As I continue on this point-and-click adventure kick, I thought it would be a good thing to step back and take a look at one of the early games that really helped define the genre.  To that end, today I’m going to talk about Maniac Mansion by LucasArts (LucasFilms).

Maniac Mansion screenshot

Maniac Mansion was the very first foray into game making by the LucasFils/LucasArts group, and a very successful foray it was too. Maniac Mansion ended up founding many of the mechanics of later PACA games. While it wasn’t the first PACA game, it certainly was one of the most influential.

In Maniac Mansion you control Dave Miller and two companions who you pick at the start of the game. Much like all PACA games, the gameplay features puzzle solving and exploration. In this case, you’re in the Mansion of Dr. Fred, a mad scientist who has captured Dave Miller’s cheerleader girlfriend, Sandy Pantz. The tone of the game is very humorous, drawing heavily from B-movie horror clichés, which fits very nicely in the general atmosphere of humor across all North American PACA games.

The real place where Maniac Mansion shines is in the interface. Most PACA games released around or before Maniac Mansion were actually hybrids of point and click as well as text based. The control of the character would be mostly mouse driven, but most of the interactions had to be done on a command line. This could be frustrating in situations where exact verbiage was necessary, and indeed such moments of specificity were the bane of the early PACA player. Maniac Mansion consolidated the entire system into 15 selectable commands which streamlined the entire process and eliminated the issues with text entry. Most of the other big PACA producers of the time quickly adopted this style; later streamlining it to just a few commands that were context sensitive (typically look, interact, talk, and use item).

Maniac Mansion is a great game that doesn’t require a whole lot of time to play. For somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing, you can play Manic Mansion from start to end in just an hour or two. If you know what you’re doing, you can get through it in under ten minutes. Despite being a premier title, Maniac Mansion is extremely hard to get one’s hands on legitimately, mostly because the original release was for Commadore 64 and Apple II. The NES carts are still pretty easy to get, though you’ll want to steer away from the NES version since it was heavily censored to meet the Nintendo of America’s strict content standards of the time. Since LucasArts seems to have almost entirely forgotten about the game in their recent re-imaging of several of their classics, you’re pretty much going to have to download Maniac Mansion if you want to play it.

There’s also a very promising looking remake in progress by Edison Interactive; however, it’s progressing slowly.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?