The adventure game that makes no sense
In 1987, Lucasfilm released their first adventure called Maniac Mansion
. It was also the debut of their SCUMM engine, which was superior to Sierra
's AGI engine. As well as making it easier for designers, players could also select commands and objects on the screen, rather than entering them on the keyboard.
The story revolves around a meteor that has crash-landed near a mansion. Doctor Fred, the owner of the mansion, decides to bring it in from the cold and store it inside his “seckrit lab”. Since then, Fred does some strange things. First, he goes out and kidnaps a young girl, and hooks her up to his machine capable of turning innocent people into zombies. Then, he occupies himself with too much work, meaning that he doesn't leave his lab for years, even refusing to eat dinner with his own family. His bizarre behavior is affecting the entire family.
The news of the kidnapping reaches the girl's boyfriend, who comes to the rescue. Joining him are two of his friends. I like how you can play as different characters. You first start controlling Dave, who is the character that you play most of the time; but anytime during the game you are free to change to a different character and swap objects between the three of them. There are up to five other characters you can play, and all of them have different skills. For example, Syd and Razor both play a cool tune on the piano; and Bernard can put technology he finds to good use, such as the HAM radio).
How you treat the characters is up to you. You can rescue Sandy with all three kids intact, kill the main character and tough it out with just two kids, give the meteor a contact, or have him arrested. I actually played Maniac Mansion
more than once just to watch each ending. Most of the endings are funny, especially the first one. I believe that multiple endings are hardly seen in any LucasArts game. Speaking of the characters, how they respond to you, as well as the others, is quite interesting to listen to: Edna with her sexually-suggestive comments, Weird Ed with his 'Tum de Dum' lines.
The graphics were good at the time. I like how the mansion is laid out, with at least two rooms on every floor. Apart from the second last floor, where Weird Ed and Nurse Edna live, you can just walk into any room and actually do something without getting caught. Everything, including the main characters, are quite colorful and animated nicely. I played the enhanced version, which looks much better than the original one.
Although there is little music in the game, the music is catchy. The sound effects are very basic, since everyone can only hear them through PC Speaker. The alarm that sounds when you turn the main power off sounds excellent, and what's funny about it is it sounds like a fire engine, and not a real alarm. I also enjoyed listening to the tunes that Syd and Razor uses the piano to belt out. The enhanced version sounds much better.
If you played any future LA games, then chances are that there is a fair bit of humor in Maniac Mansion
. One example of such humor would be where you land yourself in the dungeon after being caught. Also, entering the wrong code for the big security door causes a nuclear meltdown. As I mentioned earlier, the endings are quite funny, especially if Doctor Fred gets involved.
The “What is” command is useful for finding objects on the screen and using those in conjunction with the commands, but it doesn't help when you are in a dark room, where the light or lamp is already turned off. By selecting this command, you have to hunt for the light source, and this takes some time.
The Bottom LineManiac Mansion
was not the first LA game that I played; that was Monkey Island 2. The first time I got to look at the game was from Day of the Tentacle
, where you can access Ed's computer to play it. The one from DOTT uses Version 0 of the SCUMM engine, the same as the Commodore 64 version. This version had bland graphics compared to the 1989 remake of it.
Besides Zak McKracken
, this is the only game that gives you the ability to control up to three characters during the game. As I mentioned before, each playable character has different skills, and because of this, Maniac Mansion
can be replayed with different characters. Also, there are multiple endings, and most of these are worth watching.
If you enjoy playing LA games for their humor, then I recommend playing Maniac Mansion
. you should get the 1989 version, as the graphics and sound are heaps better. I don't think that there are timer issues with it, so you should get it up and running on modern computers.