Thanks to all that commented on my last review here!
Personal note: This game was on my backlog of games where I try finding what I think are my favourite and the best games of all time. I was a little hesitant to play at first since I’ve had my fill of head-scratching point-and-click adventure games, and although a big fan of animation in general have outgrown the more child-oriented games a bit. Also, I’d heard that the plot was a bit nonsensical. However, my anxieties were allayed after playing this game, after an introductory hour of testing, I sat down again and beat the game in one (enjoyable) sitting.
Introduction: In 2016 a remastered version of the 1993 classic point-and-click adventure game Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle was released for various platforms, and in October 2020 it also came to the Xbox One. This game was a sequel to the 1987 Lucasfilm Games adventure game Maniac Mansion. Maniac Mansion was the game that cemented Lucasfilm Games status as a serious contender to the adventure games genre that was then dominated by the company Sierra On-Line. Maniac Mansion was the game for which the simplified point-and-click engine called SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) was developed, as opposed to the more cumbersome typing out of the commands, and the SCUMM engine was used in many other games produced by Lucas Arts. Day of the Tentacle occurs 5 years after the events of the first game and features Bernard Bernoulli and his friends Hoagie, and Laverne as they try to stop and evil mutated tentacle from changing history and taking over the world. The game is notable for its cartoon-like graphics and has been mentioned on many best games of all time lists. It is included in Wikipedia’s aggregate List of video games considered the best.
One day at the back of an old mansion two sentient mutated tentacles, Green Tentacle, and Purple Tentacle, who were created by scientist Dr. Fred Edison that lives in the basement, were roaming around effluent pipes that were pouring out toxic sludge. Purple Tentacle drank some of the toxic sludge coming out of one of the pipes and grew arms and increased his intelligence to a genius level. At the same time, however, he developed a thirst for world domination, and the enslavement of humans to a species of intelligent tentacles like himself. Whereas Green Tentacle, who refrained from drinking the sludge remained much more meek, shy, and cowardly afraid of Purple Tentacle's diabolical scheme. Dr. Fred Edison decides to kill the two tentacles, but Green Tentacle sends a plea of help to his old friend Bernard Bernoulli.
Dr. Edison operates in the basement of the mansion which is otherwise used as a motel. Bernard receives the message from Green Tentacle and decides to go back to the mansion to help. He is somewhat of a stereotypical nerd, and comes with his two friends, the chubby roadie Hoagie, and the somewhat demented, and ditzy blonde medical student Laverne. Dr. Edison decides to send the trio back in time one day so that they can stop Purple Tentacle from drinking the sludge. To this end he uses a porta-potty time machine he invented called the Chron-O-John. However, since he decided to use an imitation diamond, instead of a real diamond, for the needed power source his plan fails as the Chron-O-John malfunctions and sends the three to different time periods. Laverne gets sent 200 years into the future in the mansion, where the tentacles have taken over the world. Hoagie gets sent 200 years in the past where the mansion is being used as a retreat for the founding fathers to write the United States constitution. Bernard on the other hand gets sent to the present in the basement of the mansion. Laverne and Hoagie are tasked with getting functional power sources for the semi-functional Chron-O-Johns so that they can get them working again to return to the present, while Bernard is tasked with obtaining a real diamond that they can use to power the Chron-O-John machine properly and so use it as they intended to prevent Purple Tentacle from drinking the sludge and taking over the world.
The game is a graphic point-and-click adventure. You can click on objects or characters to come to them and interact with them or talk to them. One unique aspect of this game though is that you can play as all three characters, Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie, and switch between them. In fact, this is required to complete the game. Another interesting aspect to this is that you can use the semi-functional Chron-O-Johns to send items between all three characters in different time periods, past present and future. This added dynamic makes for some very interesting puzzles.
The puzzles themselves aren’t necessarily easy but if you think about it long enough and try different actions and combinations chances are that you can get most of these. Back in the early 1990s when this game was originally released, I think a lot of people would just play these types of games by trying different actions, or combinations of actions. I don’t think the game was intended to be played through in a matter of hours since the developers wanted to make a game that could be played for days.
As far as adventure games are concerned, I’m the type of guy that gets stumped by some of the abstruse puzzles of Grim Fandango, The Longest Journey, and even Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. However, as far as this game was concerned after an initial half an hour to an hour of just testing out the game. I came back to it one night, stayed up all night playing through it and completed the entire game. Now either I’ve gotten better at these types of games over time, or this one was easier than the rest. I only used 1 hint for this entire game, and it had to do with the somewhat infamous hamster part towards the end. I actually thought of the solution but dismissed it as I considered it too cruel (what was I thinking?). I also did it since it was already morning and I wanted to get some sleep.
