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Maniac Mansion

Maniac Mansion is a graphical adventure game originally released in 1987 by Lucasfilm Games (now known as LucasArts). Maniac Mansion has become known among video game players and programmers for its highly-acclaimed gameplay and its introduction of new ideas into gaming, including multiple possible endings, multiple user-selectable characters with significantly different abilities, and critical clues contained in numerous cut scenes. It was the game for which the SCUMM ("Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion") engine was created and named after, which went on to be used by LucasArts for ten more years to create 13 original titles. It is the first game to feature Chuck the Plant (who is found in the library). The character appears in two other LucasArts adventure games, as well as several games by other publishers.

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 a parody of the horror B-movie genre, featuring a secret lab, disembodied 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, or feed him to the mutant plant. Unusual for Lucas games, it is quite possible to get the player characters killed (though largely only from severe mistakes on the player's part) and the loss of all characters also loses the game.

The game was somewhat notorious for featuring red herrings, such as 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. Also, in the second "enhanced" PC version of the Maniac Mansion game, the heroes can read a poster of the Zak McKracken game in the arcade room, upon which they will comment, "Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. What a great game!! I never did figure out what to do with the can of gas on Mars."

Another red herring is the staircase in the library (with a sign reading "staircase out of order") that appears to be a puzzle, but in fact there is no way to fix it or cross it.

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

The manual for the NES version is available online.

Cast

Playable characters

Maniac Mansion has a total of seven possible player characters. The player controls Dave, the main protagonist, and two other characters, chosen from six additional characters, each of whom has their own distinct skills and quirks:

  • Syd, a New Wave musician. He specializes in musical instruments.
  • Michael F. Stoppe, a photographer for the school newspaper. He is able to develop film.
  • Wendy Wells, an aspiring novelist with talent for writing and editing documents.
  • Bernard Bernoulli, a nerd suffering from overwhelming cowardice (he runs away from Green Tentacle until another character makes friends with it). He has the most skills of any character in the game, as he can disassemble the radio in the den, fix the HAM radio, and fix the telephone in the library. He cannot, however, open the security door in the copy protected version of the game - instead he tries to crack it, fails, and blows up the mansion. His presence in the game, although optional like the rest of the kids, is significant (and perhaps canonical) because he reappears in Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle as the main playable character.
  • Razor, a female punk rocker. Her talents are identical to Syd's, even the ability to microwave Weird Ed's Hamster. She was based on Gary Winnick's girlfriend. Her band, Razor and the Scummettes, is referred to in Zak McKracken. She reappears as a member of "The Vultures" biker gang in the 1995 SCUMM game Full Throttle.
  • Jeff Woodie, a surfer. He is the least talented character of the group after Dave, as his only ability is to repair the telephone, which Bernard can also do. However, the game is still completable as Jeff. The only other quality he has is that, as he lacks shoes, he doesn't make the same "walking sound" the other characters do.

The Edisons

The titular mansion is owned by Dr. Fred Edison and his bizarre family. Most of the Edisons pose a threat and will throw the player into the dungeon (or kill them, in some instances) if they are spotted. The exceptions are Weird Ed, who can be coerced into helping the player, and the relatively harmless Green Tentacle.

  • Dr. Fred, the patriarch of the family and a mad scientist. Although he periodically wanders through the house to talk to other family members, the player can only reach him if they breach the inner lab at the basement of the mansion.
  • Nurse Edna, Dr. Fred's wife, a gruesome, lusty nurse into S&M. When one of the male characters is captured by her, she locks them in the dungeon while lamenting, "How silly of me. I should have tied you to my bed!" Female characters are given the ominous, "You're lucky you're not a boy, or you'd be in BIG trouble right now!"
  • Weird Ed, Fred and Edna's macropalegic son, is a survivalist paramilitary maniac with a hair-trigger temper and an obsession with his pet hamster. In one notorious sequence (which is not needed to complete the game), the player can actually steal the hamster, microwave it, and then give its remains to Ed; prompting Ed to kill the offending character.
  • Dead Cousin Ted, Edna's cousin, is a mummified corpse with his own private gym, pornographic magazine collection, and a sarcophagus equipped with a television set. There is an unresolved running gag in the game that, in spite of his inactivity, he may in fact still be alive.
  • Green Tentacle and Purple Tentacle, a pair of ambulatory talking, brightly colored tentacles. Green is an aspiring rock-and-roll musician and manic depressive, who doesn't really want to follow Doctor Fred's orders. It is possible to get Green Tentacle to kill one of the players, by having him listen to an audio recording of "Tentacle Mating Calls". Doing so causes Green Tentacle to go into a frenzy; the screen will then cut to the dead player's tombstone. He will also react badly to anyone who presents a recording contract made out to them (by killing that character out of jealousy). The Purple Tentacle is Doctor Fred's easily-fooled henchman who guards the lab.
  • 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. Should the player try to approach the meteor without first having acquired a hazmat suit, the meteor will kill the player by firing a lethal dose of radiation at them. The exact means of dealing with the meteor remain up to the player; amongst his several fates are banishment to outer space, death, life imprisonment by an alien police, and an appearance on late-night television with a David Letterman parody. Purple Meteor reappears on a shelf in the office of Indiana Jones in the 1989 SCUMM game Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure.

