Review: Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PS4/PSV/PSTV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Day of the Tentacle Remastered
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4 1.8 GB) (PSV 1.0 GB)
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
Day of the Tentacle Remastered is also available on PC, Mac, Linux, and iOS.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 467 of the podcast.

Starting in 1987 with Maniac Mansion, LucasArts began offering a slew of adventure games that would use a new engine called SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion). These games would become legends over time with nary a stinker in the impressive list.

As the years passed, CD-ROM technology would become an affordable (yet frustrating) offering to gamers, and developers started experimenting with new ways to deliver more “interactive” experiences. Most early CD-based games relied heavily on full motion video or pre-rendered animations.

LucasArts took a different approach by adding fully voiced dialogue by “real actors”. That all started with the sequel to Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle. A standard floppy disc version was also offered that obviously didn’t include spoken dialogue.

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I’m a big fan of the SCUMM games and I’ve played them all numerous times. Day of the Tentacle holds a special place in my heart though, because I even helped test it with a new sound card that had recently become available at the time, the Gravis Ultrasound.

The card was way ahead of its time by offering Digital Wavetable Synthesis. Because the Sound Blaster and its FM Synthesis were so prevalent at the time, Gravis was forced to offer a Sound Blaster-like solution to bridge the gap to all of the games that supported it natively.

… the play style may not be for everyone …
That was done with a software solution called the Sound Blaster Operating System (SBOS) but it was a memory hog and was quite buggy for a long time. I became rather proficient at getting the SBOS shoehorned into the initial 640k of memory available in the old DOS days and that lead me to helping developers and Gravis with getting specific games to work correctly.

You “old folks” know the constant struggle we had with the 640k limit back then, especially when CD-ROM drivers were also involved. With a Turtle Beach Maui MIDI card and the Gravis Ultrasound though, the audio was pretty awesome for 1993, but it took a lot to get it to work properly.

So, as a part of the testing process, I probably played all the way through the game five or six times and surprisingly, I got all the way through this remaster without needing to look anything up! I’m warning you now though, the play style may not be for everyone, especially those not used to point-and-click interfaces, or those that don’t like to solve puzzles or use a trial-and-error methodology.

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Gameplay:
Day of the Tentacle is a direct sequel to Maniac Mansion, which is actually hidden in this game and is fully playable. You control three different characters: Bernard (the main character), Laverne, and Hoagie and you can switch between all three at any time, and you will do so quite a bit.

Obviously I don’t want to spoil anything, but the overall theme deals with Time Travel and the characters’ ability to send objects through time to each other. So one character will have a blueprint of a device that another character may need, but they’re in a different time, you’ll have the ability to send it over. This is an old-school point-and-click adventure, so to move around you’ll use a cursor to point where you want to go, and hit Cross to execute that command.

… you’ll need to think outside the box …
Those that may have played the 1993 original will probably remember the classic menu on the bottom of the screen. It’s still available when you switch to “Classic Mode” by clicking the touch pad on the DualShock 4 or the Select button on the Vita. But Double Fine has improved the interface by adding a completely contextual menu wheel, accessed by hitting Square.

You can also pull the older menu up at any time by pressing Triangle, which still works best when using one kept object with another kept object. You use R1 and L1 to cycle through your inventory, left and right on the D-pad to switch between characters, and down on the D-pad to toggle the developer commentary, which I’ll discuss in the ‘Audio’ portion of this review.

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At its core, Day of the Tentacle is a puzzle game, and you’ll need to think outside the box quite a bit. Many of the puzzles border on the absurd, and always with a laugh in mind.

The writing is hilarious, with a definite inspiration from the old Saturday morning cartoons of the ’70s. This game has never taken itself seriously, and to alleviate some of your stress, it’s actually set up so that none of the characters can die and there isn’t any way to permanently fail.

