Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle

Posted by Yoav Ben-Raphael.
First posted on 21 April 1998. Last updated on 24 August 2009.
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Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
The hamster delivers the bad news and gives a whole new meaning to the idea of express mail!
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
Dr Fred explains to the gang what has happened to the tentacles (a bit too late).
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
Oops! Should not have untied them!
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
Our heroes must time travel to stop Purple Tentacle from drinking the toxic water.
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
Bernard gets some instruction on how to fix his time travel dilemma.

Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle is the sequel to the classic adventure Maniac Mansion. Manic Mansion tells the tale of a mad doctor possessed by a meteor from outer space. The game combines cartoon like animations with humorous dialogs that poke fun of popular pop culture. This sequel is no exception.

While Purple Tentacle and Green Tentacle (creatures resembling octopus arms created by the mad scientist Dr Fred) are taking a stroll around the maniac mansion, Purple Tentacle decides that it is thirsty and takes a gulp of water from a nearby toxic waste pipe. Unexpectedly, it grows smarter and a new pair of arms (no hands). It also becomes mischievous and decides to take over the world! Fortunately, Green Tentacle manages to slip a message to the courier hamster (fastest mail delivery service on the planet) to ask for help from our 3 heroes—Bernard the geek who is the only one to make a return appearance from the original Maniac Mansion, Laverne the sleep deprived medical student who loves cutting up living things, and Hoagie the rock roadie who lacks a few brain cells. When Dr Fred decides to have both tentacles killed, Bernard rushes into the mansion with his friends to set them free, only to realize later on that has also set loose the evil scheme of Purple Tentacle to take over the world.

Dr Fred decides that our heroes must now time travel back to the past to stop the toxic waste from flowing in the river, thus preventing Purple Tentacle from drinking the toxic water in the first place. When Dr Fred cuts back on the proper hardware (the diamond) to power his time machine, the malfunction causes Hoagie to become stuck 200 years in the past, Laverne to become stuck 200 years in the future, and Bernard to be stuck back in the present. You must now find a way to bring all 3 friends back together and save the world from the evil Purple Tentacle.

While Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle may appear quite dated today, the game is an instant classic at the time of its release back in 1992. It features excellent graphics and is among the first games to include cartoon like characters with animated facial expressions and physical body humor (heads blowing off). The original Floppy Disk version has one of the longest talking intro sequences I have ever seen in an adventure game, making it the most popular game intros at the time. What a pleasure it is to hear digitized speech from my trusty but old Sound Blaster! The game is filled with numerous sound effects that are triggered by movements of the characters on screen. They sound just like the Foley effects heard in cartoons on television. The voice acting is professional. The dialog fits well with the game. To be honest, the only reason I have purchased the full talkie CD-ROM version is to hear the speech enhancement. The CD ROM enhanced edition, released subsequent to the original version, features new digitized speech (full voice talkie) and sound effects not available in the original version. Otherwise, there is no difference between the original and CD-ROM version of the game. Thanks to the iMUSE music system, the MIDI music changes according to different actions and scenes during the game. The game uses the legendary SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine. The script is written by Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. The voice cast includes celebrities Richard Sanders (WKRP in Cincinnati) and Nick Jameson (a veteran of television, stage, and stand up comedy).

In Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, you alternate in playing Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie. Each is trapped within his own time era, but you can pass objects to each other by using the "Chron-O-John" (time machine) that operates like a toilet to flush objects through time. The interface consists of 9 command icons (Look, Talk, Push, Pull, Get) and is similar to other earlier titles from Lucasfilm Games. Your inventory is visible on the bottom left of the screen and can be manipulated by dragging any item to the object with which you want to interact (be it another inventory item or the environment). The puzzles are of the basic "use object X with object Y" variety. Talking to other characters in a specific way is often required to extract certain clues. There is no pixel hunting in this game. All the objects are clear and easy to find with a little exploring. The puzzles are sometimes illogical, and you may find yourself in many bizarre situations like talking to dead mummies and talking to horses which talk back. Although they are always amusing, it is at times hard to figure out the solutions to certain puzzles. Most of the puzzles are not arranged in a specific order. You can usually solve a few of them at the same time in any desired order. Nonetheless, the game is pretty linear overall since you still have to complete all the puzzles in a certain way before you are able to finish the game. Since you cannot die in the game, you are free to explore all the scenes without fearing for your life or constantly worrying about saving your game. You only need to save the game periodically for progress and not to avoid potentially deadly situations. You also cannot get stuck in a certain room or place just because you do not have a specific item of importance.

Even by today's standard, this game has a polished look. The story is very humorous. All the dialogs are well acted. The puzzles are fair such that you cannot find yourself stuck too long at any one place. You can freely explore around for fun without fear of dying in the game. As a bonus, the CD ROM enhanced edition includes the original award winning classic Maniac Mansion as a game within a game. A free hint book is also included. Overall, Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle is one of the best adventure games I have ever played. It is definitely one of the classics. I highly recommend it.

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