Video Game / Maniac Mansion
Oh, good! More brain donors.

Made in 1987, Maniac Mansion was LucasArts' first in a long line of Point-and-Click adventure games (when they were still named "LucasFilm Games" and way before they gave up on this genre and started making Star Wars tie-ins instead). The game is about Dave Miller, an 1980s teenager, and his group of friends (each with their own set of skills, including the nerdy machine-minded Bernard, musicians Syd and Razor, photographer Michael, author Wendy, and surfer beach-bum Jeff) who break into local Mad Scientist Doctor Fred's house to rescue Dave's girlfriend Sandy from having her "pretty brains" sucked out in an experiment. It is soon revealed that Fred is being mind-controlled by an evil meteor, and it is up to the gang to save not only Sandy, but perhaps the entire world. Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer were involved with its production.

Notable for its general non-linearity for an 1980s adventure game, complete with Multiple Endings of varying happiness depending on what characters you choose.

Also notable in that it was one of the first point'n'click adventure games, with an entirely mouse-oriented interface, and whose game engine (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion, better known as SCUMM) would be updated and re-used for many future LucasArts adventure games, up until its final iteration in The Curse of Monkey Island.

Later spawned a Canadian TV series aired on YTV and The Family Channel based (very) loosely on it made by Eugene Levy and various SCTV alumni. The Edisons are portrayed as a (somewhat) regular American family and most of the episodes revolve around Fred's experiments and inventions involving the meteor. Only Fred Edison is carried over from the games, with the rest of the Edisons being original characters made specifically for the show.

Spawned a Time Travel based sequel: Day of the Tentacle, and two fan remakes: Maniac Mansion Deluxe, a Windows compatible version with updated graphics, and Night of the Meteor, same as Deluxe but with more puzzles, more dialogue, more animation and Day of the Tentacle style graphics (still in production). Has also spawned a series of fan sequels named Maniac Mansion Mania. In 2017, the game had a Spiritual Sequel of sorts with Thimbleweed Park, which exists in the same universe and even has several of the characters within the game.

Tropes used include:

  • The '80s: Several cultural references, such as a poster saying "Disco sucks!" and a label saying "Tentacle on board!"
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Sandy is a cheerleader, and several characters are implied to have the hots for her:
    • The most obvious example is her boyfriend Dave.
    • At the start of the game, Bernard tries to back out of the rescue mission, but decides to stick around when Dave tells him that Sandy's the one they're trying to rescue. He can also take Dave's place during Dr. Fred's apology in the ending if Dave was killed.
    • The Purple Tentacle chases her around Dr. Fred's lab in one cutscene. She's understandly Squicked out by it.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: In all the remakes, the Edisons have cyan blue skin.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Perhaps the only example in this genre. Dave has six friends who he can ask to help him rescue Sandy. He can only bring two no matter how motivated the other four seem.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: The game may end badly with the nuclear reactor in the mansion's basement melting down — which causes a mushroom cloud explosion obliterating everything in a five mile radius.
  • Aside Glance: Ed gives one to the player when trying to convince Edna that something's wrong with Fred.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: Green Tentacle and Purple Tentacle.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • If you kill off all your characters, this is the ending you'll get.
    • In some endings, Purple Meteorite becomes a celebrity rather than sent to the moon via the Edsel.
  • Bad Omen Anecdote: "Hey, did any of you see that movie on television last night? These four kids went into this strange house and...uh, never mind."-Michael.
  • Bag of Holding: All playable characters can carry an unlimited amount of items, no matter how large. Some of these items include a bucket of paint remover, a bowl of wax fruit, a chainsaw, and a dime. None of the characters appear to be carrying an actual bag of any sort, so they must be using their pockets—which is particularly headscratcher-inducing with the scantily-clad Razor.
  • Bathroom Stall Graffiti: Not really on the stall, but on the wall.
  • Berserk Button: Weird Ed gets very, very upset whenever anyone messes with his pet hamster. Similarly, the Green Tentacle is insanely jealous of anyone else who gets a record deal instead of him.
  • Bigger Bad: The meteor.
  • Big Red Button: There's one at the bottom of the pool that's used to cool the nuclear reactor that powers the mansion. Don't press it.
