A wonderful parody of 60's B-grade horror movies. It was the first use of the SCUMM
scripting system (which stands for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), which was used in every LucasArts
graphic adventure until the recent switch to 3-dimensional keyboard-controlled games (Grim Fandango
Maniac Mansion was one of the first games of its time to use "cut scenes," which gave it a cinematic quality heretofore almost unseen. Other games that made use of cut scenes, such as Prince of Persia, tended not to include dialogue or any real plot information, but Maniac Mansion included clues and wacky dialogue.
SCUMM's amazing point and click interface involved selecting a verb from a command box, and then a noun from the hot spots on the screen, was the most intuitive adventure game GUI of its day. In my opinion, it surpassed Sierra Online's later developed icon bar system, which still featured heavy amounts of hunt-the-pixel.
Sandy: Maniac Mansion might have been ground-breaking in a lot of ways, but this is still a game about rescuing your girlfriend from the brain-sucking ZOM-B-MATIC of the criminally insane.
Dave: Dave is as close to a main character as Maniac Mansion gets. Dave is trying to rescue his cheerleader girlfriend Sandy from the evil clutches of Dr. Fred and must be included in your team of three teenagers. Dave doesn't really have any super special skills to speak of, although he's slightly better at not killing himself. If he dies, you get wacky alternative endings.
Razor: Leads the punk band Razor and the Scummettes. She can play piano. She's hard-core enough to nuke a hamster.
Bernard: A geek from back before it was cool, Bernard can fix anything in the game that's broken, be it telephone or radio.
Syd: A fairly hep individual who's looking to start his own band. This gives him the ability to play the piano. He can also microwave a hamster.
Wendy: A novelist. She can edit and prepare manuscripts if she sits at a typewriter long enough.
Jeff: A surfer dude. Has been arbitrarily handed the ability to fix telephones.
Michael: A photographer. He is the only character capable of utilizing the mansion's darkroom.
Dr. Fred: Not evil, just mad. Fred is under the influence of the meteor that crashed in his back yard twenty years ago.
Nurse Edna: Dr. Fred's neglected wife. In the NES version, her appetites were toned down significantly, but the PC versions showed her for the wanton sexpot she truly is.
Weird Ed: Dr. Fred's right-wing militant son. Loves his hamster more than anything. Partial to cheese.
Green Tenticle: Insecure but gifted, Green Tenticle is a leftover result of one of Dr. Fred's failed experiments.
Purple Tenticle: Easily more agressive than his green brother, Purple Tenticle is Dr. Fred's lab assistant. Also a leftover result of an earlier failed experiment.
The Meteor: Evil. Purple. Meglomaniacal. Controlling Dr. Fred.
Dead Cousin Ted: Ted is a mummy that stands in a bath tub. He seems to have a thing for the ladies.
The Meteor Police: These guys just sit on their butts until somebody radios them with information about the evil meteor.
How To Die (without blowing up the mansion)
Unlike many LucasArts graphic adventures, it was actually possible to die in a few different ways in Maniac Mansion. Most involved radiation.
- Leave a character in the swimming pool while another character refills it.
- Microwave a jar full of pool water, and open the microwave.
- Steal Weird Ed's pet hamster while he is away. Put the hamster in the microwave and nuke it. Take the exploded remains of the hamster and give it to Weird Ed.
- Make a demo tape. Send it off to get published. When your contract comes in the mail, show it to the Green Tenticle.
- Enter the meteor's presence without a radiation suit.
The mansion featured 32 different screens, which were graphically rich for their day.
LucasArts' second graphic adventure, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, featured a can of gasoline, which is a reference to the Maniac Mansion's chainsaw, which is famously out of gas. When Maniac Mansion was first released, there was a rumor that there was a single pixel that was a "crack in a pipe or a wall containing a secret 'hot key'" which would unlock a cabinet containing a gas can.