Items and uses

Keys

  • Key - Front door
  • Old rusty key - Prison door
  • Silver key - Silver door
  • Yellow key - Opens and activates the Weird Edsel
  • Small key - Arcade coin boxes
  • Glowing key - The outer door's padlocks
  • Purple card key - The door in the lab past the radiation suit

Other Items

  • Undeveloped film - Weird Ed needs them (you need Michael)
  • Bottle of developer - To develop the film (you need Michael)
  • Radio tube - To use the CB (you need Bernard)
  • Manuscript - (You need Wendy)
  • Flashlight - See in the dark
  • Radio - To get new batteries
  • Old batteries - For the flashlight
  • Batteries - For the flashlight
  • Glass jar - To hold water
  • Cassette tape - Record songs/sounds
  • Old record - Skips when played
  • Record - Contains "tentacle mating calls", a piercing shriek that can shatter glass
  • Faucet handle - To turn on the shower
  • Tools - To fix the phone; open the grate
  • Paint remover - Remove paint on a wall
  • Paintbrush - A red herring, no in-game use
  • Demo tape - The Green Tentacle's demo tape
  • Dime - Used in the coin slot to rotate the telescope
  • Chainsaw - A red herring, no in-game use
  • Very dull knives - A red herring, no in-game use
  • Wax fruit - Food for the plant/tentacle
  • Tentacle chow - Food for the plant/tentacle
  • Pepsi - Cure the tentacle's thirst
  • Lettuce - Food for the plant/tentacle
  • Cheese - Food for the plant/tentacle
  • Ketchup - Food for the plant/tentacle
  • Old rotting turkey - Food for the plant/tentacle
  • Week old roast - Food for the plant/tentacle
  • Canned goods - Food for the plant/tentacle

Multiple endings

Depending on the player's actions and success or failure at solving puzzles, the game can end in several ways.

Bad endings

  • Mansion is nuked: This can occur under a few possible scenarios, either by overheating the nuclear reactor (draining the pool and leaving it empty too long, shutting down the mansion's power grid for too long, or pushing the button at the bottom of the pool) or by entering Doctor Fred's lab and failing to defeat the Purple Meteor before the self-destruct sequence runs its course. In both cases, the ending shows the mansion obliterated in a nuclear mushroom cloud.
  • Earth is conquered: If all three player controlled characters die, the ending shows the mansion on the hill, with a caption that the Purple Meteor went on to conquer earth and a small part of the galaxy, "hope you like purple!"
  • Dave is killed, and the game is finished by either blasting off the Purple Meteor, having him arrested, or eaten by the plant. Dr. Fred apologizes for the whole ordeal claiming Dave's life, then he humorously suggests that he can build a machine to bring Dave back to life, leaving Sandy alone.

Good endings

  • Purple Meteor is arrested: After repairing the ham radio and calling up the space police, the officer enters the lab and arrests the meteor, taking him away. The player is then free to disable the mind control machine, freeing Doctor Fred who shuts down the self-destruct. The scene then shows Dave, Sandy and Fred on the front porch, Fred thanking Dave and asking how he can ever repay him. Dave replies "Cash would be nice", followed by Fred saying, "Don't be a tuna head!"
  • Purple Meteor gets blasted off: If the space police was not called, the player can grab the Purple Meteor and take a small air vent in the same room that leads to the car garage. The meteor can be locked inside the car trunk using the yellow key and the car then started, sending it out into space where you can see the meteor screaming out, sitting on the car's front dash, earth visible far behind. The story then follows the same path as the "Purple Meteor is arrested" ending.
  • Purple Meteor is killed by feeding him to the Plant upstairs. This is accomplished by having the garage already demolished. This only works on the NES and Commodore 64. Then follows the same ending with Dr. Fred talking to the characters.
  • Purple Meteor is befriended: By having Wendy retype the meteor's biographical manuscript and mailing it to the "Three Guys Who Will Publish Anything", you obtain by return mail a publishing contract for the meteor's memoirs. Entering Fred's lab and showing the meteor the contract, he realizes that he can become a star and tells Fred that they're giving up being evil, that they'll become rich instead. The scene then shifts to a late night television show where the meteor is being interviewed as a best-selling author. He thanks the people who made his writing debut possible, and the camera shifts offstage where Dave and Sandy are standing. An alternative to this ending is having someone call the space police the moment before they give the contract to Purple Meteor. The late night television show scene starts, but in the middle of it, the space police arrive and arrest Purple Meteor, despite his turn to good.