  • Black Comedy Rape: When male kids are caught by Nurse Edna, she says "How silly of me! I should've tied you to my bed!" This line was omitted from the NES port.
  • Blackout Basement: The basement. Or the entire mansion, if you turn the power off.
  • Book Ends: If Bernard is on your team, the phrase "Don't be a tuna head" will be spoken both at the very beginning and very end of the game. But only if Dave survives and you don't get the Meteor's book published.
    • Only in the NES version, though, as in the end of the original version Dr. Fred calls Dave a "smart-ass".
    • Ironic Echo: Also, Dave says the line to Bernard at the start of the game and Doctor Fred says it to him at the end.
  • Bottomless Bladder: You do encounter a restroom at one point, but your characters never feel the urge to use it. In fact, if you tell them to use it, they'll respond, "I'd like a little more privacy for that!" They do think it's fun to flush it, though.
  • Bowdlerise: For a good idea of what basically every US game on the NES or SNES had to go through to get published, see "The Expurgation of Maniac Mansion". Ironically, while the NES version removed nude statues and references to sex, it retained the ability for the player character to blow up a live hamster in a microwave—at least, until the censors caught that.
    • Also, the TV series; given it aired on the Family Channel before they were acquired by Fox and then Disney, it would be expected.
  • Brain in a Jar: And several other organs in jars, in Cousin Ted's room.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: As it turns out, Dr. Fred isn't actually evil, and is actually being controlled by the Meteor in its efforts to take over the world.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Sandy tells Dr. Fred that Dave and his friends will rescue her, Fred looks right at the player and says, "That's what she thinks."
  • Brick Joke: In the kitchen, there's a chainsaw, but the programmers never got around to programming in the gasoline can it needs. The gasoline can shows up on the planet Mars in Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, a Spiritual Successor game which was also created by LucasArts.
    • In Maniac Mansion Deluxe they add a Zak Mc Kracken poster in the arcade. Examining it will have your character remark that they never figured out what to do with that gas can they found on Mars.
  • Building of Adventure: Dr. Edison's manor.
  • But Thou Must!: Invoked against Bernard at the beginning of the game, when Dave asks if anyone wants out. Apparently he was being rhetorical.
  • Cardboard Prison: The prison in the basement can be opened by someone pushing a brick inside the cell, allowing a second to walk free. In some versions, it only takes one person—this is not intentional. There's also an old rusty key on the living room chandelier, which will open the prison door, allowing all three characters to be freed.
  • The Cavalry: Recruit Weird Ed or the Green Tentacle and they will Just in Time bust in to save you from the Purple Tentacle. (If you recruit both, Ed gets preference, but actually you can do it twice and the Green Tentacle will have his turn. Which is odd considering the sequel...)
  • Censorship Bureau: The NES version of the game had seen many of the more adult-themed jokes undergo Bowdlerization and even being removed completely thanks to Nintendo of America's policy on such content. See this article for more details on these changes. Hilariously, it seems they were so focused on removing anything that could be interpreted as sexual (such as a mention of the SCUMM engine in the credits) that they completely missed the much more obvious hamster-in-microwave event (they only found about it after the game was released, only being absent in the later PAL port): see Getting Crap Past the Radar below.
  • Chainsaw Good: Subverted, as the chainsaw that is found is totally useless. It cannot work because it needs gas and there is no gas to be found in the game. There is an ironic Shout-Out in the other LucasArts adventure game Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders: in a base on Mars, there is a gas can found that is "for chainsaw use only" and the playing character will not pick it up, saying it is "for another game". The joke is taken even further in the 1989 Updated Re-release of Maniac Mansion: in the arcade room is a poster of the Zak game and when the playing character reads it, he/she will comment about how this game is great but wonder what was the use of the gas can on Mars. There are also references to this in Full Throttle, where Razor shows up as a biker with a chainsaw and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, where the Scabb Island bartender jokes that he can't make a drink called a Bloody Stump because his chainsaw is out of gas.
  • The Cheerleader: Sandy seems to fall under the "dumb and pretty" version of the trope — her major purpose in the game is to be the helpless victim kidnapped by the mad scientist and his family, thus motivating her cool boyfriend and his highly-varied friends to ride to the rescue.
