geeky Bernard is accompanied by Hoagie, a dim but tubular metal rocker, and Laverne, a slightly disturbed med student with a penchant for stabbing things. After being trapped in three separate time periods, the three work together across 600 years to foil Purple Tentacle’s plans through exploring and solving puzzles in the mansion.
The gameplay is very much akin to point and click adventures of the period, with items that can be picked up, pushed, pulled, or used with other items or characters. Moving forward in the game is achieved by being able to put the right items together for a particular situation, or pursuing various dialogue options. Of course with this being a Tim Schafer creation much of the logic behind the puzzles is, well, not really logical at all. A lot of progression in the game depends on your ability to piece seemingly unrelated situations and items together across three different characters.
To move forward you need to send items across time to other characters through a port-a-potty that doubles as a time machine, so paying attention to each person’s situation and keeping tabs on which items might be useful to other characters is key. However, the game plants a lot of red herrings so there’s also a balance of not thinking too deeply about a situation or an item. It’s definitely a fine line to walk since there are many puzzles that have off-the-wall logic but others that are fairly straightforward. I enjoyed this dynamic but I definitely needed a lot of internet guidance throughout my playthrough.
The plot is as silly as ever, and nothing’s been edited or touched for the most part in this realm. In fact, I noticed a few times when bugs that were present in the original are still found in the HD version (ie missing sound clips). There is of course a lot of wacky nonsensical humor that people have come to love in Tim Schafer’s games — from asking John Hancock why he signs his name so big, to having philosophical discussions with a mummy wearing a pirate hat, and watching IRS agents obsess over paperwork — I wouldn’t have it any other way and I’m glad nothing was edited in that sense.
This enhanced version of Day of the Tentacle is much improved from the original — the most obvious of which is hand drawn clear, pristine graphics which captures the spirit of the original well. While the voice acting is still the same, sound quality got a hefty facelift with completely remastered sound effects and music. And like other remastered Lucasarts games, you can switch seamlessly back and forth between the classic and new version with the press of a button.
The gameplay is also made much easier with a new, updated radial system which allows you to view and click on your options in a circle after clicking on the area. This not only frees up screen space (as the lower verb menu is now retired) but makes it far easier to click through options. You can also cycle directly through your inventory with a button, allowing you to use it against other items in a room quickly. These shortcuts make the items much easier to navigate and saves a lot of time and energy, especially when guesswork is at play.
Other gameplay features were added including a highlighting tool that shows you which items can be interacted with, and various minor effects sprinkled throughout the game to spruce it up (like animated wind graphics). The autosave feature is really useful and saved me – literally – from losing an hour long playthrough when my power cut out. Controller support is also a much-appreciated function. There’s also over a hundred pieces of concept art to peruse if you’re interested in behind-the-scenes artwork.
The developer’s commentary is probably my favorite addition as I had the chance to learn the reasonings behind why certain game decisions were made. For example, I learned that there were originally meant to be 6 characters vs the three, but one turned into an NPC while the other two were cut completely. I really enjoyed this feature and highly recommend turning it on for new and old players alike. However, be warned that you can’t really move around easily as the commentary ends abruptly if you decide to leave the room.
Day of the Tentacle remastered is an excellent way to feed your 90s soul with good, nonsensical fun. The remastered graphics capture the cartoonish charm of the original perfectly, yet the updated sound and controls give it a much more modern feel. They managed to capture the original spirit of the game while still smoothing over any bumps that may have cropped up due to its age. I’m glad I had a chance to play it through this lens, and I’d definitely recommend for any fans of this genre to give it a go, or for old fans of the game to relive the experience in a shinier fashion.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]