Reviews: Maniac Mansion

The opposite of its genre, the only Adventure Game I really liked

I hate "Adventure Games". I consider them to be severely lacking in gameplay, with too much emphasis on story and/or humor, Moon Logic Puzzles, linearity (often a consequence of being story-driven), and lacking in any real interaction or gameplay.

Not counting the Shadowgate, Déjà Vu and Uninvited set of "storybook" point-and-clicks, this was the first point-and-click I ever played, and I really enjoyed it. Yet, I can't stand the genre as a whole. Looking back at this game, it's easy to see why.

Maniac Mansion is very open-ended. After you choose which two of Dave's six friends will join him on the rescue mission, you head off to the mansion and basically get more-or-less free roam of the place. You can explore pretty freely other than for a few locked areas, and can try to solve the game's puzzles in pretty much any order you like. Which puzzles you're able to solve is determined by which of Dave's friends you have, as each has their own unique skills.

There's a ton of interactivity, and real-time elements. After a certain amount of time, someone will ring the doorbell and drop a package off at the house. You can intercept the package and give it to Weird Ed, who was looking for it, and he'll befriend you. Or you can just let him find it on his own, and lose your chance to do so. You can also ring the doorbell yourself, and the game cuts away to where Weird Ed is, in real-time, as he heads towards the front door. Any kid in his way gets caught and thrown in the dungeon, so you'll have to switch to them and hide them so they're not in his way.

The puzzles and interactivity make logical sense. Green tentacle wants to be a musician, so you can do things like record yourself playing music (if playing as a musician), get a contract in either your name or his, and give it to him. If it's in your name, he'll get so angry that he'll kill you. If it's in his, he'll befriend you.

So why do I like this game so much despite hating the genre? Because it's everything the rest of the genre isn't. It's very interactive. It's open and explorable. You have a lot of freedom to do things your way. The puzzles and solutions make actual sense. The game feels more like an open experience rather than forcing you into following a story. In short, it's the opposite of its genre.