  • Chekhov's Gun / It May Help You on Your Quest: Unusually averted, due to having multiple characters and multiple endings, the game had many items that were worthless if you had the wrong party. It also had items that were completely worthless no matter what, such as the chain saw, which had no fuel. Interestingly, the sequel goes back to the traditional tactic of not only having every single item be used at least once, but if the item is small enough to be passed through time, it will be needed in another time. The only item that's never used is the hubcap, and you can not pick it up.
  • Commonplace Rare: You have to go through several difficult puzzles to acquire a stamped envelope needed to reach some endings.
  • Companion Cube: Chuck the Plant may be a total red herring, but that didn't stop him from appearing in countless other games.
  • Concealing Canvas: Dr. Fred's safe is hidden behind a portrait of him, with hair.
  • Copy Protection: The game had copy protection as an in-game puzzle, but the one version available for play within DOTT omits it by making it impossible to close the steel security door, which remains open throughout the game. The door in the NES version can be opened and closed, but is never locked, basically being just a normal door.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Bernard, who tries to run away at the beginning and runs away screaming when he meets Green Tentacle for the first time. He also tries to back out of the mission right at the start... at least until he learns that Sandy is the one they're trying to rescue.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: You can make the Purple Meteor give up on his evil plans by having Wendy retype his memoirs, send them to the publishing company and present the contract to the meteor. He'd rather be rich and famous than bother with being evil.
  • Cutscene: It is believed the word "cutscene" itself was first coined by Ron Gilbert while working on the game.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: It seems like the ending where the Meteor is arrested has become canon, since Bernard is confirmed in Day of the Tentacle as being one of the kids who broke into the Mansion the first time around. Green Tentacle managing to get his band started, not to mention Weird Ed's original hamster being blown up in the microwave, also suggested that Razor or Syd was involved as well.
  • Developers' Foresight: If you're ever feeling bored, try sending every single possible thing to do to the manuscript or blank tape to the Three Guys Who Publish Anything. Including things like recording the tentacle mating calls, the broken record, or even just sending in the blank tape unaltered. Every possible permutation has a special cutscene available to watch.
  • Dirty Coward: The Purple Tentacle. If you present the Meteor Police badge to him, he'll immediately begin grovelling for mercy and blame everything on Dr. Fred. He even goes so far as to tell you to kill the doctor.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Nurse Edna. Not only does she deliver the quoted line when capturing one of the boys (and "You're lucky you aren't a boy" to the girls), but she also responds to an apparent prank phone call with "There's no heavy breathing. Let me show you how to do it." She even provides the page quote.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Razor to Syd, as they have the exact same ability (playing the piano and microwaving Weird Ed's hamster).
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Jeff, being a beach bum, goes barefoot (Apparently, he thought they were going to the beach), except in the NES Version.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: "DO NOT PRESS [the button at the bottom of the pool] UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!"
  • The Dragon: The Purple Tentacle to Dr. Fred. And Dr. Fred himself to the meteor.
  • Easy Level Trick: The door to Dr. Fred's lab has a four-digit code. To get this code, you could fix broken wiring in an attic by having a friend switch off the circuit breakers in the basement, use a flashlight to see the broken wires, fix them with tools, go up to another attic, open a wall safe which contains an envelope, open the envelope (and in order to avoid screwing up a different puzzle you'd best steam it, but not with pool water because that's radioactive and will kill you), get the quarter therein, use the quarter to play the Meteor Mess arcade game and use the high score as the combination to Dr. Fred's lab. Or you could skip all that and simply punch in '0000'.note 
  • The Everyman: Dave. He's Sandy's boyfriend, but other than that, he's pretty much just an Everyman. And while the other six characters can play an instrument (Syd/Razor), fix radios and/or telephones (Bernard/Jeff, although Jeff can only fix telephones), develop rolls of film (Michael), and proofread manuscripts (Wendy), Dave has no abilities or talents at all. Sadly, since he's the also the lead character, he's also the only one you can't NOT choose.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Dave and his friends are not above trespassing, thievery, vandalism, animal cruelty, and prank calling, but they all refuse to open Weird Ed's commando package because "that's illegal."
  • Evil Overlooker: On the cover, Dr. Fred's face is visible in the night sky behind the mansion. That said, he turns out not to be very villainous.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Green Tentacle will eat good food, food gone bad, or anything that just looks like food - in fact, his favorite dish is plastic shaped like food, wax fruit.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: You do this by playing the recording of the Tentacle's high-pitched screech, to obtain the Rusty Key.
