Maniac Mansion is definitely one of the best video games of all time.
  1. You get to pick which characters you want to take with you, each of whom has different talents (except Dave, who you have to take and who has no special talents).
  2. You can supposedly beat the game with any combination of characters and in different ways.
  3. It was an early game to include save capability.
  4. The game is actually creepy and scary.
  5. It's a strategy/adventure game that can make you sweat or yell out loud! You can choose to make friends with your enemies or not.
  6. It includes odd, black humour such as "chewy, caramel center" and microwaving Weird Ed's hamster.
  7. It spawned a Canadian TV series starring Joe Flaherty.
  8. It unveiled a unique interface for adventure games.
  9. Your characters have to cooperate in order to accomplish certain tasks.
  10. It has a compelling story and dialogue.
  11. It appeals equally to girls and boys.
  12. It was difficult, but not frustrating or downright impossible.
The Commodore 64 version is the best version available since the PC version uses PC speaker sound (which is far inferior to the Commodore SID chip) and a mouse (a joystick could kick a mouse's ass any day), and in the NES version all the enemies have blue faces.

Maniac Mansion's sequel, Day of the Tentacle, is a sad disappointment. It isn't scary or exciting, there is only one goal and only one route to the goal, Bernard was the only character carried over from the original and the humour is less... odd. Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is a more proper sequel.

See SCUMM for more reasons why Maniac Mansion rocks.
Maniac Mansion for the PC had two versions- one with blue-skin Edisons and one with flesh-tone Edisons. The NES version had only the blue-skins. The original version, by the way, was the blue-skin; this was presumably intentional as the heroes had flesh-tone skin. I always blamed it on the meteor or radiation from Dr. Fred's nuclear reactor.

Incidentally, the NES version did have a variation: something like 25,000 copies got sold before the Nintendo censors caught the hamster in the microwave trick. As a result, 25,000 lucky bastards have can microwave the hamster (that sounds dirty, but it's a story for another write-up). A later release did not allow you to microwave the hamster; everybody would say something along the lines of "that's cruel!"

You say you want to play Maniac Mansion on your Macintosh?
"But wait," I hear you saying "Maniac Mansion was never ported to the Macintosh..."
Don't let that pesky fact stop ya...
  1. Load up Day of the Tentacle (the sequel to Maniac Mansion)
  2. Have Bernard go in to Big Ed's room
  3. use computer (five times in a row)
You'll now be able to play Maniac Mansion in all its splendor.

(you can also give ScummVM a try)

Title: Maniac Mansion
Publisher: Lucasfilm Games (later LucasArts)
Year: 1987/1988
Design: Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick
Story/Dialogue: Gary Winnick, Ron Gilbert and David Fox
Platform(s): Commodore 64, Amiga, PC, NES, Apple II

The Commodore 64 version was developed at Lucasfilm Games by:
Programming: Carl Mey, Ron Gilbert and David Fox
Graphics: Gary Winnick
Music: Chris Grigg and David Lawrence
Sound: Chris Grigg

The Amiga version was developed at Lucasfilm Games by:
Programming: Aric Wilmunder and Ron Gilbert
Graphics: Gary Winnick
Music: Chris Grigg and David Lawrence
Sound: Brian Hales

The PC version was developed at Lucasfilm Games by:
Graphics: Gary Winnick
Music: Chris Grigg and David Lawrence
Sound: David Hayes and David Warhol

The NES version was converted at Jaleco in 1990, where Douglas Crockford, among others, worked on it. I have been unable to locate more specific details about the Apple II version.

Description: Maniac Mansion was a revolution in adventure games. It was the first to feature the SCUMM interface (SCUMM actually means Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion). In it, you control Dave, who wants to rescue his girlfriend Sandy. She has been taken captive by the mad professor Dr. Fred, who was brainwashed by an evil meteor. They aim to implant the meteor in Sandy's head, which is illegal of course, and hence the Meteor Police is after them. The game takes place in and around the mansion, where Dr. Fred, Nurse Edna, Weird Ed and the green and purple tentacles wander about.

Before the game starts, you get to pick two among 7 other characters to add to the pre-selected Dave. Then, while playing the game, you switch between the 3 characters under your control, and depending who they are, the game is different each time. If there is a drawback, it's that it can be very hard for inexperienced gamers to play it, as many of the puzzles are difficult or even weird.

Even though it was one of the very earliest of the graphical adventure-games, it is among the most interactive. There are at least a couple hundred objects that can be manipulated (again depending on your choice in characters).

