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Old 01-03-2013, 06:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Maniac Mansion

Hello 1up. I told my good friend Rob I would review this game for him a long time ago, and since I've been writing blogs like a maniac lately, it's past time I get off my ever widening posterior, and wrote a review of it. Since this is a puzzle game I really don't want to say too much about it in an effort to avoid spoliers. So consider this to be a mini review. First, here's some questions for you. Are you a maniac? Do you live in a mansion? Are you skilled at dodging alien tentacles and mad scientists? Have you ever placed a hamster in a microwave? If so, than this might be the game for you!

Maniac Mansion is a adventure game developed and published by Lucasfilm Games. It was initially released for the Commodore 64 and Apple II in 1987. This was Lucasfilm's first foray into video game publishing. The NES version wasn't ported until 1991. Published by Jaleco in September 1990, Maniac Mansion was Lucasfilm Games' first NES release.

There was a lot of censorship involved with this game. During its development for home computers, Lucasfilm Games censored profanity in the game. For example, Lucasfilm forced the developers to change Dave Miller's opening line of "Don't be a shit head" to "Don't be a tuna head". In the NES version, the designers had to remove even more content so that it was suitable for younger audiences and followed Nintendo's policies.

Maniac Mansion is full of humor and has a light hearted tone. The Edison family lives in their mansion. In that mansion dwelled a man named Fred, his wife Edna, and their son Ed. They all live a happy, peaceful existence until one terrible night 20 years ago when a meteor crashes near their house. Dr. Fred is transformed into a mindless puppet whose purpose in life changes quite drasticaly. He is forced to do the evil Meteor's bidding. Which just so happens to be sucking the brains out of people. In a twist of fate, the Meteor tells Dr. Fred to abduct a local college cheerleader named Sandy. Sandy's boyfriend Dave comes dashing in like a white knight. He organizes a rescue party of friends to help him save Sandy from Dr. Fred's hideous plot. Ed desires nothing more than to save his father from the meteor's evil clutches. Nurse Edna's assistance is about as helpful as having a tuna for a head.

This game features multiple paths and multiple endings. Whoever heard of that in a NES game? Booting up the game you are given a choice of six kids. There's one kid you must take, but the rest are up to you, and will affect how you can play this game. So you pick your 2 other kids and let the mania commence. The difficulty of the game varies depending on which characters you select. All of the different characters have different attributes and skills. Razor can play piano. Bernard is the super smart nerdy guy who can use tools and fix stuff. Jeff is skilled in fixing broken telephones, and has a fondness for surfing. Syd has a band and various musical talents. Wendy's a writer and can re-write other people's work. Michael works with film.

The first thing your gonna notice is that moving the d-pad doesn't actually move your characters. Instead it moves a cursor. Like most adventure games of the early 90s it's point and click. You use this cursor to move around the screen and interact with the environment. At the bottom of the screen are twelve verbs. These represent different actions that you can take. Such as open, push, pull, or even switching between characters. You can use the cursor to check around the environment for secret items or swtiches or whatever. Depending on the Verb-Noun combination, something may happen. For instance, if you say "Turn on microwave" the microwave will turn on. Sometimes there might be another required task you need to complete before your actions will work. Such as placing a cassette in a tape player before playing it. If you do something that doesn't make logical sense, such as "Turn on bowl of wax fruit," don't expect results. You must use your different characters skills and hidden items in order to progress.

Throughout your journey, there are many puzzles to solve. All the while trying to avoid the mansion's crazy ass inhabitants. Encountering these mofos is bad news. It usually results in a quick trip to the dank, and smelly dungeon. The cool thing about Maniac Mansion is that there is a lot of different ways you can approach your different tasks. By performing certain actions, it's possible to befriend these insane maniacs. There's a lot of stuff to do.

You'll have to perform dozens of actions to progress and gain access to other areas. Stuff like feeding tentacles, or draining water from a pool. These screens are static and don't change too much. It's possible to kill your characters by performing certain stunts. Attempting to aquire all the possible different items, and doing everything right on the first try is extremely difficult. Whether you have to distract Nurse Edna so you can search through her stuff, climb on top of crates to reach a key that's just out of reach, there is always a way to overcome obstacles. What really makes Maniac Mansion unique is that there are usually at least two or three ways to solve every puzzle, and the solutions often require different members in your team.