  • Fictional Video Game: There's an arcade which is full of these. Unfortunately, the game averts Game Within a Game and none of them are playable. (Or fortunately since the characters label each of the games, except for Meteor Mess, as "Pretty boring".)
  • Final Death: The game operates on this principle, but since the only ways to actually die (being spotted just gets you stuck in a Cardboard Dungeon) are either so convoluted as to be nearly impossible to accomplish by accident or require such a lapse of thought on the part of the player, one might not even realize it until after a couple of plays through.
  • Forgets to Eat: Weird Ed, at one point mentions that he hasn't seen Dr. Fred eat in 5 years. Word of God says it was to invoke this trope, but since Ed immediately mentions that Fred has been dragging bodies into the basement, many players (and Nintendo of America, in their infamous censorship process) thought that Ed was accusing Fred of cannibalism. The NES version was thus changed to Ed saying Fred hadn't slept in 5 years, instead.
    • Which amusingly is made canon in Day of the Tentacle, where it is revealed that Doctor Fred has gone without sleep for years by means of imbibing massive quantities of coffee. One puzzle requires you to get him to fall asleep.
  • Forgotten Trope: The reason tentacles are made characters in this game and the sequel was apparently because old sci-fi movies with mad scientists tended to show severed octopus arms in their labs. Now, name a movie where you actually saw that...
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Douglas Crockford wrote a full article on how Nintendo's censors were so anal about the NES port, and they had to remove a game called Kill Thrill (they tried Muff Diver, but of course that didn't work), a nude statue, a Playboy for Mummies calender, and even the acronym SCUMM, which stood for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion (the version they made for the NES was called NES SCUMM, which Nintendo of America took as a Take That! and didn't think was very funny). They went through all of that trouble to have the creators remove these very innocent things... and completely missed the fact you can put a hamster in a microwave and essentially nuke it, then give it back to its previous owner who murders you and buries you in the front yard. They fixed it in the international release, but only after Nintendo discovered you could do this, and only after the game had already shipped.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: If you play the Tentacle mating call recording in a room with glass fixtures, it will shatter them. This includes if you mail it to the Three Guys That Publish Anything.
  • Going Critical: The titular mansion is powered by a nuclear reactor in the basement, which can be set off by draining the swimming pool (which is used to cool it) and letting the reactor overheat, turning off the power in the basement and allowing the reactor to short-circuit, or simply by setting off the mansion's security system, all of which lead to this trope (fortunately, it only kills everything in a five-mile radius).
  • Guide Dang It!: While not as bad as other games, this was made in the era when assuming the players to be psychics was common practice. Although thankfully the game isn't Unwinnable by Design.
    • The most egregious example is the envelope. If opened the regular way, it renders Syd, Razor and Wendy's paths Unwinnable and the game can then only be completed if Bernard or Michael was chosen. There's no way to foresee this.
    • There isn't anyway to know how to turn the telescope towards Edna's safe number without looking it up, so wasting the dimes trying to figure it out is an easy way to render the game Unwinnable.
    • Lastly, if one isn't aware that they can or should pick up the package before Ed gets his hands on it, the game can no longer be completed without Bernard.
  • I Can't Reach It: The Trope Namer.
    • A chandelier hangs just inches above your head, yet you cannot jump or climb up on a sofa to grab the key up there. The playing character's response is always "I can't reach it!" This also happens when a character dies.
    • When you attempt to grab the stain on the tablecloth, the character says "I don't do table cloths." When you try to use the stove, he/she says, "I'd rather use the microwave."
    • Nobody can ignore the "STAIRCASE OUT OF ORDER" sign in the library.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: A carnivorous plant can be grown instantly to giant size by giving it radioactive water.
  • Instant Gravestone: Whenever one of your characters dies, a gravestone appears on the front garden of the mansion.
