A famous adventure game from Lucasarts, back when they were still
making those (instead of just hundreds of Star Wars games). The
game fared well on the Commodore 64 and PC, so it was only natural that
an NES port would soon follow to further increase profits. The
game underwent some censorship due to Nintendo's content policies at
the time, but this is still one of the best versions available.
The game begins with a flashback to twenty years past, showing a meteor
crashing into a hillside outside a large mansion. The lights in
the mansion click on, the title music starts up, and the opening
credits roll. You're then treated to a scroll of bloody letters
spelling out "Maniac Mansion", with a chainsaw stuck in last letter in
"Mansion". Not a bad way to start things off, I must say.
The story then skips ahead to today, where one of the home's residents
(Dr. Fred Edison) has kidnapped Sandy. Her boyfriend Dave mounts
rescue operation, taking with him two people who answer his call for
help in doing so. The next screen you see has you select the two
that accompany Dave. There are no "right" or "wrong" choices here
- regardless of who you select, it's still possible to complete the
game. You'll just have to take a different approach depending
upon who you choose.
Included with the game was a two-sided poster, which added a nice touch
to introducing the player to the game. It resembles a college
board with several newspaper clippings and flyers, most of which
contain hints for playing the game. Scans are
(Thanks to Mr. Syd for these
Well, don't say they didn't warn you
Maniac Mansion's name and story seem to imply that it is a horror game;
however, once you sit down and play the game for a bit, it becomes
clear that the game is more a humorous tribute to movies of the
For instance, the player encounters a tentacle-like creature on the
upper floors of the mansion, but after giving the monster its favorite
food (wax fruit) they discover that it dreams of creating a rock
band. Also of note is the 'chainsaw' gag, where the player
discovers a chainsaw but cannot find any fuel to operate it.
However, in another Lucasarts adventure game titled Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders
the player discovers a gasoline tank, but no chainsaw can be
Other jokes include Cousin Ted (apparently mummified by Dr. Fred), and
a live nuclear reactor supplying power to the house (its description
reading "Made in Chernobyl").
A unique aspect of Maniac Mansion was the fact that the game was fairly
open-ended; due to its seven selectable characters, each with their own
unique skills, there are many ways to complete the game's
puzzles. Whether it's using Wendy's writing talents to reform the
bad guy or using Michael's skill as a photographer to enlist the help
of Weird Ed, there are a number of ways to proceed. Better still,
the game has somewhere around ten different endings, which adds a
considerable amount of replay value. A feature not often seen in
other games, even moreso among adventure titles.
When I played this game back in the early 90's, this puzzle was the one
that really had me stumped. I tried everything I could think of
to read the number, including filling a glass jar with water and trying
to magnify it, but alas. It was only later I learned of the pool
water's radioactive properties, which were necessary to reach the observatory
above the family
room. Using the high-powered telescope in that room, you can
easily read the number written on the wall, which allowed you to open
the nearby safe.
Feed that plant some radioactive
water to get to the observatory. Paint thinner might also be
handy on the right wall...
A famous red herring, the "out of
order" staircase. It doesn't lead anywhere, nor can it be fixed
Some more of Lucasarts' weird humor
What largely made the NES version so memorable, though, was the music
in the game. Each kid had their own CD player that played their
respective theme song, and let me tell you, they sounded damn good for
an NES game. Lucasarts really put those four sound channels to
good use to create the game's music; in particular, the hard rock/metal
tunes in the game sounded almost like the real thing. Very
impressive for an old console.
Click here to download Dave's theme (~2.7 meg
Three years before the NES port was made, a Famicom version of the game
was released in Japan, featuring more "cartoonish" graphics. It's
generally inferior to the NES port, however: there is no screen
scrolling in the larger areas (they're simply split into two or more
screens), and the sound is pretty bad. The biggest downside, though,
was the saving system - rather than a battery backup, this version
utilized passwords that were 104 characters long!
And you thought River City Ransom's
passwords were bad?
Several of the jokes were edited or cut from the NES port of the game
at Nintendo's protest; ironically, many of these were visible in an old
issue of Nintendo Power, in which a prototype version of the cartridge
was used for their review. A ROM of the beta version was leaked
the Internet, however, so I was able to grab some screenshots of the
Click here to view the
To date, this remains my favorite adventure game of all time. A
weird sense of humor and a wide variety of ways to play through,
complemented with many different endings for you to see. Even the
packaged hint poster was a nice touch. Games that have this much
thought put into production and presentation are a rare sight these
days. You could tell the SCUMM team really had a lot of fun
making it, and because of that, it's a lot of fun to play.
My Maniac Mansion guide
one of Maniac Mansion's creators
One-line Synopsis: An undeniable
classic among adventure games, and the NES port is the best of them all
in spite of the censorship within.