37: Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle

Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Year: 1993
Platform: DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Macintosh

ReviewMovie sequels often don’t do as well as the original. The ideas generally aren’t as fresh and those involved can afford to rest on their laurels, their audience almost guaranteed. This is not true with computer games.  In fact, the opposite is almost true. From Leisure Suit Larry to Police Quest to Half-Life, designers and programmers often work even harder on the sequels, using updated technology while listening to user concerns about the first game in building a better product. The greatest example of this is the sequel to Maniac Mansion.  It didn’t hurt that they brought Tim Schafer in on the project.

All the primary characters return for this installment, including Dr. Fred Edison, his wife Edna, Weird Ed, and Dead Cousin Ted. However, the plot is driven by Purple Tentacle, who drinks some sludge from the river, transforming himself into an evil, power-hungry dictator. The good doctor, realizing that he is unstoppable in the present, attempts to send Bernard and his two friends back in time to turn off the sludge machine before Purple Tentacle drinks from it.  Naturally, the time machine fails, sending Hoagie to the past, Laverne to the future, and Bernard right back in the present.  From here you must try to do things in all three time periods to stop purple tentacle and his tentacle minions, all while getting your friends back to the present day. 

While there really is no room for plot development, there are cut scenes that show how Purple Tentacle takes over the world in the future, and they are pretty comical. However, the gist of the game is puzzles, and there is a whole truckload. While many of them are wacky, they generally makes sense and only requires leaps of logic in a few minor cases. What makes them more interesting than your everyday adventure is that you control all three characters, and must help each other with solving puzzles. Despite the fact you are across three time zones, there is a mechanism which allows you to exchange items with one another. Some puzzles are solved by playing with temporal mechanics, thus requiring multiple-step solutions as you witness a task in one time period affecting another. Additionally, some items are used more than once, providing more challenge than normal. 

My only real complaint is all the walking back and forth you have to do as you fetch items from your friends, especially late in the game. It never becomes ridiculous, but it annoyed me enough to drop the game in my rankings a bit. But there are obvious reasons that Day of the Tentacle is often makes top ten lists; it’s production is nearly flawless, and it’s pretty funny, to boot. I would have preferred more substance, and a sharper wit, but those are just subjective observations that will vary from player to player. Whatever your taste, it would be hard not to give this one a recommendation.  What I do know is if you liked Maniac Mansion, you will love this game. I hated Maniac Mansion, and I still love this game.

Contemporary RatingHigh. One of the oldest games that remains highly intuitive today.

Cruelty Rating:  Merciful.  No way to die or screw up.  Only reason to save is if you quit or you’re worried about the power going out.

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