  • Instant Home Delivery: The game established the Edison house as having some kind of magic mailbox. Weird Ed's package and mailing off a manuscript or demo tape to Three Guys Publishing are essential to several of the story endings; that is you'll send off your package, see a cutscene of the publisher receiving it, and get their reply in what's probably twenty minutes or less of in-game time.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: You wish. The game handles its keys very realistically, although this is helped by the limited number of doors and locks in the game. All the locks are differentiated and require different keys, although there are locks keyed alike (such as the coin boxes in the arcade room), all of the opened locks can be re-locked and all of the keys stay in your inventory (which can be kind of a pain, given that there are three different inventories for three different kids).
  • Interface Screw: Once you make it to the home stretch, the Meteor takes control of your system and disables your ability to save the game.
  • Ironic Echo: Can happen if you do two things:
    • First, bring Bernard with you.
    Dave: This could be real dangerous. If anyone wants to back out...
    Bernard: Okay, I'm outta here.
    Dave: Bernard, don't be a tunahead! This is Sandy we're talking about!
    • Second, finish the game normally. By getting rid of the meteor.
    Dr. Fred: If there's anything I can do to repay you.
    Dave: Cash would be nice.
    Dr. Fred: Don't be a tunahead.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: There are several actions that can lead to a meltdown. You see the mansion explode, followed by a message that the nuclear explosion has destroyed everything in a 5 mile radius. (It's never made clear how far the mansion is from the town.) If all the kids die without blowing up the mansion the player's informed that Dr. Fred goes on to take over the world and several others.
  • Joke Character: Jeff, the most useless partner character. His only ability is being able to fix a phone, a useful but non-essential skill which Bernard duplicates anyway, and he is the only partner character without an ability to reach the final area. However, unlike Bernard, Jeff doesn't get scared by the Green Tentacle when he faces him. The "college newspapers" that come with the game suggest that Jeff originally was supposed to have another ability: if you had him drop the radio into the swimming pool, he would get an electric shock and psychically intuit the combination to Dr. Fred's lab door.
  • Just in Time: No matter what happens, you need to free Dr. Fred from the Meteor's mind control. If you do that, he'll apply this trope by disabling the self-destruct sequence right before the mansion explodes.
  • Key Under the Doormat: The first puzzle is getting the front door key from beneath the mat.
  • Kick the Dog: You can put a hamster into a microwave, set it on and the rodent will explode in a bloody mess. You can even give the remains to the original owner...
  • Kleptomaniac Hero
  • Left the Background Music On: Each of the playable characters carries a CD player that plays that character's theme (see Leitmotif below). You can turn them off, and their theme goes away. You can also look at the CD Player to see the name of the song. You cannot, however, exchange CD Players between kids.
  • Leitmotif: In the NES version, every kid has their own theme music, as do the 3 Guys. Razor's seems particularly popular with fans. The inhabitants of the mansion all share one "spooky" tune (the computer versions were mostly devoid of music, save for the opening/ending and occasional demo tapes).
    • Dave: "The Boys Are Still Back" by Fat Patty
    • Razor: "No No Never Never Well Maybe Sure OK" by The Void
    • Bernard: "Comp-U-Nerd" by The Rocket Scientists
    • Syd: "Psychedelic Brie" by Metalflake
    • Wendy: "Sonatina in G Opus 47 BVW 801"
    • Jeff: "Surf Face" by The Goofy Feet
    • Michael: "Flashbulb Funk" by Princess
  • Little Green Men: Alien police can be called in order to arrest the Purple Meteor. The policeman who comes is small and green.
  • Live Item: Weird Ed's hamster. In both games.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: The game is all over this. Finding all the keys (including keycodes), figuring out which lock they open, and getting things from the locked rooms comprises most of the game-solving puzzles
  • Mad Doctor: Doctor Fred Edison has no compunction about kidnapping the protagonist's girlfriend to test out his new zombification machine, but as it turns out he's actually a decent enough guy who's really under the control of the Big Bad meteor that enslaved him over twenty years ago.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Fred, of course. Granted, his desire to take over the world and generally be evil was planted in his head by a purple meteor, but as the sequel shows, even when he's not being controlled, Fred is still a very whacked-out and amoral scientist.
  • Magic Meteor: The cause behind all the trouble.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Your heroes go into the mansion under the impression Dr. Fred is the Big Bad, but he's just a brainwashed pawn of the Meteor.
  • Man-Eating Plant: the previously-mentioned carnivorous plant. When giant, it has to be climbed onto but with it being carnivorous... it has to be watered Pepsi to keep it harmless (it can't stop burping long enough to eat you).
