*CENSORED*!!! Maniac Mansion!!!
Few games can claim to be a revolution in every aspect of it's genre, few games that is, aside from Maniac Mansion. From interface, to plotline, to graphics, to design, etc... MM managed to become the holy grail of adventure games and it's influence can still be felt to this day.
MM's most obvious and well-known contribution to the genre was the inclusion of it's wonderful scripting engine which formed the basis for adventure game interface's for years. No longer you had to contend with a measly text parser and the world of adventure games would change forever to become much more accessible and much easier to develop content for.
Furthermore, it is extremely interesting to note how sophisticated the game is gameplay wise considering it was one of the very first adventure games ever. Maniac Mansion sports multiple characters changeable on the fly (to a total of 13 possible combinations) each with it's distinct puzzles that lead to 4 possible endings, and each with multiple solutions to most puzzles and a completely non-linear structure that allows you to (with some exceptions) try and re-try every aspect of the game without fear of dying or screwing things up (remember that most puzzles have alternate solutions, even if you just screwed up a possible key item!). You can try the "generic Bernard and anyone else" way, or see what the Jeff-Razor combo is all about, it's up to you! Tell me what other adventure game does that?? Before or after!
Now I don't know what the hell some of the people that reviewed this game here on Moby were smoking, but the graphics are just plain awesome. The sprites were the size of supernovas compared to other games and I'd like someone to point out to me which other adventure game had scrolling backgrounds before MM! Heck you even had fully animated cutscenes, and the level of detail in the graphics made it possible for you to actually read what was written on the walls or even make out details like the X-wing model in a certain room. If the characters look phony and cartoony that's maybe *just maybe* because that WAS THE POINT YOU *CENSORED*! Point which brings me to the amazingly smart plotline and concept behind MM.
Forgoing any "epic" adventuring (that somehow seems to be the only thing adventure gamers can digest) MM revolutionized adventure games in general by being itself a spoof of cheesy 80's sci-fi/horror movies. I understand how anyone can have his reservations about considering that revolutionary in any way, but that was because this was the first game (at least to my knowledge) that made full use of sarcasm and became one big spoof in itself and not just a regular game with some comedic dialogues and gags.
As I mentioned, the plot in Maniac Mansion takes it's roots in every cheesy sci-fi movie of the 80's you've ever seen, but does so knowingly and exploits every single aspect of it. Everything from the Ed Wood-like plot (mad-scientist, horrible monsters, funky uses of radiation and chemistry, evils from outer space, etc...) to the super stereotyped cartoony characters (the Punk "bad" girl, the nerdy geek, the handsome all-american protagonist, the sensitive girl next door, etc..) to the cheesy dialogues and remarks is exploited to full comedic genius. If you've ever seen movies like "Fright Night" (or better yet, the equaly genius spoof "Return of the Living Dead" [which I suspect was a major influence on Maniac Mansion]) you know what I'm talking about. MM's plot forgoes all the "formal" concepts most *CENSORED* close-minded people consider when they judge a good storyline and instead turns the cake around and uses it's brains (for a change) in order to spoof the living daylights out of the definitive pop-culture mainstay of the 80's. Proof positive of it's comedic genius is that as the years go by, and the "nostalgia curve" closes in (15 years or so usually, [if you don't know what I'm talking about go ask someone that knows demographics about the cycling nature of pop culture... basic marketing concepts folks]) Maniac Mansion's plot remains charged with all it's irreverent wittysism, and sarcastic edge. Just look for all it's parallels in the cheesy contemporary teeny-bopper pop-corn horror flicks (you known, the Scream clones) and you'll see that what goes around, comes around... and standing firm among it all, there's Maniac Mansion.
Well it's just too smart you know? And smart things are dangerous! No seriously, look at the reviews in here, I don't want to turn this into a forum complete with insults and trolls and flames, but the *CENSORED* of some persons amaze me. The thing with sarcasm is, that it doesn't work its magic on *CENSORED*! Since sarcasm works indirectly it's up to the audience to use his/her brains and figure out that "A-ha!! It's not that this thing is super-cheesy, it's that it is intentionally over-the-top to spoof and make fun of said cheesy stuff!! Ha!! Now I get it!!! Ho-Ho-Ho!!!
If the audience doesn't use his/her brains instead you get: "Uh... This is cheesy!! How come this is so cheesy?? There's nothing but cheese here!! duh!! this must be stupid, I shall now turn off my computer and resume banging my head against a wall!
Is this really a lack of brainpower or simply an effect of the locked-down close minded perspective of some individuals (as Dr. Einrich Von Doomstein theorized in his seminal work: "Why adventure gamers are nothing but prissy little *CENSORED*") I pressume the later, since I was a frigging kid when I played this around 1989/90 and I still got it.
...Geez, that will get enough spam to last a lifetime, but what the heck right? Want to point out some really bad points of MM? The puzzles could get pretty wicked at some points (so keep a walkthrough handy if you value your sanity) and I agree with some people that the game has some "inconvenient" parts, like waiting around for a package to be delivered when playing with the writter chick, etc... but quite frankly I preffer that timing "inconvenience" to the "inconvenience" of having to type everything you do in the game.
The Bottom Line
Imitated by everyone, loved by millions, misunderstood by some few sorry dudz. That's Maniac Mansion, the Street Fighter 2 of adventure games. Truly one of the finest games ever conceived and arguably one of the best adventure games ever made. Fortunately for us the few misguided souls that didn't get this game are indeed few and misguided, and MM was a blockbuster hit in it's time and remains to this day a pinnacle of interactive entertainment.
Besides any game with characters named Syd and Razor is a winner in my book. Heck, just mentally change the names of some characters, add a "Scud" and a "Suicide" and play it with 45 Grave's "Partytime" in the background and you'll have the closest thing to a game of Return of the Living Dead only without the zombies! Don't bother to get it, tough: it comes free of charge with Day of the Tentacle, which makes 2 killer games for the price of 1.