When most people think of the name Lucas, they think about Star Wars and Indiana Jones. If you thought Days of our Lives, I feel sorry for you. However, Star Wars and Indiana Jones aren’t the only great products with the Lucas brand attached. There is also the phenomenon known as Maniac Mansion. The game is best known in its NES incarnation, but it was originally released in 1988 for PC. When it was first released, it was a benchmark in the gaming industry. It introduced the Script Command Utility for Maniac Mansion (SCUMM) System, was one of (if not the) first games to showcase multiple endings, and it was an innovator of the adventure/RPG genre. I will be talking about the commodore 64 version for two reasons. A) This is the version I grew up playing. B) The programmers had to bastardize the game before they could port it to NES because of Nintendo’s guidelines. I will review the various endings of the game and then do a walkthrough to my favourite ending. That’s right, I’m gonna show you the endings, call me a spoiler. So if you’ve never played the game before, don’t read this. I don’t want you to. You don’t deserve to. Hell, I don’t think you deserve to live. El Capitan once executed Alasdair for not having seen Return of the Jedi, but who am I to say? Judge Dredd I am not.
The premise of the game goes something like this. 20 years ago, a meteor crashes into earth. This is no ordinary meteor however. Not only is it sentient, it is also murderous, and purple. It crash lands near the mansion of Dr. Fred, a crazy scientist. (Is that cliche or redundant? I can never remember). The meteor takes control of the doctor’s brain, and makes him build a machine that will suck the brains out of teenagers, then sends him out to kidnap them one by one. (Though the machine is clearly built to hold three, but that’s besides the point). One of the teens he kidnaps is Sandy, who is a cheerleader. This causes a dilemma because being a cheerleader, she had no brains to suck out in the first place, and also her boyfriend Dave is now unable to get any. So Dave organizes a rescue attempt with two of his closest friends and heads to the mansion for a fun and wacky adventure.
Sandy - Ye olde damsel in distress. Likes: Cheerleading, yellow bras, black shorts, yellow sneakers, long walks on the beach, bumblebees. Dislikes: Math. As you can see, even the 80's, cheerleaders were sluts.
Dave - Sandy's Boyfriend. Organizer of the rescue effort. In short, Dave is useless. The only thing of value he contributes is that he organized the damn thing, and that happens before the game even starts. Other than that, there’s really no reason why you would want Dave in your party. Unfortunately, Sandy is his girlfriend, and you’re required to use him.
Bernard - President of the physics club and winner of the college's Geek Award. Ah, the obligatory nerd. In my opinion, Bernard is proof that there were a whole lot of Geeks working at Lucas Arts back in the day. Unlike Dave, Bernard is arguably the most useful character in the game. He can fix anything that’s broken and has the know-how to operate the radio. Unfortunately he runs like a school girl when he gets scared, and apparently he scares easy. At the start of the game when Dave says the mission might be dangerous, Bernard tries to run away.
Michael - Award winning photographer for the college newspaper. The obligatory African-American. Michael also likes cheesy horror flicks. At the start of the game, he makes reference to some movie where four kids go into a mansion, but cut himself off from going into further detail. The only real contribution Mike brings to the table is that he is able to develop the film of Weird Ed’s plans in the darkroom. Ed then helps you get into the lab. I have nothing bad to say about Michael.
Wendy - Wants to be a famous novelist and is waiting for a big break. The obligatory female character. Unfortunately, Wendy doesn’t say anything at the beginning of the game. This is probably some social comment by the makers of the game on the depth and importance of women. Or not. Wendy is the only character with the ability to doctor the meteor’s manuscript so as to make it legible enough to publish. This opens up a fairly good ending, as we will later see.