  • The Many Deaths of You: Once the game is mastered part of the fun is in trying to find new and exciting ways to kill off your characters, since while it's possible to kill a character, outside of the endgame you usually have to do something that's pretty obviously a bad idea. There are also two slightly altered endings that can only be seen if a specific character dies.
    "Oh no! Radioactive steam! Ahhheeeeee...."
  • Microwave the Dog / Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can put a hamster into a microwave, set it on and the rodent will explode in a bloody mess. You can even give the remains to the original owner... Who will reward you by flying into a rage and horribly murdering the offender. Off-panel, of course. The sequel implies that this cruelty is canon.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Zom-B-Matic.
  • Missing Secret: The game featured a broken staircase. You could not fix it, even though you had tools and you just KNOW there would've been something awesome up there. There was also a cabinet you couldn't unlock, and lots of useless items.
    • In the same game, there is also a chainsaw that doesn't work because it's out of gasoline. So you'd figure there would be a cannister of gas to be found somewhere, wouldn't you? It's in Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders on Mars, where you can find a can of gas labeled "for chainsaws".
    • In the edited NES release there's a bit of a secret—there's a keypad hidden on the second floor directly to the left of the Steel Security Door that leads back down to the 2nd Floor Landing. (The sprite is missing, but it's in the second column of the wallpaper, just off the floor. It has a hotspot.) No matter what you enter on the keypad, the mansion will blow up a minute or so later; there is no right code. It's possible that this was the copy protection from the computer versions, though in such an extensive port that would be odd indeed. Alternatively, it could be tied to the abandoned Pepsi promotion (before release, there would have been a Can of Pepsi in the fridge, and it would have had a code on it to win prizes, but Pepsi backed out and the code was excised).
  • Multiple Endings: The particular variables that affect the endings are whether Dave is dead or not, and whether the meteor has been launched into space, put into space jail, eaten by a mutant plant or decided to become a successful writer.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: For an example with a literal mummy, there's Dead Cousin Ted, the permanently-deceased-and-mummified member of the Edison family, who the Edison family love to hang around various places in the house, repurposing him as a bird bath, a receptionist and a dress-up mascot. Laverne even remarks that he's her favourite out of the Edisons. One instance of censorship done in the NES port of Maniac Mansion actually enhances this. A puzzle involves making an "obscene phone call" to Nurse Edna. The porting team changed this to Edna assuming that Ted is the one calling, with the explanation that only he has her number and that she never knew of or never accepted his death. Read about it here.
  • Mummy: Cousin Ted. Whether he is undead or just a corpse is still a mystery even in the sequel. He slides sideways when the shower in his bathtub is turned on, but it could just be because of the water.
    • If you try and hand him certain items, Ted will actually talk—dialogue (color coded white) and moving his mouth. He's certainly alive in some fashion.
  • Mutually Exclusive Party Members: Naturally, since you can only pick two from the six options. In a variation, Syd/Razor and Wendy have opposing goals, since you can only send either the demo tape or the manuscript to Three Guys Who Publish Anything, not both in the same run.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The NES game features a character called Wink Smiley, who is a talk show host clearly based on Jay Leno. He looks exactly like a young Jay and even has Jay's chin.
    • In his PC design, Dave looks like a young David Hasselhoff.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: Subverted in that Dr. Fred had to cut a lot of corners building the Zom-B-Matic and the nuclear reactor that powers it. As he himself notes...
    Dr. Fred: How can I take over the world when I'm on a budget? I always get stuck with cheap equipment!
  • Non-Indicative Name: "The three guys who publish anything" mean any kind of media, they do mind for the type and quality of the material, as shown in the commercial and the cutscene where one guy evaluates the stuff sent. The name has confused adventurers and tropers alike for decades.
  • Non-Player Character: Every character save your three kids.
  • Noodle Implements: At some point the Meteor had some plan involving Ed's hamster and an electric cattle prod. As Ed refuses to give up his hamster, this plan is apparently never implemented.
