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Maniac Mansion

Released: 1990
Company: LucasArts
Genre: Role Playing

It's not often that a game makes fun of its genre, but the titles that do it are usually of good quality. Mighty Final Fight has gained almost cult status among NES players, and games like EarthBound have also become very popular. Maniac Mansion is yet another title that doesn't take its role seriously, and in the process beoms extremely fun.

The game patterns itself off a B-grade horror flick, in which a family of aliens is turning teenagers into zombies. Among that list of conversions is Sandy, the head cheerleader at the local high school. Well, Dave, her boyfriend, is not going to stand for it, so he and two other students decide to crash the mansion and rescue Sandy. Along the way, they'll come across the aliens. Some help you out (like Weird Ed), some throw you in the dungeon (such as Nurse Edna). Each member of the family has their own subplot, some of which come into play as you progress through the game.

One of the most remarkable facets to the game is that each player has their own talent. Wendy is an aspiring writer, while Michael knows how to develop film. Syd and Razor are master musicians, while Bernard is good at fixing things. Some tasks require certain people to perform them, and the numerous combinations of players makes the game extremely replayable. Many of the tasks all lead to the same point: getting to the inner lab to save Sandy.

Unfortunately, the game requires much more memory and attention to detail than most games. For instance, if you want to send an envelope in the mail, you have to get an envelope, steam it open using sink water, address it, put whatever it is you're sending in the envelope, put on a stamp, and put it in the mailbox. Miss one step, and by the time you've realized your mistake there's no way to reverse it. Thus, you're essentially screwed and have to restart the entire game. Not a pretty thought.

Another problem is there's a little too much emphasis on speed. Sometimes, if you mistakenly bump into Nurse Edna, you have to outrun her. This isn't easy to do, considering the method of movement is point the arrow to the destination and hitting A. Thus, you'll be thrown into the dungeon a lot. Also, the end of the game finds you racing against the clock to send an evil meteor out of the house. Again, the method of movement is time-consuimng, and as mentioned above, if you forget one crucial element, you can kiss your players goodbye.

Another thing I could do without is the music. True, they all sound pretty nice, but in a game like this the music selections can distract you. Sure, you can mute the TV, but then how will you hear the doorbell ringing if and when the mailman shows up? (This is an important part of the game). Thus, you have to turn off everyone's CD player - which is quite a chore - in order to stalk the house in peace. On the plus side, the theme for the alien scenes is very well done.

But the most important thing about this game is that it's fun. It's not only fun to play, but the mansion is also neat to explore. There are over 30 rooms in the mansion, each with their own objectives, items, and decorations. And compound that with the many different people you can play in the game and you have something that's going to last a long time. Unlike Shadowgate, whose challenge went right down the tubes once you've solved all the problems, Maniac Mansion can be played over and over again, despite the repetition of tasks.

Maniac Mansion is a rare game, but that doesn't mean it's no good. And there are some versions with an extra touch - in earlier copies of the game, Syd and Razor can nuke Weird Ed's hamster. I'm one of the lucky ones. You gotta hand it to Lucas Arts - they know how to make a good game.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 12
Challenge: (Hard)
Aesthetic Score: 20
Overall Score: 76%

You are now listening to the Edison Alien music to Maniac Mansion.

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