Razor - Lead singer for the punk band "Razor and the Scummettes". Razor kicks ass. There’s no other way to say it. She’s hot, she’s a punk singer, and she wears a leather dress with no back, black heels and a spiked choker. Also, the designers seem to have cared enough to give her a rack, unlike Wendy, who looks like she’s twelve. As a punk musician, Razor has the ability to play the baby grand in the mansion. Now, why this may seem uncool at first, the finger work she does on that piano would make Dream Theatre drop Robert in a heartbeat. At the start of the game, she says that she heard Dr. Fred was hot. Razor kicks ass.
Jeff - Usually hangs out on the beach, responds to the name, Surfer Dude. At the start of the game, we find out that Jeff was really stoned when Dave called him, and confused ‘go rescue Sandy’ with ‘go to the beach’. Jeff’s only redeeming quality is that he’s too poor to afford shoes, so you don’t have to hear that clicking noise when he walks like all the other characters. Jeff’s special talent in the game is that he is able to fix the telephone. What the fuck? Are we really to believe that someone who spends most of their time surfing has a viable trade craft? If he had red hair, I might be able to picture him doing a CALL ATT commercial, but seriously. You’d think if he could fix phones, he could work and buy shoes. Guess not. Ass.
Syd - An aspiring musician trying to start his own new-wave band. Oh wow, look at Syd. He’s so cool with his groovy shades and gnarly tie. Not! Syd sucks. As for special abilities, Syd is an exact copy of Razor. The major differences between the two are that Syd’s a guy, Syd wants to re-form The Police, and Syd sucks.
There’s not much to say about most of the inhabitants of the mansion. Dr. Fred likes to play arcade games. Nurse Edna is a nympho who’s so ugly she breaks mirrors. Weird Ed is their kid who loves two things: his hamster and cheese. The purple tentacle is Dr. Fred’s number two, and it looks like a big purple number two. The green tentacle is another story. He’s the only character who doesn’t through you in the brink, he just blocks your path until you feed him. G.T. is a depressed musician who just can’t seem to get his band off the ground, and if you play the record in his room, you’ll understand why. When you visit him in his room you get to listen to him gripe about his crappy life, and how all he wants is to get his band signed. (Remember this point, there’ll be a quiz later). So without further ado: the endings!
The Extra Crispy Ending:
There are a couple of ways to achieve this “ending”, though its really more of a game over. The pool is what’s cooling the nuclear reactor in the basement, so if you leave the pool drained too long, the house will blow up. Also, if you turn off the circuit breakers, and stick around until the purple tentacle comes to investigate, he’ll throw you in the brink and completely forget to turn the power back on. I think cliches are always the best way to go. The ominous ‘red button’ at the bottom of the pool is just begging to be pushed. The house and everyone within a 5 mile radius have been destroyed in a massive nuclear meltdown. This isn’t the most interesting ending, but how can you not like mushroom clouds?
The Heaven’s Gate Ending:
This is closer to a game over ending. Grab some water from the pool, pop it in the microwave, and let the fun begin. It would have been cooler if you could add the pool water to the fruit drinks, but I digress. Anyway, when you open the microwave, the unlucky kid who you’re controlling goes into a fit from the radioactive steam and dies. For some reason, when you aren’t controlling the other two kids, not only are they immobile, they also don’t breathe. After you get everyone to run the microwave, (yes you have to run it three separate times, radioactive steam becomes harmless after a few seconds), you will be treated to a picture of three tombstones and this end sequence: All the kids have died. The rescue attempt has failed. Sandy is doomed to zombiehood. Dr. Fred, still under the evil meteor's influence, is destined to take over the world and a small part of the galaxy. Hope you like purple... heh, heh, heh. A fun little ending, even though you really accomplish nothing.
From Infamous to Famous:
The meteor has been busy writing his memoirs, you can find them in Dr. Fred’s office. Unfortunately, not having any appendages makes for a terrible writer. If you get Wendy to make the memoirs legible with the typewriter, and send it off to the publishing agency, they’ll give the meteor a million dollar contract. When you give the meteor the contract, he commands Dr. Fred to release the women, all the women, and we get a cut-scene to a talk show.
