It’s time to take a trip into the murky past, into the olden days of gaming when point and click adventure games thrived and everyone was well versed in their frequently baffling leaps of logic. First released back in 1993, Day of the Tentacle is actually a sequel to 1987’s Maniac Mansion, not that you need to know anything about that game to enjoy its sequel.
The creative forces behind Day of the Tentacle were Dave Grossman, best known for his work at Telltale, and Tim Schafer, the founder of Double Fine. In fact, it’s Double Fine that developed this remastered version of Schafer’s prior work, bringing this excellent game to a whole new generation.
So here’s the summary: a weird purple tentacle monster, created by the previous game’s mad scientist, drinks some toxic sludge which results in him growing some flipper-like hands, gaining incredible intelligence and searing a desire to take over the world into his brain. Dr. Fred wants to kill the Purple Tentacle, but Green Tentacle, the harmless brother, doesn’t want that to happen and puts in a call to old friend Bernard Bernoulli, who arrives with his roommates: the barmy medical student Laverne and heavy-metal roadie Hoagie. If that wasn’t crazy enough, Dr. Fred pulls another mad scientist moment and accidentally sends Laverne 200-years into the future where Purple Tentacle now rules with an iron…uh, flipper, and hurls Hoagie 200-years backwards where the hotel is being used by the Founding Fathers.
If that sounds bloody crazy then you’d be right. Things like logic, common sense and realism were words that Grossman and Schafer firmly believed were made-up, and so Day of the Tentacles story is like a journey through someone’s brain if that person was tripping on LSD after watching Saturday morning cartoons. But it makes for an entertaining, crazy story filled with zany humour.
With three different characters in three different eras, the puzzle-solving gameplay involves changing between members of the trio. By doing something in the past, present or future things can be altered in other timelines. Considering when this game was made the character jumping gimmick is especially cool. As for the puzzles, well, they can be frustrating because like almost every other point and click of the time Day of the Tentacles solutions can be weirder than its story. It revels in making you grab random items and shove them into other items in the vague, vain hope that something might actually work. In other words, if you like things to make sense it might be smart to avoid this one.
As a nice bonus, the remaster lets you jump between the original graphics and the updated ones. You can even mix and match elements of the original look and feel, like having the 1993 audio with the modern graphics. It’s a really solid update, and every element feels like love and care was poured into it.
Day of the Tentacle is a great piece of gaming history and worth playing just for that if. But that doesn’t mean it also isn’t a great game in its own right and despite its advancing years and its need to walk with a cane while muttering something about whippersnappers, it holds up remarkably well.