Back to the Mansion: Day of the Tentacle Remastered

First published in  CubedGamers (Printed Edition): April2015

With original designer Tim Schafer at the helm, it’s hard to imagine what could have gone wrong with Double Fine’s re release of Schafer’s own 1993 Day of the Tentacle, the latest of the classic Lucasarts games to undergo the remastering process. Indeed, it is a flawless reproduction of a near perfect original. Following Lucasarts’ own remastering of Secret of Money Island (2009) and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (2010) and Double Fine’s new take on Grim Fandango (2015), it appears that the industry is beginning to hit its stride in providing an opportunity for older and younger fans alike to experience these games for the first time, or all over again.

Long viewed as one of the greatest adventure game releases of all time, Double Fine have done all they can to ensure that every aspect of Day of the Tentacle has been overhauled for the 21st century. Most impressive is the updating of the stylised background art into glorious HD, and the wholesale reproduction of the voiceover speech from the original DACT tapes to ensure the highest possible audio fidelity. The package is wrapped up with the obligatory concept art and developers commentary, which is informative and amusing. And for those who just can’t take all of the technology, a press of the F1 key will return you to 1993.

For those who haven’t played the original, Day of the Tentacle (actually the sequel to Lucasarts Maniac Mansion – which is included as an in-game bonus) follows the hilarious time-travelling escapades of three title characters as they attempt to rescue the world from an insane mutant tentacle bent on world domination. Returning to the scene of his earlier adventure, Bernard, the typical nerd, is joined by deranged caffeine addict Laverne and Hoagie, a heavy metal roadie, as they work to stop Purple Tentacle across three time periods.

They accomplish this by doing what adventure game characters know best, combining and trading a range of random inventory items, with a malfunctioning time machine disguised as a portable toilet acting as the delivery system between characters. Though some modern gamers unused to the wild leaps of logic typical to adventure games may get confused, the puzzles are generally well designed, with a common theme being the meddling in the fabric of space time that allows the player to overcome an obstacle, find an appropriate disguise, or find a vacuum cleaner where there was none before.

Sporting a loveable cast of side-characters, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, a travelling salesman, a talking horse, and Ted Edison, a 3000 year old mummy, Day of the Tentacle contains some laugh out moments courtesy of the stellar voice cast, one of the first to be made up of hired voice talent, led by Richard Sanders (WKRP in Cincinnati) as Bernard and popular voice-over artist Nick Jameson, who would return to Lucasarts to play psychopathic bunny-thing Max in Sam and Max Hit the Road.

Looking forward, the triumph of this remastering bodes well for Double Fine’s next project, a re release of Schafer’s 1995 game, Full Throttle, his first game as solo lead designer. The futuristic realism of that games graphics – a dystopian tale of biker gangs and murder complete with heavy rock soundtrack – will prove an even bigger challenge. However, all the signs suggest that they will triumph again. After that, why not go to the next level, and take on the under- appreciated gem that is Lucasarts cerebral science fiction masterpiece, The Dig.

Day of the Tentacle is an undisputed classic that still meets expectations a generation after its initial release. For fans of the original, it is a must have purchase that will amuse you for as long as it takes you to recall the solutions to all of the puzzles.  For those new to adventure games, there is no better starting off point to exploring the genre than Day of the Tentacle, a game of limitless charm, fabulous humour, and an engaging and warped cartoon sensibility.

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