Made in 1987, Maniac Mansion was LucasArts' first in a long line of Point-and-Click adventure games (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 based (very) loosely on it.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.
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.
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.
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.
But Thou Must: Invoked against Bernard at the beginning of the game, when Dave asks if anyone wants out. Apparently he was being rhetorical.
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...)
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.
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.
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's also a reference to this in Full Throttle, where Razor shows up as a biker with a chainsaw.
Commonplace Rare: You have to go through several difficult puzzles to acquire a stamped envelope needed to reach some endings.
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.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: 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.
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.
The Eighties: Several cultural references, such as a poster saying "Disco sucks!" and a label saying "Tentacle on board!"
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
Leitmotif: In the NES version, every kid has their own theme music, as do the 3 Guys. 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Schmuck Bait: Come on, who didn't press the button at the bottom of the pool at least once?
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.
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.
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.