Maniac Mansion

From Academic Kids

Maniac Mansion
Missing image
Maniac Mansion screenshot

Developer: Lucas Arts
Publisher: Lucas Arts
Designer: Ron Gilbert
Release date: 1987
Genre: Adventure game
Game modes: Single player
ESRB rating:
Platform: Commodore 64, IBM PC, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST and NES.
Media: Floppy

Maniac Mansion is a graphical adventure game originally released in 1987 by LucasArts. Maniac Mansion has became known among video game players and programmers for its highly-acclaimed gameplay and its introduction of new ideas — including multiple possible endings, multiple user-selectable characters with significantly different abilities, and critical clues contained in numerous cut scenes — into gaming.


Plot summary

At the start of the game, the hero, Dave Miller, finds that his girlfriend, Sandy Pantz, has been abducted by Dr. Fred Edison, and sets out to save her, with two of his friends. The player could select the friends from a group of six, and the game would play somewhat differently depending on which friends were selected. The game was clearly a parody of the horror B-movie genre, featuring a secret lab, leftover tentacles, and an evil mastermind.

Maniac Mansion was notable for its multiple possible endings, depending on which characters the player used (and which ones survived) and what those characters did. For instance, you can send the adversary off into space, or have him arrested by the Meteor Police, or make him famous by having his autobiography published.

The game was somewhat notorious for featuring famous 'red herrings': a chainsaw for which there was no fuel, despite many wishful rumours to the contrary. In one of the in-jokes that are a hallmark of the LucasArts adventure games, the second SCUMM game, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, contains some fuel "for chainsaws only", but no chainsaw. Plus, in a later remake of the Maniac Mansion game, the heroes can read a poster of the Zak McKracken game in the arcade room, and say "I wonder what was the use of the gas can on Mars?".

In another reference, the entire game is contained within its sequel, Day of the Tentacle, on a computer in the bedroom of one of the characters.

Another is the staircase in the library (with a sign, 'staircase out of order') that appears to be a puzzle, but in fact there is no way to fix it or cross it (to fix it, a saw to procure some wood planks would have been needed...).

Maniac Mansion was also the first game to feature Chuck the Plant (found in the library); Chuck is later found in just about every other LucasArts adventure game, and several games by other publishers.

Other characters

Unlike most adventure games, Maniac Mansion had several possible playable characters. The player controls Dave and two other characters, chosen from six additional characters, each of whom has their own distinct skills and quirks: Razor is a punk musician, Wendy is a journalist-writer, Jeff Woodie is a surfer (the most useless of the characters), Syd a musician, Michael F. Stoppe a photographer, and Bernard Bernoulli, an über-nerd capable of disassembling complex electronics but suffering from overwhelming cowardice. He reappears in Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle as the main playable character.

In addition to the playable characters, Doctor Fred and Sandy, a number of other colorful characters (metaphorically and literally) populate the mansion in the Maniac Mansion games. Nurse Edna, a gruesome, lusty nurse, is revealed to be Doctor Fred's wife in Day of the Tentacle. Weird Ed, their son, is a survivalist paramilitary maniac with a hair-trigger temper and an obsession with his pet hamster. In one notorious sequence, the player can actually steal the hamster, microwave it, and then give its remains to Ed--prompting him to kill the offending character. Dead Cousin Ted is a mummy. Green Tentacle and Purple Tentacle, a pair of ambulatory talking, brightly colored tentacles, are probably the two most memorable of the mansion residents; the second game is named for the latter. Green is an aspiring rock-and-roll musician, and Purple is Doctor Fred's easily-impressed henchman. Lastly, Purple Meteor is an evil, intelligent meteor from outer space who is ultimately revealed to have coerced Doctor Fred into a life of villainy via mind control; the exact means of dealing with the Meteor remain up to the player.

Technical details

The game was originally released for the Commodore 64 and was the first game to use the SCUMM engine, allowing relatively quick ports to other platforms.

Maniac Mansion was ported to the PC with EGA graphics in 1988 (though it was also compatible with CGA graphics). The project leader was Ron Gilbert, and the game was designed by Gilbert and Gary Winnick. The game was scripted by Ron Gilbert and David Fox. Versions for the Apple II, Amiga, and Atari ST computers were also released.

In 1990, Maniac Mansion was ported by Jaleco to the Nintendo Entertainment System, although the game was somewhat censored (for example, "brains sucked out" changed to "brains removed", graphic of nude sculpture removed, etc.). However, Nintendo initially overlooked the microwavable hamster trick. Many thousand copies of Maniac Mansion had shipped before Nintendo censored it from the game. Jaleco had released an uncensored version of the game for the Famicom in Japan two years earlier; this version, however, featured vastly inferior graphics, with simplified non-scrolling backgrounds and characters redrawn in a more cartoony, super deformed style (apparently an attempt to make the game more palatable to Japanese audiences).

In 2004, a free 256-colour fan-made remake entitled Maniac Mansion Deluxe was released by a group called LucasFan Games.

The game also spawned a TV series of the same name, featuring several of its characters—notably the Edison family (portrayed by a cadre of SCTV alums and future Beverly Hills 90210 starlets), descendants of that Edison, headed by the mad scientist extraordinaire, Dr. Fred Edison. This show is also notable for featuring the last televised performance of noted stage actor Jose Ferrer before his death.

An interesting notation: Maniac Mansion, although including many fantasy or science fiction elements, is the only series of LucasFilm adventures that occurs in a real world present day, and doesn't belong to the future (Full Throttle, The Dig, Zak McKracken), the past (Indiana Jones, Monkey Island), or an alternate version of reality (Sam and Max).

External links

es:Maniac Mansion fr:Maniac Mansion sv:Maniac Mansion


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