Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Maniac Mansion (C64, 1987)

I suppose most retro-maniacs are already familiar with Maniac Mansion, Lucasfilm's flagship graphical adventure. It represented the next step in adventure gaming, whereas the traditional text input commands and static screens were replaced by a point 'n' click interface and animated action. It was enough to woo arcade-orientated gamers that were previously ignoring adventures. And it's not hard to see why. Simply put, Maniac Mansion plays a mean game.

At the heart of the game lies a wacky and comical plot, whereas a group of teenagers goes to this creepy mansion to rescue this female friend of theirs that was last seen in the area. During the course of the game they're gonna encounter the seriously oddball Edison family, alien tentacles, evil meteors, nuclear reactors, not to mention the inter-galactic police-force. Not bad, eh?

You actually get to play with three (out of five in total) characters, and according to what characters you choose there are also different solutions, as well as different endings. The point 'n' click interface works really well, and it was something new back then. Nowadays it can get a bit tiresome, especially when using a joystick instead of a mouse, as in the C64's case. That's one of the reasons this sort of game worked better in the 16-bits. The other is that it involves a hell of a lot of loading, though it's not that bad; I've played tape games that were much much worse.

The action is really cool. It's not hard getting started, exploring the house and figuring out what objects to use where, but it will be quite complicated putting the solution together. One of the problems I had is that the game involved a hell of a lot of walking across the three floors of the mansion, so, say, if I was in ground-level and needed to get to the third floor, it got quite boring slouching there time after time. Some sort of elevator would be real handy.

Apart from that I think it's a really good game. Personally, I like the humongous second adventure (Zak McKracken) Lucasfilm did on the C64 better, but you can't deny this game is great as well. Unfortunately, since only a minority of C64 users had disk drives, it didn't really catch on, which is a shame. The C64 market was always tape based, and it'd be impossible to convert this on tape.


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