LucasArts’ first game was actually an adaptation of the film Labyrinth, complete with an 8-bit David Bowie, but it wasn’t until Maniac Mansion that their world renowned SCUMM engine was born. It would later see constant refinements and implementations in classic point & click adventures such as Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
Day of the Tentacle was the long awaited sequel to Maniac Mansion and the pinnacle of LucasArt’s library in technical merit. It had stunning visual design for the time and complete voice acting that was well directed. After Grim Fandango last year, it was only a matter of time before Day of the Tentacle would see the same remastered treatment.
For those who haven’t played Day of the Tentacle, there’s a key reason why this one was remade: the humour. Even to this day, despite how offensively 90s the game is, there are laughs and sharp dialogue that not only stand the test of time, but also show the wit of LucasArts in its adventure game heyday.
As with so many 90s adventure games, there are the “rub everything against this object” moments that the era was known for. Logic does creep into the puzzle design more often than not and there aren’t many dexterity-based solutions to act out, but it was an unfortunate trope of the adventure game genre.
As far as remasters go, Day of the Tentacle has received an almost perfect upgrade. For those afraid that the art style will be updated, don’t despair. The weird cartoony visuals have been preserved and in many places updated to modern standards. If you wish to see the difference, you are able to do so with the press of one button, a trick that similar Remastered versions of the classic point & click adventures from LucasArts have pulled off since The Secret of Monkey Island.
Notice how I say “almost”. The other major change is that there are two control methods that can be used no matter whether you’re using the original SCUMM engine’s method or the brand new dial system. They’re both easy to use and you can indeed toggle when they’re used. Even the new dial system works in the classic visual style, should you so desire.
This on its own has no problem, but oddly it does have the side effect of putting the game in a widescreen format when using the dial system but a 4:3 resolution when using the classic SCUMM format. I’d rather that more work went into making the SCUMM system compatible with widescreen resolutions and then given the option to change between resolutions. To illustrate this, I have taken the liberty of taking four nearly identical screenshots to show this weird oversight.
Another odd omission is in the sound department. Old and new versions of the music, which incidentally are masterful renditions of the original piece, are able to be toggled in the options menu. In both classic and remastered modes though, only new sound effects play. This is most obvious when hearing the tentacles move, yet not have that satisfying squelch as they land. I realise this is a minor nit-pick at best, but it broke the immersion for me.
If you know what you’re doing, you can have the game beaten in its entirety in around three hours. A developer’s commentary is there from the get-go and a library of concept art to unlock throughout the game. For those wondering, yes, you can still access the full version of Maniac Mansion from the comfort of Weird Ed Edison’s PC. Sadly, there are no HD trimmings here, which is a missed opportunity.
While nowhere near as ambitious an undertaking as Grim Fandango Remastered, there is obviously a lot of love and care that has gone into Day of the Tentacle Remastered. There are most certainly still the same old gameplay warts that came from that era of gaming that don’t really translate well and some minor rough edges to the remaster, but it’s well preserved and the updates to presentation are marvellous. This is definitely a revamped classic worth a look.
Version Tested: PC