Wink: Welcome back from our break. We've been talking with the celebrity rock who gave up a life of crime for a career as a writer. So, Mr. Meteor, how does it feel to be famous instead of infamous?
Meteor: Well, Wink, it feels great. But I couldn't have done it alone.
The screen then pans over to show Dave and Sandy in the wings. This ending may be a feel good ending, but what about Wendy? She’s the one who fixed the fucking manuscript, and the meteor thanks fucking Dave and Sandy! It’s obvious to me that after seeing that the meteor got a million dollar contract, and she got jack all, Wendy killed herself. Nice ending assholes.
Infamy to Famy: Part 2:
If you get Bernard to call the meteor police before you give the meteor the contract, it goes to the talk show again. This time, however, when the screen pans over to Dave and Sandy, (who didn’t even go to Wendy’s funeral), the meteor police show up and book the meteor’s purple ass. This ending is better than the previous, because even though Wendy is worm food, the meteor is soon going to become very acquainted with a large black meteor, who’s really going to teach it the meaning of purple.
The Happy Ending:
If you actually go through the entire game and dispose of the purple meteor and free the good doctor, you get the traditional ending. Dr. Fred apologizes for the trouble he’s caused and asked if there’s anything he can do to repay the favour. Dave responds that cash would be nice. Dr. Fred then retorts, “Don’t be a smart ass.” Apparently a guy with a fucking huge mansion, is too cheap to give the kids who saved the world a couple bucks. Yay for happy endings. In the NES version of the game, Dr. Fred says “Don’t be a tunahead.” This is just one of the many atrocities Nintendo’s censorship rules committed during porting.
The Revenge of the Nerds Ending:
If you kill off Dave and rescue Sandy with Bernard, it shows those two standing by Dave’s grave in the end sequence. Dr. Fred says something about building a machine that would bring Dave back to life, but then states that “that’s another story”. You know, I’m beginning to wonder if it really was the meteor that made Dr. Fred an asshole. Anyway, this ending proves the age-old adage that the geek can get the girl, all he has to do is kill his best friend. What a great ending.
The Happy Happy Ending:
Here’s how to get the happy happy ending. Use Razor and Bernard as your two other kids. Get Bernard to open the front door, then send Dave into Edna’s waiting arms in the kitchen. Send Razor through the first floor, grabbing all the stuff you need. Particularly the cassette tape. Go upstairs, grabbing everything you need along the way. Hang out in Dead Ted’s room for a bit. Get Bernard to play a little Nicky Nine Door by ringing the doorbell, this will send Ed running to the front door. Hide Bernard in the kitchen. Send Razor into Ed's room to get dimes, card key and his beloved hamster. Once you’ve busted the chandelier in the living room, use the cassette tape to make a demo of Razor playing piano, which you’ll send to the publishers to get a recording contract. Go to the kitchen, pop the hamster in the microwave and make lunch. Give the exploded hamster to Dave, give the contract to Bernard. After Bernard calls the police and the green guy drops his badge, get Razor to the dungeon with the outer and inner doors open, and have the badge, the card key, and the yellow key handy. Now take Bernard and give the contract to the green tentacle. Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘a nerd with a recording contract? Come on.’ Hey, it worked for The Offspring. The green tentacle says 'So you got yourself a recording contract. Gee thanks, I think I’ll just go kill myself. On second thought....' We are then brought outside, where we see that Bernard has been mercilessly killed by the tentacle. Next! Take Dave and give el exploded hamster to Ed. He then says 'No thanks. Wait, what IS that? It has bits of fur like my hamster's! Oh no!!! What did you do!!! Argh!!!' Back outside, we see that Dave has suffered a similar fate. Bet he wishes he was tied to Edna’s bed now. No, wait, he doesn’t. Go on to beat the game with Razor, and you get the happy happy ending. Razor and Sandy hook up. Sweet. Even though no lesbian activity is shown, and not even really implied, we can still assume so, because that’s our God given right.
Posted by: Valdronius