Thursday, October 29, 2009

Maniac Mansion - C-64 - Countdown to Halloween

Okay, this isn't REALLY horror, but it is inspired by 50's sci-fi/horror. Which is cool. So there.
Anyway, I've ran out of horror games I've played.

That was way back in 1987. It was an awesome game in it's time, established a lot of adventure gaming conventions that would follow and spawn a sequel that is also very awesome.


Dave Miller's girlfriend Sandy has been kidnapped and seen being dragged off to Dr. Fred's house. Dave and two of his friends get together to rescue Sandy from the clutches of the mad scientist and his crazy family. Abductions, mutant tentacles and old clich├ęs abound in this funny parody of old horror movies.

Dr. Fred's spooky mansion


One of the innovations of this game is that as opposed to other adventure games of the era where you had to type the commands, this one used a series of clickable menu words which made it more accessible.

Also, the extra two characters were selectable through a choice of optional ones that had different personalities and strengths/weaknesses. This allowed for a varied gameplay and replay value. You could switch between the three characters whenever you wanted and it would influence how you would solve puzzles.

Dave and two of the optional characters, and the interface.

And things done in one screen had impact on places or characters in other screens. That may not seem much today, but back then showed an evolving complexity in video games.

It's an adventure game, so went go through the many locations around the mansion picking up anything that wasn't nailed down, solving puzzles and running away from the abducting family that would lock you into the dungeon if they caught you.

As a kid, I was terrified of going into the kitchen, because Nurse Edna might be there and start chasing after me. I did NOT want to go into the kitchen. The first time it happened, I screamed and got out in a sweat. Luckily the characters wouldn't chase you if you exited the room.

That scary part with Edna happens at around 0:46 in the video.

But it was a big source of stress when I was playing it. The tentacle also scared me, until I became his friend.

Eventually, you free Sandy from the clutches of Dr. Fred, who you find out is under the influence of an alien meteor that fell near his mansion twenty years ago. You send off the meteor into space and all is well ... until the sequel.

The whole tone of the game is tone-in-cheek, making fun of the genre. I would love to play an updated version of this game.

Green Tentacle

Graphics / Sound

Those were pretty impressive for the time. The power of the C-64 was impressive, with it's midi sound effects. The mansion was huge, with lots of rooms to explore and scrolling screens. Now this was impressive for the period.

It was also innovative for using cut-scenes that gave story exposition and clues. Probably for the first time in video game history.

Final thoughts

I have great memories of this game. It spawned my love for adventure games (and the beginnings of LucasArts. Yes, there was Labyrinth before that, but that's where is came into it's own.) The characters were great and the story also was, with lots of funny moments. Hamster in the microwave anyone? That sort of thing can't be done anymore. LOL!

I spent many hours trying to figure out the many wacky puzzles in this game and exploring.

Adventure games are kind of getting a renaissance these days and bringing back good franchises with GOOD games is ok in my book!


Blake said...

God this game frustrated me so much. I would just end up going back and fourth into each room at some point not know what to do.