Commodore Favorites: Maniac Mansion

One of my favorite games to play on the Commodore 64 was Maniac Mansion. Maniac Mansion was the first point-and-click graphical adventure game, created by Gary Winnick and Ron Gilbert. The two loved the idea of an adventure game but didn’t like the current state of the market, which consisted of games like Zork, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Goddesses of Phobos, et cetera. Those games, text adventures, were a limit of the technology of their time. You couldn’t have actual graphics on the first IBM PC. So the pioneers of the adventure genre wrote up complicated games where you had to enter the right text commands at the right time, or else you died and had to start over.

Maniac Mansion turned this on its head by using a point and click interface to issue commands and interact with objects. Your list of commands was always available on screen, and anything you could interact with was also on screen. In theory, someone could play Maniac Mansion without needing a manual, unlike the Zork games. They also made it very, very difficult to get yourself killed, which ultimately turned out into no getting killed at all in later games like Day of the Tentacle. These changes made the adventure genre much more accessible to the average gamer.

Of course, most people remember Maniac Mansion for its offbeat humor and cast of characters. The Edison family, lead by meteor deranged patriarch doctor Fred Edison, is a cavalcade of misfits and dead people. There’s two tentacles and Chuck the Plant, Dead Cousin Ted, the Edsel, and of course the evil, slimy purple meteor.

I couldn’t ever beat the game on the Commodore when I was very young. It took playing it on the NES to finally beat it. The NES version, while it has great music, is not as good of a pure game as the Commodore version. It was censored and playing with a D-pad was very annoying. But it didn’t have any load times. So I suppose it’s not all THAT bad.

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