The game was followed by Day of the Tentacle in 1992, but neither of the original designers worked on it, as they had left LucasArts at this point.

Various Trivia:

  • There was a TV-show created after the game, although the plots and concepts were changed significantly.
  • The Nintendo version had large parts of its dialogue rewritten to comply with Nintendo's guidelines (no killing, no obscenity, etc).
  • The entire game is available on a computer in Day of the Tentacle.

Sources: Google, the C64 and Amiga versions of the game,, "The Untold story of Maniac Mansion" in Wired 1.04

Audited September 17, 2002

A wonderful parody of 60's B-grade horror movies. It was the first use of the SCUMM scripting system (which stands for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), which was used in every LucasArts graphic adventure until the recent switch to 3-dimensional keyboard-controlled games (Grim Fandango, etc.).

Maniac Mansion was one of the first games of its time to use "cut scenes," which gave it a cinematic quality heretofore almost unseen. Other games that made use of cut scenes, such as Prince of Persia, tended not to include dialogue or any real plot information, but Maniac Mansion included clues and wacky dialogue.

SCUMM's amazing point and click interface involved selecting a verb from a command box, and then a noun from the hot spots on the screen, was the most intuitive adventure game GUI of its day. In my opinion, it surpassed Sierra Online's later developed icon bar system, which still featured heavy amounts of hunt-the-pixel.


Sandy: Maniac Mansion might have been ground-breaking in a lot of ways, but this is still a game about rescuing your girlfriend from the brain-sucking ZOM-B-MATIC of the criminally insane.

Dave: Dave is as close to a main character as Maniac Mansion gets. Dave is trying to rescue his cheerleader girlfriend Sandy from the evil clutches of Dr. Fred and must be included in your team of three teenagers. Dave doesn't really have any super special skills to speak of, although he's slightly better at not killing himself. If he dies, you get wacky alternative endings.

Razor: Leads the punk band Razor and the Scummettes. She can play piano. She's hard-core enough to nuke a hamster.

Bernard: A geek from back before it was cool, Bernard can fix anything in the game that's broken, be it telephone or radio.

Syd: A fairly hep individual who's looking to start his own band. This gives him the ability to play the piano. He can also microwave a hamster.

Wendy: A novelist. She can edit and prepare manuscripts if she sits at a typewriter long enough.

Jeff: A surfer dude. Has been arbitrarily handed the ability to fix telephones.

Michael: A photographer. He is the only character capable of utilizing the mansion's darkroom.

Dr. Fred: Not evil, just mad. Fred is under the influence of the meteor that crashed in his back yard twenty years ago.

Nurse Edna: Dr. Fred's neglected wife. In the NES version, her appetites were toned down significantly, but the PC versions showed her for the wanton sexpot she truly is.

Weird Ed: Dr. Fred's right-wing militant son. Loves his hamster more than anything. Partial to cheese.

Green Tenticle: Insecure but gifted, Green Tenticle is a leftover result of one of Dr. Fred's failed experiments.

Purple Tenticle: Easily more agressive than his green brother, Purple Tenticle is Dr. Fred's lab assistant. Also a leftover result of an earlier failed experiment.

The Meteor: Evil. Purple. Meglomaniacal. Controlling Dr. Fred.

Dead Cousin Ted: Ted is a mummy that stands in a bath tub. He seems to have a thing for the ladies.

The Meteor Police: These guys just sit on their butts until somebody radios them with information about the evil meteor.

How To Die (without blowing up the mansion)

Unlike many LucasArts graphic adventures, it was actually possible to die in a few different ways in Maniac Mansion. Most involved radiation.

  • Leave a character in the swimming pool while another character refills it.
  • Microwave a jar full of pool water, and open the microwave.
  • Steal Weird Ed's pet hamster while he is away. Put the hamster in the microwave and nuke it. Take the exploded remains of the hamster and give it to Weird Ed.
  • Make a demo tape. Send it off to get published. When your contract comes in the mail, show it to the Green Tenticle.
  • Enter the meteor's presence without a radiation suit.
The mansion featured 32 different screens, which were graphically rich for their day.

LucasArts' second graphic adventure, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, featured a can of gasoline, which is a reference to the Maniac Mansion's chainsaw, which is famously out of gas. When Maniac Mansion was first released, there was a rumor that there was a single pixel that was a "crack in a pipe or a wall containing a secret 'hot key'" which would unlock a cabinet containing a gas can.

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