… It’s all about exploration and interaction …
That’s not to say that the game is easy though, because some of the puzzles are going to require you to think in the abstract. Hoagie may have a seemingly useless object, but in two hundred years it could actually prove quite useful to Bernard. You’ll do a fair amount of walking around inside the mansion and outside in the field, which may annoy some.

The game plays at whatever pace you want it to, but never expect that it will go too fast. It’s all about exploration and interaction, but the laughs definitely help those that might get bored easily.

You’ll combine a useless object with another useless object to create something even more useless, which in turn is exactly what you need to solve a puzzle. You’ll read a book to a horse, you’ll meet important people from history, and you’ll interact with purple and green tentacles. Totally makes sense right?

Just trust me when I tell you that Day of the Tentacle is at all times charming, funny, challenging, absurd, and wonderful, because it is. It’s definitely a style of gameplay that you probably haven’t experienced much, but it still works, especially with the new contextual menus.

… you can switch between the original and new visuals on-the-fly …
They’ve done a nice job adjusting the interface to account for the lack of a mouse and it really streamlines the experience while still remaining faithful to the original.

Visuals:
As with some other Remasters that we’ve gotten in recent years, Double Fine has made it so you can switch between the original and new visuals on-the-fly. Though after a few flips, you’ll probably just stick to the new visuals, because they’re gorgeous – just move those sliders back and forth to look at the comparison shots.

For 1993, the game looked great on PC, but this new rendition of the visuals is excellent. Colors are deeper, resolution is higher, and those pixels have essentially disappeared. At the same time though, the artists at Double Fine have fully retained how the game should look, which is appreciated. I also like that when not using the older-style menus, that the play area goes full screen, making everything even easier to see.

It’s so refreshing to play a game like this again. With its slower pace, you get so much more time to take everything in, especially the Easter Eggs scattered throughout. This is a LucasArts game so you’ll see some fun nods to others if you look hard enough, and when you see the PC in one of the rooms and try to use it, you’ll get a sweet surprise.

… voice work and scripted dialogue make it a genuine treat …
Audio:
At first, I thought that they’d ported the MIDI-based soundtrack to this new version. Once I switched between the versions a few times I quickly realized that they’ve even redone the music, which fits the motif perfectly.

As I mentioned before, the dialogue is fully voiced. As one of the first games back then to do so, it not only holds up surprisingly well but is still one of the best voice casts from that time. Even better, we’d thought that Bernard’s voice was to be changed for this remaster, but I was giddy as soon as I heard the unmistakeable voice of Richard Sanders, best known by us old fogies as Les Nessman from WKRP in Cincinatti.

The voice work and scripted dialogue make it a genuine treat to check every nook and cranny in every room and conversations are just as much fun. Oddly enough, I’m really impressed with the voice quality. The original recordings were made in the early ’90s, but everything sounds crisp and clear.

As a wonderful added feature, a full developer commentary is available by pressing Down on the D-pad and it’s great. I really wish that more games would offer something like this, but to even have people that were involved with the original game was such a treat to listen to.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
I’ve tried my best not to gush over this game, but it really is fantastic. Double Fine has executed such a wonderful update to an already great experience and I just can’t tell you how great it’s been to play through it again, twice. As of writing this review, I’m still working on Maniac Mansion, and for those completionists out there, you’ll need to do the same.

Whether you play on the PS4 or the Vita the game is the same, and the Cross-Buy and Cross-Save features are welcome. My first playthrough was on the PS4, and now I’m working on the second on the Vita, and there’s really no difference beside the screen size.

It’s funny how much I love this game, especially because I’ve developed such a hatred for games with time travel aspects. Thing is though, the silliness of some of the puzzles just makes me not even think of it and quite literally, I can’t believe that I still know how to get through this game.

It’s been twenty-three years since this originally came out and I still enjoyed it as much as the first time that I played through it. Now we just need Sam & Max Hit the Road, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Loom. Bring on Full Throttle!

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature and the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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