So that the ensuing shitstorm I’m about to rain all over this remaster doesn’t confuse people, I’ll say this now: I love Day of the Tentacle (DotT). I played this game countless times as a kid, so much that I had all the puzzles memorized and was still able to remember a decent amount for this playthrough. I had even gone back and replayed it a few years ago and enjoyed it even then, just as – on some level – I enjoyed it here too. My issue here is not with the game itself but that, for a remaster, this is kind of lame and unnecessary. A couple of technical issues, some personal hangups, and a general lackluster feeling to the game meant that this wasn’t nearly as fun as it should have been. It feels like Double Fine went to a lot of effort for a remaster when a simple re-release would have been just as good, and far more advisable than this.
Was it the improvement in the art that caused the game to constantly stop-start, or was it just because this was a bit of an obvious cash in?
Since this is a review of the remaster and not the original game, I’m not going to rehash what DotT is about; Wikipedia has you covered for that. What I will say about point’n’click adventure games in general, however, is that as much as well all have fond memories of playing them back in the day, they haven’t aged well as a genre. Admittedly, a lot of the whacky and bizarre solutions work well with the humor of the game and serve as great joke setups. It’s frustrating and boring most of the time, however, when you’re forced to fumble your way back and forth between rooms trying to work them out. I’ll get into this a bit later, but this replay has really highlighted the kind of moon-logic employed in these adventure games of old.
I’m all for preserving some quirks and kinks of the original game to maintain that nostalgic atmosphere; sometimes it’s necessary when remastering a title because it’s what fans want. I don’t know what possessed them to leave the ’93 loading and saving times in this game, which is to say nothing of the game frequently seizing up while things load. Characters would often stop talking between sentences, and everyone would awkwardly wait around a few seconds for the game to catch up on loading the next few lines of dialogue. If this had happened just once or twice then it’s likely I wouldn’t even remember it happening at all, but this was a problem for almost every conversation.
Did Broken Age just infect the entire studio or something?
Occasionally I’d forget a solution to the puzzles and had to rely upon my adult wit to progress. For those that aren’t familiar with the term, moon-logic in adventure games refers to the specious reasoning and demented thought processes that go into solving some puzzles. The information needed to figure the puzzle out is almost always in the game but it’s not always clear which puzzle it’s referring to, and can easily confuse you. Assuming you pick up on the “hints” left around the game, you still have to consider the puzzle from a madman’s frame of mind. A hint system, more dialogue, different dialogue, anything would have been a nice addition if it had been optional. The total lack of anything, however, is just another part of how this remaster disappoints.
This remaster also has the most stupid achievements, just FYI. While typing this paragraph, I received an achievement for going into an idle animation with one of the characters. I’d say which one, but I don’t want to ruin what Double Fine consider a “surprise.” I received an achievement effectively for starting the game, and a bunch more for things that are absolute requirements of reaching the end. I get the feeling these were meant mostly as jokes, but they weren’t exactly funny, and, much like a lot of the game, the achievements were a missed opportunity. They could have added things, maybe through an unlockable DotT Redux mode, and the achievements could have been hints that these things exist.
At least they left in the ability to play Maniac Mansion.
Playing a point and click adventure game on a controller just feels icky. Moving the cursor around the screen feels like a chore when you have to guide it with an analogue stick, which seemed like a weird choice for the PS4 anyway. The controller has a trackpad that would speed up and improve cursor movement, and would have felt a lot better to use than the analogue sticks. You’ll notice I said “a lot better,” and not “good to use,” since it still requires the use of a controller in a genre that has “point and click” built right into its name. This is one of the few occasions where I’ll argue that PC is clearly the better platform to play this game on. And, yes, it is because a keyboard and mouse are better than a controller in this instance.
I’ll say it now – I don’t really like half the voices in the game, which isn’t the fault of the voice actors. Almost every character is well performed, it’s just that they often don’t sound how I imagined they would. There was no voice work in the original Day of the Tentacle, which meant that younger Paddy was free to let the voices in his head take over. Several years later, I still remember how I imagined those characters sounded to me, which is nothing like how they sound now. I feel like this would be a problem for any game that, in a remastering/remaking, tries to create voice work where once there was none.
Edna’s voice work? Fantastic. Ed? Eeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh.
Aside from the voices, the only other significant addition to the game is the high-resolution animation and this should be praised for its quality. Everything is faithfully recreated with some excellent minor details, but this mode has some problems. First and foremost, I’m not particularly fond of the artwork; this doesn’t mean I think it’s bad, just that I very much prefer the original pixel graphics of the game. Aside from switching back now and again to see what the animation looked like in certain scenes, I switched to the original art, and stayed there, after the first twenty minutes. There’s something truly timeless about the original animations, it still looks great even now, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing through with the “classic” style.
The other problem is that switching to the high-resolution animation also forces you to use the “reworked” action controls. Instead of a grid of actions at the bottom of the screen, the new game will bring up an action ring at the press of a button, and it’s a total pain in the ass to use. You’d think an action ring that surrounds the cursor would be ideal for a controller, but it’s actually kind of hard to use without sending your cursor flying off to the side of the screen. This mode also relegates the inventory to the corner of the screen, meaning dragging the cursor over to the corner then back to whatever you want to select. Imagine doing that with a controller instead of a mouse and you’ll see why I’m miffed about it.
Aside from the animation and voice acting, I don’t consider this to be a good remaster. For the relative lack of anything new, they could have just put this out as a re-release with minor technical improvements, and it would have been just as good. Better, actually, since I wouldn’t have so many complaints about the few things they did try (and fail) to improve. I’m almost in disbelief over the technical issues in this game, as well; that there would even be any in a title like this shows how little effort was put forward by Double Fine. How on Earth do you make the loading and saving times of a remastered game slower than those in the original from 1993? And what in God’s name would possess someone to put a point’n’click on a console when the only input option is a controller? Let’s hurry up and get this remaster mill over with, Double Fine, so you can get back to more important matters.
Author’s Update: As pointed out by reader Nick Kapirnas, the original CD version of the game was voiced, and the voices that feature in Day of the Tentacle Remastered are the same voices as those that featured in the original. I wasn’t aware of this, as the version I played both as a kid and many years later did not have voice work, so that’s actually pretty cool. On the other hand, that actually makes this Remaster just slightly worse, as it’s another example of the low effort that went into “remastering” the game.