However, there were parts to it that left me scratching my head. Sometimes it was due to me not realizing that I could even perform a specific action on an object or character, for instance the Motel receptionist, but once I realized that the solution was actually quite easy. Quite a few of the puzzles involve dialogue between characters or getting objects to characters so that they can perform actions. For example, getting a battery to Benjamin Franklin, as the character Hoagie, for his kite so that the battery can be charged with a bolt of lightning. Unlike some of the other games I’ve mentioned almost all of the puzzles make some kind of logical sense. If you think about it the solution can usually be found; it was very satisfying, and as other reviewers have said this can leave you feeling kind of smart. There are still those puzzles whose solutions are rather unintuitive. However, as I said if you spend enough time to really think about it and try enough actions and combinations you can probably solve most of them yourself without needing hints or walkthroughs.
What may be somewhat overwhelming at first though is that you have the freedom of playing through all three time periods in the mansion and there are a lot of items you do not know that you can use until perhaps the end of the game. One strategy that can be used would be to start in some time period and try all of the actions in and near the mansion, until there doesn’t seem to be any further possible progress then move on to another time period. Once you know what you need next in the period that you are in start sending items that you think may be needed back and forth between the characters to see if it’ll help their progress. Unfortunately, unlike the Monkey Island remasters there is no hint system provided in this game, which for many players could have been useful.
A very innovative feature of this game at the time it was made was that there was actually a room where you could go into, in the mansion, that had a PC that you can boot up and play a full version of the original Maniac Mansion in. It is still there in the remastered version and you can save this game within a game as well, logout and load back into it when you feel like playing the game.
Overall because I felt that a lot of the puzzles tend to make some kind of logical sense, and reward exploration of actions or combinations of actions that were not abstruse, I found the gameplay to be rather fun and addictive.
Graphics, Music, and Tone:
The graphics of the original were quite good, and although they were pixel art they were very cartoon-like. For the remastered version the graphics were carefully redrawn to look better on HD displays. The music is rather interesting and generally appropriate for what setting you find yourself in, as well as the time period. For me, one of the memorable pieces was the more space-like futuristic music when Laverne is outside of the mansion in the future. Another example is when Hoagie is around the presidents, like George Washington, then you can expect a traditional American tune like Yankee Doodle to play.
The tone of the game is very much cartoon-like and drawing heavy inspiration from Chuck Jones’ Looney Tunes cartoons. The characters are rather lovable in their own ways and are voiced which is a very nice touch. The dialogue is funny, and witty, and ranges from potty humour to adult topics including an interrupted suicide, and dialogue of some of the points of philosophy all somehow pulled off rather well in a comic style. The humour is enjoyable and cute but not something you’ll burst out laughing over. This is a game that on some level both kids and adults can enjoy. It takes roughly 5-6 hours to beat, though based on your familiarity and ability with adventure games your time to complete it can vary.
Updates for the Remaster:
As mentioned instead of the pixel art of the original the art in the remastered version was redrawn, although players can freely toggle between original and remastered graphics. The music is no longer MIDI as in the original but CD quality, also the voices are much better sounding, and crisper. The interface has been updated to having a click and scroll wheel style interface from the newer point and click games like Sam and Max. When you click you have a scroll wheel of actions so that your screen isn’t cluttered by a bunch of verbs and actions like in the original. There is also commentary from the developers of the game. However, there is no hint system implemented.
For fans of point-and-click graphic adventure games, especially the comic ones like Monkey Island, this game this is a must-play, or at least a must-try. The graphics, the music, the characters, the dialogue and the humour are all well done. The puzzles don’t appear to be as abstruse as some of the other point-and-click games of the 90s era. They generally make logical sense but can be unintuitive, and some actions may not be obviously possible at first. I still personally prefer other point-and-click games over it live the Monkey Island games and The Longest Journey, but this definitely still ranks among the best of the point-and-click genre.
All-in-all it’s a high production value, high quality product that achieves what it intends to do. It’s one of the rarer games that doesn’t get bogged down as much by the pitfalls of its generation and still holds up today, which is quite a test of time considering it was released back in 1993. Both kids and adults can enjoy it, and overall, I’d recommend trying this game.
Overall: 8.5/10 Great
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