It was a matter of time until I broke my rule on posting only Nintendo Switch reviews. Now I’m making the transition to the PS4 as I’ve been playing it quite a lot lately – in particular, Day of the Tentacle Remastered. Plus it coincides with me unlocking my first platinum trophy. Now I’m a player.
If you aren’t familiar with Day of the Tentacle Remastered, then perhaps you aren’t familiar with LucasArts games either. Most fans would sniff out all the titles in the collection, or have at least played them. The Secret of Monkey Island is arguably the most famous. Not just because it’s a fantastic game, but it was one of the earliest point and click titles that came to the consoles. Day of the Tentacle Remastered is not available on the Switch at this time (16:10), but it would be a perfect match.
The original Day of the Tentacle came out in the early 90s – 1993 I believe, and I had the game on 3.5″ floppy disks. Ha – floppy. Further down the line, a CD-ROM version came out that was voice acted, so I went and bought that version too. It’s another point and click adventure game from LucasArts, who along with Sierra, were at the top of the game in them good ol’ days. Point and click games were one part on the menu for a long and healthy gaming session. I can’t do any justice for the genre in this post, so instead, I’ll point you to a fantastic book entitled The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games by Bitmap Books.
So, there was this mansion…
In the game, you play one of three teenagers who arrive at Bates Motel. No, not really, but it might as well be. The motel was the former home in Maniac Mansion, initially on the PC but ported over to the NES too, and the dwellers are the same family in the title mentioned above. It’s an adventure, you can’t die in the game and the challenge is to solve puzzles. But I haven’t finished the story, have I?
The trio – Bernard (an original from Maniac Mansion), Hoagie and Laverne must stop the evil purple tentacle from taking over the world and enslaving humanity. Cue time travelling toilets that keep Bernard in the present day, Hoagie bumping fists with George Washington and Laverne working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, in the future. Between the group, you solve problems in your time that help change the past, present and future – interchanging items you collect on the way by flushing down the John.
In the present day, toxic waste spills out of the motel – originating from the ‘mad’ scientist Dr Fred Edison’s basement laboratory. Of the two tentacles that reside in the motel, nice but dim green tentacle and the evil purple tentacle, the latter drinks the ooze and mutates to form super intelligence and arms. This sets the wheels in motion for world domination, naturally, and green tentacle contacts Bernard for help. Purple tentacles plan is infallible (it would seem), so Dr Fred attempts to send the teens back in time to stop any of this ever happening. The only problem is Hoagie goes back 100 years, Laverne 100 years in the future and Bernard remaining in the motel in the present day. Bernard is essentially the brains of the team anyway, so coordinates everything from the motel. Like a boss.
Bernard is the only playable character at first as the others are stuck in their respective times. As you progress, you unlock the other two and can switch between each, passing objects back and forth, as long as they all have access to the bogs. Laverne is the exception as she’s imprisoned by the tentacles at first.
Curse you, cursor!
I wouldn’t say Day of the Tentacle Remastered is difficult. Having completed this possibly into the double digits, I did find that I forgot the solutions to some of the puzzles/item combinations. You won’t wander around aimlessly so much though as there aren’t that many locations. It’s a process of elimination. In the remastered version though, if you tap up on the d-pad, points of interests will light up, allowing for you to identify any items you need to pick up or use.
Sure it’s a short game and not overly challenging, but the dialogue is the star for me here – it’s witty throughout and lots of in-jokes. As a LucasArts game, you have the ‘Easter eggs of things like Star Wars references (Bernard says to Dr Fred at one stage that he is their only hope). Something I missed the first time around was a Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders poster, which made me want for a remastered version of that too.
As a console version, does it translate as well? Yes, it does, but I would choose a mouse any day over a controller. With Grim Fandango Remastered, the controls were a little more advanced/modern, and you could control Manny with the analogue stick and interact with characters and objects quite naturally. Most of the older adventure games required you to move the cursor and interact using verb commands. LucasArts initially used the SCUMM system. You would click a point of interest and then select the verb, i.e. talk to, push, pull, turn on. Day of the Tentacle Remastered introduced the verb wheel so pressing square on a person or item will bring up a series of images that represent an action. However, for die-hards and nostalgia fans in general, you can press the touchpad button and switch to the original graphics and have a list of the actions available. We’ll touch on that next but just to finish off here; controls are better on a mouse, but it certainly doesn’t feel clunky on a console either.
Unlocking the door to the mansion
When Day of the Tentacle first came out, the visuals popped immediately. Bear in mind that the first iteration didn’t full voice acting and only text. When the voiceovers kicked in, this game felt like you were playing a cartoon. The original artwork was all hand-drawn, and it shows – the style is just brilliant. I’d say that there were some Hanna Barbera and also Looney Tunes influences in there – especially the sound effects.
All these console youths are used to HD so with a remastered version, they’re going to alienate a large market if they just re-released it like before. This time around the graphics have been redrawn. They remain the same as before but offer much more clarity and as relevant today as they were back in the day. Again, you can switch to the older graphics if that floats your goat. You’ll also find a couple of extras like a full commentary from the creators. It’s like the equivalent of an analysis of Raging Bull, voiced by Scorsese. Very insightful, but within context, a lot of fun. Plus you can replay the original Maniac Mansion from within the motel.
I mentioned earlier that I was a fan of Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. Around that time, there were a handful of titles that had the same appearance and Maniac Mansion was one of them. Unlike other point and click adventures, Maniac Mansion gave you the choice of characters from the beginning. One of them was mandatory – Dave, but you could choose too more. For reasons unknown, I never really got into Maniac Mansion, so I only played the game to unlock an additional trophy. There’s nothing terrible about the game – it’s a pivotal title for adventure gamers. I personally didn’t get excited about it.
More like a week
This week has been more Week of the Tentacle. I started it at the weekend as I thought I’d clean up my library by unlocking some trophies (see the feature I wrote on trophy hunting). It wasn’t too strenuous to get my first platinum in an adventure game. As I only recently finished Grim Fandango Remastered again, I felt it only appropriate to relive Day of the Tentacle Remastered again.
The challenges are simple – talk to this character at a specific time, nuke the hamster (a given, considering the Maniac Mansion reference) and a few others that were common sense. Some of the achievements were a little more troublesome and time-consuming. In particular, there was a trophy for not skipping a cutscene. As I didn’t see a notification when I finished the game, I must have skipped one in error. I overthought it and then found that I wasn’t skipping dialogue either, in fear of ballsing it up. In reality, there were only a few cutscenes, and dialogue could be skipped. Still, it took me an hour here and there during the week to go through unlocking duties.
Without a doubt, Day of the Tentacle Remastered is one of the best point and click adventures. It’s quite possibly one of the shortest, but the experience is up there with the best. It’s prompted me to get the Monkey Island games now on the PSN, Full Throttle and even a non-LucasArts game, Broken Age. I have completed and owned each one on PC, but keen to relive my youth again. Except for Broken Age. I’ve never played it, but it’s Tim Schafer, a key person in Day of the Tentacle and whose company Double Fine re-released this. Now would be a good time to also mention Brütal Legend – also by Schaffer and featuring Jack Black. I have this on the PS3, and it was awesome.