A mere handful of puzzle solutions seemed obvious to me. Occasionally sensible actions were rejected as not funny enough. (Um, alright.) Many gave me that “aha!” moment after I gadded about and finally figured out what object (or its modification) was applicable when and where. I often tried every inventory item on every hotspot in every era, so I heard a lot of flushing as I passed things through the Chron-o-Johns. Certain answers were so “out there” that I needed recourse to outside help (it’s definitely the only way I could ever have won the beauty contest). There’s an early scenario involving false teeth that was so ridiculous that I tried hard not to laugh. Okay, I chuckled at many of the solutions, and frankly, for a puzzle-solve to actually spark laughter rises to “above and beyond the call of duty” heights. Still, a couple of the convoluted puzzle scenarios are a stretch, even for a whimsical, risible, sci-fi romp.
Since finding the right item and using it in the correct time and place means searching gardens, tinkering in basements, yapping in bedrooms, zooming up chimneys, and puttering in attics, it’s a good thing that the locales are so eye-catching. The original pixel art graphics have been redone in high resolution, leaving the artistic style, colors and shapes virtually the same. However, if you enjoy a bigger dose of Golden Era nostalgia, you can easily switch back-and-forth between the originals and updated environments. Each scene is stylized and full of unusual angles and contours. Shadows are emphasized, and the foreground contains silhouetted objects that frame the view. Floors are jazzily patterned, stained, and hued. Bizarre objects clutter the rooms. You’ll see Star Wars paraphernalia, non-trendy gadgets, topiary with antlers, a sock resting on a ceiling fan, and a lava lamp, to name just a few of the unusual sights.
Animations spiff up the place even further: gaudy lights flicker, green slime drips, fake barf trembles, and papers shuffle. Extensive, well-animated cutscenes are woven in and out of the gameplay to dramatize, reveal unintended impacts, and provide sight gags. Despite its megalomaniacal premise, this game does not have dark, violent themes that would make it inappropriate for young innocents. Just be forewarned that the protagonists are anything but well-mannered role models. If you are playing with youngsters, keep the player characters moving. Because if you don’t, Laverne bites her fingernails and digs for earwax, Bernard scratches himself, and Hoagie belches, spewing green spittle everywhere. The kids will love it.
The music is unusually varied and reminiscent of Looney Tunes instrumental backgrounds. You will hear brief riffs on classical music and American folk tunes. Original pieces in the three time periods include a minuet and fife and drums from Hoagie’s era, frenetic carnival tunes and whistles in Bernard’s, plus disco and gameshow music in Laverne’s. Ambient sounds garnish the atmosphere with the squeak of a mattress, the “Ha” of Oozo the Clown, the thud of a head meeting wood, and the smoosh of a tentacle’s leap.
The game is played from a third-person perspective and features a point-and-click interface, though you can use a controller if you prefer. Along with choosing between remastered or original graphics and music, an additional option allows you to dispense with the classic SCUMM-style interface altogether, using a context-sensitive icon dial that pops up when you right-click on hotspots. On the other hand, if you prefer the old “pick up, look at, talk to” verbs in a bar along the bottom of the screen, you can elect to keep it. I frequently switched between the graphics settings and tried out the control schemes before finally deciding on the more modern remastered settings.
DOTT Remastered comes with the opportunity (selected before the game begins) to hear commentary from the original development team, with remarks and reminiscences from Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman, Peter Chan, Larry Ahern, Clint Bajakian, and Peter McConnell. As the game begins, the commentary appears automatically. Later, you are alerted to its availability with text prompts. The conversation touches on inspirations for the music and art, as well as other concerns like technical constraints and the need to engage a wide variety of players, such as gamers who favor long dialog trees versus puzzle-mavens who’d skip it all if they could. The technical issues were an intriguing contrast to other kinds of design freedoms afforded the team. There wasn’t a ratings system yet, for instance, and the game pretty much thumbs its nose at political correctness. There is a kind of insane unrestraint about the story and puzzles, as though the weight of tradition, tender sensibilities and conventional thinking weren’t even considerations.
I spent thirteen hours attempting to thwart Purple Tentacle’s foul ambitions in the past, present, and future. (Not counting the special bonus for conscientious clickers, as the original Maniac Mansion can be played in its pure, old-school form on an in-mansion monitor.) I relished nearly every crazy minute, including the outrageous ending. It’s a colorful, surprising, delightful world to explore, with topnotch writing and voice-overs, puzzles that are multi-layered and thought-provoking, and characters that are going to stick with me for a long time. In bringing this classic adventure to contemporary audiences, Double Fine has given us an artful flashback to an entrancing past. Having missed it the first time around, now I’m glad I waited, as Day of the Tentacle Remastered has outstripped my expectations, amused me, outsmarted me, and radically made my day.