One of the often-heard cries of denouncement from the more emotive end of the gamer audience spectrum is that reviews (and reviewers) are not being ‘objective’ enough, that they are biased for or against a particular title which makes their subsequent coverage invalid or flawed. Such claims can be a psychological defence mechanism to insulate one’s sense of rationality and informed purchasing against a low score for a game; a visible indication that the purchaser was wrong or ill-informed.
The increasing volume of remasters, HD collections and other such terms for older games getting a new lick of paint and released on newer platforms or on PC again brings this problem to of subjectivity in reviews to the fore. How can anyone review a ‘new’ game if they have played it before, and in the case of Day of the Tentacle, if it is wrapped up in several layers of individual and collective nostalgia?
At this point, dear reader, you will have to take my nostalgia-riddled words with as many grains of salt as you like, however lets get the objective context for the game and what it is out of the way before I go on to polish the past and give it another airing. For those unfamiliar with the game, Day of the Tentacle is a point-and-click adventure game from LucasArts, a studio who cornered the market of the genre throughout the 1990s with other titles like Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Loom, Indiana Jones and Sam and Max. You play a trio of characters trying to stop the evil Purple Tentacle from taking over the world through a clever time travel mechanic which accentuates the goofy and fundamentally silly story and required solutions to the puzzles; often involving sending items back and forward in time.
If the esoteric nature of point-and-click adventure games puts you off in general; the often nonsensical leaps of logic required to find a use for particular items that can completely stop you in your tracks, then Day of the Tentacle may either convert you through its humour or reinforce any existing prejudices towards them. On a technical level Day of the Tentacle Remastered does a great job of polishing a game from over two decades ago and making it fit to be seen on larger and high-definition screens (as with other games of this type from Monkey Island to Halo you can switch between the old and new visuals on the fly to see the difference), however apart from some optimisation of the controls for consoles it is still the same game it was 20+ years ago.
I enjoyed revisiting a game I have fond memories of playing in my youth and was able to pull some puzzle solutions from those memories, however this would not be the experience of someone playing it for the first time, especially as it is available for ‘free’ with Playstation Plus this month. The game does give you plenty of nods and suggestions through dialogue however there were several times that even I had to look up a few hints to get me back in the right direction that were obvious in hindsight. This necessity to get inside the mind of the designer to find the solution to an obtuse puzzle is not unique to Day of the Tentacle and is a common problem in the point-and-click genre as a whole, but fortunately there is nothing as obtuse as the infamous rubber duck puzzle in The Longest Journey for example.
Day of the Tentacle is one of the most popular and fondly-remembered games from a period when the point-and-click adventure genre was king; its technical presentation and extras such as a developer commentary make it a worthwhile play-through for those who may have played it a long time ago and want to revisit a classic that’s been given a new coat of paint. For those who didn’t play it the first time around it is a worthwhile foray into gaming history and a potential springboard into a now much reduced genre.