Maniac Mansion Deluxe (Windows)

Maniac Mansion Deluxe Windows Title screen

MISSING COVER

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Written by  :  Nowhere Girl (3136)
Written on  :  Jun 14, 2017
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars
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Summary

A huge improvement in terms of comfort, not much improvement in terms of graphics

The Good

"Maniac Mansion" is, of course, a very nice game by itself. A puzzle-solving adventure game with the main aspects that set it apart: cooperation between player characters, highly non-linear gameplay (to a high extent, the puzzles can be solved in different order) and several possible solutions to some problems, depending on which characters you choose. But all of this is well-known and writing about it in detail would risk making this a combination review of the original game and this fan remake. So, more generally: "Maniac Mansion Deluxe" is a faithful remake. It upgrades graphics (with mixed results), it makes just a few solutions slightly more complicated (for example, now to use the paint remover you also need a paintbrush, and you need to open the can first), but doesn't introduce any new puzzles. It doesn't even feel like a remake, more like filling a gap, introducing something that has been missing - an upgrade of the original game. While I like good-quality EGA graphics, something that made the original versions of "Maniac Mansion" somewhat irritating was the game's "pre-mouse" character. Anyway, "Maniac Mansion" was a keyboard-controlled point-and-click game and it's a combination which doesn't work very well. It was so slow, so much time was wasted on moving the cross cursor to the correct command, pressing Enter and then moving it up to the room view itself... It just works way better with the mouse. Of course, in order not to make the game too easy, it also now seems more fast-paced (but it is easier now anyway). The original game had two sequences which dragged on and you could do nothing about it: one when (if playing with Wendy, Razor or Syd as the main character) you need to mail an item to "3 Guys Who Publish Anything" and then wait for the contract to arrive, and the other one when Dr. Fred shuts down the power in the whole house (often at the moment when you need to use electricity, for example I first ran into it right when Bernard was going to use the radio and call the Meteor Police). I'm not sure how long they took in the original - I preferred to read something and check more or less every half a minute what's going on in the game. But now you definitely don't have to wait that long - in the first case it's not more than some 3 minutes real-time from the moment you put the envelope in the mailbox until the moment the contract arrives, the second time Dr. Fred tells his wife that the power will be off for "5 or 6 minutes", but in fact it's now less that a minute. This time I even regretted it because of one beautiful aspect of the game's graphics: the flashlight effects. In the original a dark room was pitch-black, with only a gray silhouette of the character(s) in the room, and if you used a flashlight, a small area of original colors appeared. Now a dark room isn't completely dark - for example you can quite easily find the light source without moving the cursor over the screen and looking for when it says "lamp" - but an area lit by a flashlight looks much more interesting and realistic, with a gradually dimming circle of light. So the moment when the power is off offers an opportunity to explore how the flashlight looks in rooms which aren't normally dark - but you have very little time to do it...
Anyway, now, with its mouse control, the game is much easier and first of all more comfortable to play. Switching between the kids is easier now - portraits of two other kids are always visible. The original had a few sequences of tight cooperation between two characters which have become much quicker now. For example, now it's very easy to turn off the power, repair broken wires in one of the mansion's attics and turn the power back on before Dr. Fred notices it was off. The same applies to the section with draining the pool and collecting items from its bottom, though it's not as easy. Anyway, it's not much of a hindrance - if Purple Tentacle goes to the basement to check out the reactor, it will just turn off the light - and in this remake a dark room, as said, doesn't become completely dark anyway...
The save system has also been improved a bit. While the remake's authors decided to preserve the original's function keys - spacebar for pausing and F5 for saving and restoring - now you can enter short savegame descriptions. When playing the original, I used to write it down in the "Notes" section of D-Fend Reloaded so that I could remember better where I finished...
The interface has also been upgraded. The number of commands was reduced ("Turn on", "Turn off" and "Fix" could be eliminated without any real problems), while the one which was painfully missing in the original (the very first SCUMM game anyway) - "Look at" - was introduced. While comments obtained by using it aren't very numerous and are sometimes very short and boring (for example just: "Neat."), it's definitely a good idea.

The Bad

The graphics should be an improvement - but for me, a fan of higher-resolution EGA graphics, they aren't... I wouldn't also say they are bad - while some rooms look worse than in the original, some are greatly improved - but I definitely could say that I was, to an extent, disappointed. OK, a bit about the better rooms, despite it being "The Bad" section. The original had some rooms which looked really ugly. EGA is, in essence, a palette of bright colors and the red wall panels in the living room or dining room almost "hurt the eyes". Now they have been more that toned down - for example the walls in the living room are now painted light-brown and it looks definitely better. Also in case of a few purple-pink rooms the remake's authors decided to completely change the general hue - clearly for the better... But in some cases this "pastellization" didn't work well. For example, the room with a fireplace in the fourth floor - it looked rich, almost "royal" with its golden-red wallpaper in the original, now it's much more dull and you can hardly see any details in the painting over the fireplace. Generally I think the game could have been done better if the changes to graphics were more bold, less conservative. The authors decided to keep almost all shapes of objects intact, only changing the colors and shading. A few slightly bolder changes - for example, changing the worst pictures on the walls or making the Weird Ed's bedspread a more realistic military camo - could have made a better effect.
Music is also not much of an improvement. For some players it's actually better that original "Maniac Mansion" mostly doesn't have background music, only some sound effects that intensify the feeling of tension. I'm not 100% sure about it, but the music introduced in the remake isn't too interesting. The only change I can remember well enough is the Green Tentacle's demo.

The Bottom Line

Altogether, it's a nice remake, even though I regret that some rooms in fact look worse than in the EGA original. It's good enough that some player may appreciate this remake as a replacement for the original game. It's not a remake that changes much (as, for example, the remake of "King's Quest II" by Tierra/AGD, it rather, as I said, seems to fill a gap: it moves the intact storyline forward to the era of much more comfortable mouse-based interface. It just works so much quicker, so much more comfortable now... I also decided to try "Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders" (I haven't finished it yet and generally I don't like this game very much) and I chose the usually better-looking, mouse-controlled FM Towns version. So for me the "Maniac Mansion" remake feels more like such a missing FM Towns version - in this case not always better-looking, but definitely much more comfortable to play because of its faster and more precise mouse control...