Friday, April 10, 2009

Maniac Mansion (Game)

Plot summary
It has been twenty years, to the day, since a mysterious purple meteor came hurtling out of the sky and made a large crater in the front lawn of a huge Victorian-era mansion belonging to the Edison family. Dr. Fred, his wife Nurse Edna, and their son Edward "Weird Ed" Edison were reclusive people who left the house very rarely, but the meteor's arrival brought about a strange change in Dr. Fred and the family were seen even less, and even their mansion has fallen into disrepair. Lately, patients from the local hospital have begun to disappear without trace.
Now, a local teenage cheerleader, Sandy Pantz, has been kidnapped. Dave Miller, her boyfriend, saw her being carried off to the Edison's mansion and has gathered a few of his college pals on a rescue mission to invade the mansion and save Sandy. 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, in some versions, feed him to the mutant plant. The game also allows permadeath, which is unusual for Lucas games. If one character dies, replacement needs to be selected, and if all characters die you will get a game over.
The game featured some notorious 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. 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. During development, it had been planned to put a room there, but the room was left out due to a lack of disk space. One notable bug in Commodore 64 version of the game was at the Garage near the pool. If you didn't open the Garage door, you can select the top of the garage with the Walk-To option and the player's character would walk up the garage door like it was a staircase.

Playable characters
Maniac Mansion has a total of seven possible player characters. The player controls Dave, the main protagonist (unless he dies), and two other characters, chosen from six additional characters, each of whom has their own distinct skills and quirks:
Syd, an aspiring New Wave musician. He specializes in musical instruments.
Michael F. Stoppe, an amateur photographer, aspiring to be a professional photographer. He works for the college newspaper and is able to develop film.
Wendy, an aspiring novelist with writing and editing skills.
Bernard Bernoulli, a nerd suffering from 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, the torn wiring in the attic, and fix the telephone in the library. 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. 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 game Full Throttle.
Jeff Woodie, a "surfer dude", 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 with Jeff in a player's party.

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 under certain circumstances can be convinced to side with the player, and the relatively harmless Green Tentacle.