Double Fine has given LucasArts' classic time-travelling adventure a loving overhaul, and the result is everything you could hope for.
It's difficult for me to put into words just how much I love the original Day of the Tentacle. I got the game for Christmas in 1993, when I was 10 years old and still learning English, and my parents and I played the game intensely for the following two months, slowly chipping away at its many intricate puzzles.
As far as I remember, that was my first meeting with the point 'n' click adventure genre. I had played adventure games before, but those had been Sierra games like Police Quest, King's Quest and Space Quest (they had a brand thing going on) with primitive EGA graphics, where you had to type in commands like "open door" and "take keys". Day of the Tentacle looked like a Saturday morning cartoon by comparison.
What I'm trying to say is that I really like Day of the Tentacle. I've played through the game numerous times, enough that I at one point was able to write a complete walkthrough from memory. I've worn out my original floppy disks, re-bought the game on cd-rom, played it again and again in the ScummVM emulator. Obviously, I was pretty excited when Double Fine announced that a remastered HD version of Day of the Tentacle - or DOTT for short - was on its way. But I'm probably a bit biased.
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DOTT is a time travelling story. It simultaneously takes place both in the present, 200 years in the past, and 200 years in the future, all of it centred around the same mansion. That mansion belongs to Dr. Ed Edison, his family and his two sentient, talking tentacles, Purple and Green. Purple drinks from the industrial waste machine running in the back yard, and mutates into an evil genius hell-bent on taking over the world. Naturally, he has to be stopped.
But how does one do that? By using Edison's time machine to travel 24 hours back in time and turn off the Sludge-o-Matic before Purple drinks from it. But the time machine breaks down mid-travel, and our three main characters - proto-geek Bernard, metal head Hoagie and slightly twisted med student Laverne - end up separated across 400 years of history. They need to be brought back, and in order to do that, you'll need to help them power up their time machines (made from portable toilets, by the way, fittingly named Chron-o-Johns). Only then can you get back to the business of stopping Purple Tentacle.
DOTT Remastered isn't the first time someone attempted an HD remake of a classic LucasArts adventure. A few years ago, the first two Monkey Island games got a similar treatment. Some of the major draws were full voice acting for both games (something the originals never had) and graphics fully redrawn in HD. The latter posed issues though, as the Monkey Island games had a (relatively) naturalistic style, while later sequels went full-on cartoon - and these remakes followed that cartoonish looks. The end result was a somewhat odd mix, and the new graphics were criticised for being oddly lifeless and plastic.
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That's not the case with DOTT Remastered. If you didn't know any better, you'd think that the artists at Double Fine had simply taken the original drawings and re-scanned them at higher resolutions. In reality, they've redrawn everything frame-by-frame, but under very strict directions. All colours are the same, lighting effects are the same, animations are the same - the only difference is the amount of pixels and thus the level of detail.
And so, the HD look of DOTT Remastered is 100 percent faithful to the original game. It looks fantastic, with everything being exactly the way you think you remember it from the old game. You can switch between the original graphics and the remastered ones on the fly, but it's unlikely you'll want to. Everything is pitch perfect.
Speaking of pitch, the game audio has also been updated. Double Fine's audio guys have dug the original DAT tapes out of the LucasArts archives, remastering the audio without any hint of compression artifacts. Few people have the original cd-rom version lying around, but trust me when I say that the two sound worlds apart.
Besides those things, the new DOTT is basically identical to the old. There's a slight reworking of the interface which is easier to use but has all the possibilities of the old one. You can listen to on-going developer commentary if you like, and there are added achievements and a new pause menu, but the gameplay is fully intact.
The element of time travel is DOTT's stroke of genius. You send items back and forth in time between characters, and solve puzzles in the present by changing the past. Is Laverne stuck in a tree in the future? Then fix that by having the tree cut down at an earlier time. Need to convince a couple of Founding Fathers that George Washington is cold so they'll light up the fireplace? Send an exploding cigar and a set of chattering teeth back in time, then. Many of the game's puzzles are built around that sort of four-dimensional thinking and using items you've collected in unconventional ways.
One of DOTT's other strengths is that the game is fairly compact. Everything involves the same house in three different time periods, with the same basement, the same rooms, the same great hall connected to the same roof through the same chimney and fireplace. Unlike the old Monkey Island, where you'd often have to travel long distances from one end of town to the other, the distances in DOTT are always short.
There are a few puzzles - including one involving a video tape recorder and the now archaic concept of extended play - that may not make sense to younger players today like it did 20 years ago, but the game generally stands up to the test of time. The Chuck Jonesy humour is still funny, and dialogue trees will be recognisable from games like The Witcher 3.
I mentioned from the get-go that I'm likely biased, but revisiting Day of the Tentacle is a lovely experience. At no point did I ever lose patience with the game, something that usually happens with other remakes.
The point 'n' click adventure genre had a golden age in the early 90s, and Day of the Tentacle remains one of the best games of that era. So much the better that the game has now received a careful and faithful update, improving on its technical aspects and leaving everything else untouched. Take your time with it, embrace its ludicrous universe, and click on everything you can - a superb experience awaits you if you do.