Platform: DOS; Amiga; Apple II; NES; Commodore 64
LucasArts’ first adventure game was an enormous success across several computer systems and the NES, helping to launch a successful empire in the industry. But while the creativity and ingenuity that would bolster the company is here in this offering, it more than makes up for it with questionable design choices and misguided puzzles.
Your girlfriend has been kidnapped by the mad scientist in the spooky mansion on the hill, and you’ve come out to save her. You must decide between two of your six friends, all with a different set of skills, to join you in breaking into the mansion and assisting you in the rescue mission. What follows is mostly a sprawling puzzle-fest, with most puzzles existing simply for their own sake, only a few interesting in their own right. What’s worse, the mansion is huge (well, naturally) and half of the game is spent backtracking over vast amounts of space, only to find out you need to backtrack yet again because you forgot one item. And then when you’re done you with that you realize you need one of your partners to backtrack to the other side of the mansion. Again. And again. And again. This might be tolerable, except there exists countless ways to lock one’s self out of victory without any way of knowing. I just don’t have the time for this.
But it is easy to see why it was popular. There were multiple paths and endings. Eccentric characters. Wacky, if not deep, humour . You can even nuke a pet hamster. The graphics were quite creative as well, though mostly garish unless being played on the Amiga. But LucasArts did what a good company should, and that is realize their mistakes and build upon their successes. Thus, I really can’t recommend Maniac Mansion over any other game in their exceptional catalog. Even its sequel, Day of the Tentacle, can be played without clambering through this frustration. If you do play it, I would recommend the fanmade remake which updates the graphics and interface.