Day of the Tentacle is arguably one of the best point-and-click adventures ever made with themes of time travel, icons from history, a mad scientist, loveable characters and an evil tentacle. It’s just arrived on Xbox Game Pass, so if you’ve not heard of Day of the Tentacle… now is the perfect time to jump in.
Originally released by LucasArts in 1993 as a sequel to Ron Gilbert’s Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle is a mind-bending, time travel, cartoon puzzle adventure game in which three unlikely friends work together to prevent an evil mutated purple tentacle from taking over the world. Doctor Fred has been inventing again in his basement, but this time mutagenic sludge has escaped into the river and the tentacles have had a drink of it. This sludge has turned the Purple tentacle into evil genius and he’s off to take over the world leaving poor ol’ green tentacle to break the bad news to everyone else.
The only thing in its way is a trio of teenagers called Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne. While trying to stop the Evil tentacle the trio is split across 3 time periods – Bernard is in the present day, Hoagie is stuck in the past and Laverne gets sent to the future where Tentacles have already taken over. The three characters have to solve puzzles individually in their own timeline and then work together to ultimately stop the world domination of the Purple Tentacle.
Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne have to find, use and trade items across time using a time-travelling toilet. I don’t know if this was the first adventure game to do this, but it was impressive at the time when Back to the Future was a hugely popular film – having the ability to change the future with actions in the past or present is a really interesting and fun mechanic. For example in one sequence Hoagie needs vinegar and 200 years later Laverne has a bottle of wine. She sends that to Hoagie who puts it in a time capsule, which Laverne then retrieves as vinegar. It’s a simple example of the game playing with items over time. There are many more awesome puzzles in the game with a similar theme, you’ll have to find them for yourself.
The puzzles are pretty balanced. Some point and click games from the ’90s really were tricky, but this one managed to strike the balance with pacing, difficulty and entertainment. I think the cut scenes did a good job here to give you a little break and injection of narrative at the right time.
The game is centred around The Edison family mansion. In present-day it’s a rundown hotel, where current day Edison does experiments in the basement. In the past, the mansion is being used by the founding father of the United States to hash out the text for the constitution and in the future, it’s the base for the Evil Genius Purple tentacle who’s taken over the world. Although the locations are essentially the same the artist has done a wonderful job of making each timeline distinct which pop from the screen in bright colours and beautiful design.
All characters are distinct. Hoagie’s is a heavy-metal loving roadie, Laverne is a medical student and Bernard is your stereotypical 90’s lab assistant. Present Day Edison is an eccentric mad scientist and all the supporting cast of characters are colourful and bring a lot of fun to the game. Particularly the Founding Fathers in the past are great fun and helping Ben Franklin who’s flying a kite in a storm is a great scene.
One of the best things about the game is the humour. Day of the Tentacle is a laugh-out-loud funny game. Sometimes video games miss the mark when it comes to humour, but this is a feel-good story with genuinely funny moments that will have you chuckling throughout. It’s a combination of the writing, the cartoon-style graphics and also the comedic timing is spot on. Whether it’s past Edison berating Hoagie for being useless or Laverne’s deadpan delivery – the jokes in Day of the Tentacle are second to none.
There’s a nice little secret in Day of the Tentacle too. You can play the original Manic Mansion on a computer inside Bernards bedroom in the present day. It’s an old school 8-bit adventure and a pretty cool little easter egg for the original to be within the game itself.
The original game was developed in beautiful 16-bit pixel art. However, the remastered version has been released on Xbox Game Pass. Double Fine took charge of the remaster (with Tim Schafer being one of the teams involved in the original). The graphics have all been redrawn and looks great on modern-day TVs. If you want you can play the game in its original form you can switch the graphical mode at any time. As well as the redone graphics Double Fine also managed to find the original master tapes so the game is sounding better than ever. Included here in the Remaster is also a director’s commentary which if you’re a fan of the original is a delight.
I have a lot of personal memories wrapped up in Day of the Tentacle. Originally released in 1993, I was a 12-year-old kid at the time who has just got his first computer and was playing around with PC games for the first time. Up until that point, I’d only ever played NES games, so this kind of storytelling blew my mind. It made me feel like I was in control of the Saturday morning cartoons.
Day of the Tentacle is by far one of the best point and click adventure games ever made. With it now being on Xbox Game Pass it’s more accessible than ever and hopefully, it’ll be opened up to new audiences and enjoyed by the masses. If you like Time Travel & cartoony wacky adventures give Day of the Tentacle a go – you won’t be disappointed.
Developer: Double Fine
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, iOS, Mac
Released Date: 22nd March 2016 (Orginal 1993)