  • Noodle Incident: If the player turns off the power Fred remarks that they're going to have another meltdown. We are given no indication how the Edisons (or the house) survived the first one.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Admittedly, Dr. Fred is trying to Take Over the World with a brainwashing device, not run a legitimate business, but he still uses a nuclear reactor to power his machine. Did I mention that he was on a severely limited budget when he built his reactor, and so he had to install it in the basement of his house, while using his swimming pool to cool the fuel rods? No wonder it's so easy for the reactor to blow up if it overheats because the pool is drained, or if it short-circuits because somebody just turned off the power.
  • Only Sane Man: Ironically enough is "Weird" Ed, who is definitely weird but the only guy in the house who seems to think there's some kind of problem going on, what with the bodies being dragged into the basement and all.
  • The Password is Always "Swordfish": The combination of the second door to the secret lab in the dungeon. Normally, you need to do a lengthy puzzle to fix the wires in the attic, and get the combination from Dr. Fred's high score in the "Meteor Mess" game. However, if the machine isn't turned on, guess what Fred's high score is? Yup, four zeros. Could also be a case of Good Bad Bugs: Deluxe fixed this bug.
  • The Pennyfarthing Effect: In the original PC versions, you won't get an item's name when you mouse over it unless you're using the "What Is" verb. This makes it very hard to distinguish that some of the background objects are usable. Fortunately, the "What Is" command was made automatic in the NES and later versions.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • Pouring film developer on the Man-Eating Plant will kill it, preventing you from climbing into the observatory for the rest of the game. If a character is up there when the plant keels over:
      "The plant's gone. I'm stuck up here!"
    • In early versions of the game, if a character dies, everything he or she was carrying is gone. Later versions avert this by dumping the inventory into a box by the character's grave in the front yard.
    • The aforementioned package can only be obtained during the span of a couple minutes before Ed grabs it and it's gone. If he does get the package before the player, the game is rendered Unwinnable unless Bernard was chosen.
  • Pixel Hunt: If your character is captured, the cell door can be opened by pushing a particular brick - one in a wall of hundreds. This one's pretty easy though, considering the (primitive) engine makes every hotspot at least 8x8 pixels in size.
  • Point-and-Click Game: One of the first of its kind.
  • Prank Call: The player can call villainess Nurse Edna in order to distract her when entering her room. She naturally mistakes this for a poor quality prank call, commenting that there's "no heavy breathing."
  • Precision F-Strike: "Boy is the meteor going to be PISSED!"
  • Press X to Die: You can blow up Ed's beloved hamster in the microwave. And then give it back to him. He reacts poorly. And you can nuke the mansion, by draining the swimming pool, pushing the Big Red Button, or setting off the security system.
  • Prison Escape Artist: A viable strategy is to have one character stay in the dungeon for the entirety of the game to push the brick and let the others out, skipping the entire puzzle of having to find the old rusty key.
  • Product Placement: A can of Pepsi. Oddly enough, most characters will refuse to drink it because it "makes [them] burp".
  • Punny Name: Mark Eteer (Marketer) will publish anything!
  • Puzzle Boss: Turn off the mind control machine, put on the radiation suit, pick up the Meteor, lock him up in the car trunk, and send him off into space... or get the meteor a publishing contract... or call the meteor police in on him... Or...
  • The Quincy Punk: Razor.
  • Red Herring: This game has plenty. The staircase that's out of order, the chainsaw without fuel, the hamster in the microwave, shall I continue?
  • Reformed, but Rejected: A possible ending. Pick a team of Bernard and Wendy. Re-write the Meteor's memoirs, but call the Meteor Police just before delivering the contract. They'll bust in to arrest him as he's schmoozing on live TV.
  • Reluctant Monster: The green tentacle. Well, MOSTLY...
  • Required Party Member: The Hero Dave (who has no special abilities, though he also lacks Bernard's main drawback) is required to participate in the rescue, while you can choose two other characters to use at the start of the game.
  • Rescue Arc
  • Rule of Cool: Chuck the Plant. In fact, he's so cool that he appeared in further LucasArts adventures, as well as referenced in games completely unrelated to the company. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind had a plant named Charles, which you can get an ingredient from, that ingredient? Meteor Slime. And Phoenix Wright keeps a plant in his office named Charley. Strangely enough, he is called "LeChuck" the Plant in the demo of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adventure game.
  • Schmuck Bait: Come on, who didn't press the button at the bottom of the pool at least once?