Reception

Maniac Mansion was well received by critics. Computer Gaming World praised the game for being "composed in the best comic horror tradition".

Versions and ports

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. 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.

Maniac Mansion was ported to the PC with EGA graphics in 1988 (though it was also compatible with CGA and Hercules graphics).

In 1988, Jaleco released an uncensored version of the game for the Famicom in Japan; this version, however, featured vastly inferior graphics, with simplified non-scrolling backgrounds (many of the rooms, which featured elaborate details such as photographs and wallpaper patterns in Western versions of the game, were here presented as solid-colored screens devoid of anything except objects necessary to complete the game) and characters redrawn in a more cartoon-like, super deformed style (apparently an attempt to make the game more palatable to Japanese audiences; many of the characters ended up looking like blocks with faces). Due to the nature of the Famicom market in Japan, Jaleco was a game cartridge manufacturer, and Nintendo's censorship was never needed. However, this version used excessively long passwords which were 104 characters long to save progress.

In 1989, an enhanced version of Maniac Mansion for the PC with improved graphics was released.

There was a sitcom of the same name, very loosely based on the game, which aired from 1990 to 1993 on YTV in Canada and The Family Channel in the United States.

In 2004, fans released a remake called Maniac Mansion Deluxe, which runs under Windows, features heavily enhanced graphics, music throughout the whole game (borrowed from Day of the Tentacle), and fixes some bugs and inconsistencies found in the original release of the game. Furthermore, some changes were implemented, such as a slightly harder puzzle to remove the paint blotch on the fourth floor.

NES port and The Expurgation of Maniac Mansion

In 1990, a version was published for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in North America and Europe, but in a heavily censored form in order to comply with Nintendo of America (NoA) and Nintendo of Europe's policy. However, NoA initially overlooked the ability to microwave the hamster to death. Many thousand copies of Maniac Mansion had shipped before NoA noticed and demanded its removal. However, as there was no second printing of the game, all North American cartridges include the "hamster" and the "microwave". The PAL region NES cartridges of Maniac Mansion have the hamster-microwaving ability removed.

In the early 1990s, programmer Douglas Crockford, the man in charge of porting the game to the NES, wrote a memoir entitled The Expurgation of Maniac Mansion, which detailed his struggles with Nintendo of America during the process of converting the game. Throughout the early 1990s, the essay turned up in photocopy form and on numerous electronic mailing lists, eventually becoming widely available on several websites. In the essay, Crockford details the strict policy that NoA enforced in the early 1990s regarding its video games; essentially, he felt the policy held that all video games had to be completely family oriented, and could not contain anything that anyone could find offensive in any way (such as religious references, foul language, violence, or sexuality). While Crockford expressed an agreement or even understanding with removing some material—notably, Edna's sexually-oriented threats to characters—he documents other demands of Nintendo's as either absurd or inconsistent; for example, Crockford claims that most Nintendo games contain violence, including the Super Mario games, “and the only motivation [for killing enemies] is that they are there.” He also documents how he justified keeping in a nude statue in the Edisons' art gallery by claiming that it was modeled on a real Michelangelo sculpture; NoA acquiesced, on the grounds that Crockford remove non-existent pubic hair from the statue; because this could not be done, Crockford was ultimately forced to remove the image.

Glitches

  • In the NES and PC version of the game, a glitch allows the character that Ed has killed to come back as a "ghost"; the character's sprite does not appear, but can still be moved around the screen. It is possible to complete the game with this "ghost" character.
  • In the NES version, if Syd or Razor put the hamster in the microwave and use the command "GET HAMSTER", they will have a copy of the hamster in their inventory.
  • Also in the NES version, the player can halt any character (except Purple Tentacle) who can throw them in the dungeon. The glitch involved switching to a new kid while the enemy is chasing you, waiting approximately 8 seconds, then switching back. This glitch allowed players to go to Edna's room with all the time they needed. It also works while Green Tentacle is in the hallway, but it only stops him for 3 seconds.
  • A similar glitch allows the player to bypass Purple Tentacle. If a cutscene appears an instant after walking into the lab door, Purple Tentacle will simply stand there and will not run after the character.
  • Normally, the player must fix the arcade machines and wait for Dr. Fred to play them so they can read his score to open the inner lab door. However, by entering the code, "0000" in the door, the door will open, thus saving the player a few minutes of time and effort.
  • By selecting a character on the starting screen and quickly pressing start before the music starts, one of two things will happen: The selection will begin to garble into images of Dave's face, or Dave will have the selected character’s music in gameplay. If the latter happens, you can switch to that character, press pause, and unpause, and then Dave's music will be playing.

See also

References

External links

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