Here comes Edna!

This isn't a one man show. The main protagonist simply can't do everything by himself. In order to reach the end you must sometimes switch between multiple characters. Teamwork is essential. One of this game's greatest strengths lies in it's replay value and utilizing your team to solve puzzles. You can experiment with any combination of characters you like in an attempt to achieve one of ten possible endings. Not all parties are created equally however. Necessary strategies for solving the puzzles depend largely on your party members... so choose wisely! A few strategies will even require more than one person to get involved. There are plenty of secrets and Easter eggs to be discovered.

Every once in a while, there's a cutscene that interrupts the gameplay. These scenes are quite humorous, and often provide hints, or help to reveal the mansions secrets. They also let you know how Sandy is doing. When you first encounter the inhabitants of the mansion you can talk to them. If they don't send you straight to the dungeon that is. Although any group can survive through the mansion, that isn't always true if someone dies. Losing party members is rather difficult, so you shouldn't have too much to fear. Deaths are funny and mostly exist to add replay value. Try to find all the ways to die! Just keep in mind that whenever someone dies, everything they carried in their inventory is gone. Sometimes you might have to restart if you fail a puzzle.

The Edison family also includes Green and Purple, a pair of disembodied tentacles who are somehow capable of speech. Don't forget to check behind the shower curtains! Or you might miss the lovable dead cousin Ted. A mummified relative currently taking up residence in the family's shower for some unknown reason. I was shocked when I discovered something like that in a NES game. And yes. It's possible to place Ed's hamster in the microwave and nuke him. WTF would you want to nuke a helpless hamster though?

The real highlight lies in all of it's weirdness and offbeat humor. It's pretty open and you can explore the mansion at your own free will. For the most part. Stealth exists during certain sections in which you must evade the demented characters that roam that house. This game never takes itself too seriously. It is possible to save your progress. Accessing the save menu may prove a bit mystical at first because you have to hold the Start button for a second before it appears. I didn't even know about it untill recently. This game is fairly short, especially if you know what you are doing, but thrives on this aspect because of the multiple routes and the amount of content. It encourages multiple playthroughs with different characters, which increases the replay value.

Graphically speaking, Maniac Mansion looks pretty good for a NES game. Characters sprites are large and easily distinguishable. Their mouths even move when they talk! Woah! So many wacky objects inhabit this mansion, and it's obvious that a lot of work and care was put into it's design. Walking animations only consist of three frames. So it doesn't look realistic at all.... but hey! This is a NES game we are talking about. There is an abundant use of different colors in the various backgrounds, and they are very well detailed and unique. Most of the mansion is full of little touches that help bring it to life or add character. All of the funky looking characters and high-tech devices add a lot of charm.

My only real complaint with this game is the controls. It was originally designed for a computer, which would allow for a mouse to be used to control where you go. I feel that a mouse is very important in a point and click adventure game. Moving the cursor around with the D-pad is clunky at best and slows down gameplay. You will find yourself constantly hitting select to input commands. It gets extremely tedious after awhile... but to be fair, the controls are fairly accurate, and it's possible to move the cursor around the screen at a decent speed.

Maniac Mansion has an excellent soundtrack and even the audio affects gameplay somewhat. You can fix radios and play records during the game, and can even tape some weird noises just for fun. Each of the characters have their own unique themes since they own CD players. The songs range from pretty good to great, and are far longer than most musical compositions for the NES. Sound effects are also pretty good in quality, but they are rare. You'll hear a ping when you pick up an item, the noise the Hunk-O-Matic makes during operation, windows shattering, and etc. I can't recall that many other sound effects.

My Score : (7/10)

I suck at puzzle games. Some of it is kind of cryptic, and the controls might easily turn people off. Especially those used to playing adventure games with a mouse. It's certainly not the type of game that's going to appeal to everyone. It is pretty slow-paced, and requires some thought, or sometimes just plain trial and error when things get a bit vague and confusing. Still, it's a fun and unique title on the NES, and I would recommend it.

Did you guys ever play Maniac Mansion? What did you think about it?

Thanks for reading.

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