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: You have the task of breaking into a mansion and saving Dave's girlfriend, Sandy. At the beginning of the game, you pick two teenagers out of six to assist Dave. The manual indicates that he only called two friends, either due to time constraints, or because he felt a smaller team would go unnoticed.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: It's unclear whether Dr. Fred is crazy or just stupid, but anyone who installs a security system for his house that causes it to explode when the system is set off has more than a few screws loose.
    • This was the Copy Protection back in the original version. If you didn't look up the right code to the door, you couldn't open it and the house would blow up, ending the game. In the NES version, this keypad was removed from the security door and made into a hidden object in the hallway behind the door. There was no point in messing with it except to board the express flight to the afterlife.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Different character combinations yield harder challenges than others. The easiest combination is Bernard and Michael — the two of them have few ways to get into Unwinnable situations, multiple abilities and ways past Purple Tentacle, and can get Weird Ed on their side. The hardest combination is Syd/Razor and Jeff, as one tiny mistake can easily result in a Game Over.
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: This happens a lot. If a character dies with something important in their pocket, you may not be able to get the item again (this happened in the NES version). If they die with something super important, like the old rusty key, and nobody else can access it, someone is going to sit in the dungeon forever. On the other hand, some versions place a package on the kid's grave that contains all the items they were hauling around. Considering the lengths you have to go to in order to get the kids killed, it's not nearly as much a problem as it sounds even in versions without packages.
  • Spiritual Successor: After 17 years, Ron Gilbert revisits and upgrades many concepts in The Cave, developed at Double Fine and released in 2013.
  • Story Branching: The game lets you choose two of six player characters to accompany mandatory player character Dave Miller (canonically, Bernard Bernoulli was one of the two, but this does not necessarily have to be the case). Each has a special skill that the others do not; this limits your options for reaching and taking care of the Big Bad accordingly, with five distinct endings possible based solely on who went into the mansion.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: Possible if you contact the Meteor Police before showing the Meteor the publishing contract. While the Meteor is on the talk show in the ending, a policeman will beam down and arrest him. "I don't care if you're reformed, I'm still arresting you."
  • Surfer Dude: Jeff.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Purple Tentacle. A particularly spineless and quick to defect example. He ultimately cares more about serving the Meteor than Dr. Fred, as evidenced how he willingly lets a kid with a publishing contract for the Meteor pass him.
  • Taking You with Me: The Meteor is willing to let himself be destroyed along with you, the mansion and everything within it, and everything within a five mile radius, rather than have his plans thwarted.
  • Teamwork Puzzle Game
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: This or the Infinite Flashlight depending on which set of batteries you're using.
    • The ten second flashlight lasts a long time everywhere except in the one place where you need it.
  • Theme Naming: The Edisons' names are all either some variant of "Ed", or rhyme with it. Even their car is the "Weird Edsel".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Soooo, what made you think that microwaving radioactive pool water was a good idea?
  • Token Minority: Mike, the African-American photographer, a nod to horror movies that usually have a token black character. Whether he dies first is up to the player.
  • Useless Item: Not all items are needed for the characters you picked to play as, but all items are available nonetheless. Some items are useless no matter what, or just not needed.
  • Useless Protagonist: Dave. Jeff to a lesser extent, he can at least fix the telephone but Dave can't do anything special.
  • Video Arcade: The arcade-in-game version.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: You'll need to steal Weird Ed's hamster, but you can give his pet back to him. He's so gratified and relieved that he'll forego throwing you in the dungeon even if you haven't otherwise befriended him.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: It's possible to steal Weird Ed's pet hamster, put it in the microwave, blow it up, and then show him its exploded corpse. Of course, he'll kill you for it, but it's worth a shot at least once, because hey, not many video games allow you to nuke hamsters in a microwave!
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Stealing Weird Ed's hamster is required to complete the game. Giving it back is optional. Also optional is exploding it in the microwave. If you give it back to him at that point, he will kill you. This is highly likely to render the game unwinnable; if you had required items in that kid's inventory, you won't get them back.
  • You Can Turn Back: Subverted at the beginning. (If you pick Bernard.)
    Dave:This could be real dangerous. If anyone wants to back out...
    Bernard:Okay, I'm outta here.
    (starts to leave)
    Dave:Bernard, don't be a tunahead. This is Sandy we're talking about.