Day of the Tentacle Remastered review

Game Info
Box Art N/A
Platform Win, Mac, PS Vita, PS4
Publisher Double Fine Productions
Developer Double Fine Productions
Release Date Mar 22, 2016

Day of the Tentacle Remastered seeks to travel back to a time when adventure games were at their height, and manages to hit that mark.


The purest entry in the growing catalog of LucasArts remasters, Day of the Tentacle has been updated by developer Double Fine with all of its charm and characteristic clever puzzles and liberal use of humor. Day of the Tentacle Remastered truly feels like a labor of love. Unfortunately, a new coat of paint provides some much-needed gloss, but can't quite hide some poor pacing and confusing puzzle design.

the game is about a mutant, sludge-eating purple tentacle's dastardly plot to take over the world
Day of the Tentacle Remastered screenshot 02 1920

The sequel to the seminal adventure game Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle concerns itself with a mutant, sludge-eating purple tentacle's dastardly plot to take over the world. The game drops players in the shoes of three protagonists: the nebbish geek Bernard, the laid-back Hoagie and the spaced-out Laverne. With the help of mad scientist Dr. Fred, they set course for yesterday in their half time machine, half porta-potty Chron-O-John when disaster strikes. Hoagie is trapped 200 years in the past and Laverne 200 years in the future, while Bernard lands back in the present.

This setup gives Day of the Tentacle plenty of chances for complex puzzles alongside humorous callbacks and call-forwards. The game is set in a single location, the Maniac Mansion of its predecessor. But each character must explore the mansion in their respective time period. Characters rely on each other more often than they did in Maniac Mansion, and that cooperation makes the adventure seem grander than ever.

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Puzzles are the game's true strength

Puzzles are the game's true strength. Day of the Tentacle avoids the extreme intricacy of earlier LucasArts titles or the brutal standards of Sierra's adventure games. Solutions cross time and items switch hands, and it all somehow manages to flow naturally. Redesigning the American flag in the past so that it is different in the future, or freezing a hamster in an icebox so it can survive over the centuries, are not just deliciously devilish acts of cartoon logic but also genuinely inventive and funny solutions to problems. The leaps of logic might be a bit wide, but they pay major dividends in a way that doesn't seem to play out in modern adventure games, including Tim Schafer's own Broken Age.

The solutions to Day of the Tentacle's puzzles are wonderful — attaching a battery to Ben Franklin's kite so that a lighting bolt recharges it; decorating a mummy so it will win a "human show"; drying a sweater for hundreds of years so it shrinks to the right size. But the paths toward them are less than elegant. Day of the Tentacle isn't great at guiding players toward solutions, and it's easy to grab objects you won't need until much further down the line on another character. It grinds the game to a halt, even an adventure game.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered manages to shine considerably more in the 'remastered' area. The transition from pixel art to something more hand-drawn is striking, as backgrounds transform into bright and joyful cartoon landscapes. Spot-on character designs bring the cast to new life, and cleaned-up dialogue recordings and a new, non-MIDI soundtrack are highly appreciated as well. Day of the Tentacle Remastered takes great care to give the player a sense of the game's historical worth with a large library of unlockable concept art and a very competent developer's commentary track; this helps place the game in a proper context. The ability to jump between the classic game and the remaster at any time preserves the original while highlighting its improvements.

However, Day of the Tentacle Remastered's most functional changes involve alterations to the user interface and experience that make the game easier to play. The original version cluttered the screen with a list of verbs and inventory items. Remastered borrows a page from later LucasArts games like Sam and Max Hit the Road, handling actions with a pop-up wheel full of options. This more modern interface gives Day of the Tentacle Remastered more room to breathe, and it makes for swifter navigation and interaction.

This edit is an important one, as Day of the Tentacle's charm wanes far more quickly than that of other LucasArts titles.

Not all pieces of the game are equal. Bernard's aimless wandering in the present can't compete with Hoagie's interactions with the Founding Fathers, while Laverne's sedate mannerisms undercut the charm of her puzzle solutions. The game starts strong, but its momentum takes a noticeable hit toward the middle. An extended sequence of back-and-forth jumping between Bernard and Laverne offers a painful and dispirited stretch of gameplay, though Day of the Tentacle finds some of its initial magic again in time for the finale.

Some of Day of the Tentacle Remastered's brightest moments are spent entirely away from puzzles, in chatting with the game's characters. The dialogue is snappy, and visual gags are at a premium — time traveling can shift environments or even explain how they got to be that way to begin with.

But Day of the Tentacle often pushes hard on jokes that don't quite land. This is most prominent in a puzzle involving left-handed and right-handed hammers, which only manages lukewarm laughs thanks to some physical humor. A gag about the rights to Maniac Mansion ends up becoming the cornerstone of a puzzle that's too self-referential for its own good. In these instances, the cartoon logic grows a little too ludicrous, and more than a bit tiresome.

Wrap Up:

Day of the Tentacle Remastered is a well-polished time capsule

Day of the Tentacle Remastered provides a wonderfully crafted recreation of the original game, and Double Fine's streamlining of some of its rougher edges makes it a more approachable experience for modern audiences. But its revisions only go so deep, and can't quite manage to elevate source material that elicits chuckles rather than the riotous giggle fits it clearly expects.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered was reviewed using a pre-release "final" downloadable Steam key provided by Double Fine Productions. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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