Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Maniac Mansion

Go To

"Well, my dear. Hope you're having fun! Within minutes, it'll all be over. You'll be hooked up to my machine getting your pretty brains sucked out."
Dr. Fred

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, a 1980s teenager, and his group of friends. Each friend has a special skill, including Nerdy machine-minded Bernard, musicians Syd and Razor, photographer Michael, author Wendy, and Surfer Dude Jeff. The kids break into local Mad Scientist Doctor Fred's house to rescue Dave's girlfriend, The Cheerleader Sandy, from having her "pretty brains" sucked out in an experiment. Come to find out, they're not only saving her, but perhaps the entire world. Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer were involved with its production.

It has unique non-linearity for a 1980s Adventure Game, complete with Multiple Endings of varying happiness depending on what characters you choose. Not only that, it's one of the first point-and-click adventure games, with an entirely mouse-oriented interface. Its 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.


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

Spawned a Time Travel-based sequel: Day of the Tentacle. Two Fan Remakes were also made: The first is Maniac Mansion Deluxe, a Windows-compatible version with updated graphics and fixed bugs, finished in 2004. The second is the unfinished Night of the Meteor with more puzzles, more dialogue, more animation, and updated Day of the Tentacle style graphics, and has been in production for years. There has also been a series of episodic 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!" invoked
    Sandy: Get away from me, you purple slime geek!
  • 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 understandably squicked out by it.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: In all the port remakes, Dr. Fred and his family 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, the Big Bad's Evil Plan is spoiled, but not only do they get off scot-free, they become a rich celebrity.
  • Bad Omen Anecdote: At the beginning of the game:
    Michael: Did any of you guys see that movie? Four kids went into this strange house and... uh... never mind.
  • Bathroom Stall Graffiti: Not a public bathroom stall, but Edna has scrawled her CB call number on the shower wall in Dead Cousin Ted's bathroom. "FOR A GOOD TIME..."
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: The Mad Scientist Dr. Fred is the game's villain. Then it turns out Dr. Fred is being manipulated by the meteor entity, the real Big Bad.
  • 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.
    • Playing tentacle mating calls in Green Tentacle's room will have blacked-out, but lethal consequences.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Some of Michael's comments imply that he's aware of this trope and understandably concerned about it.
  • Blackout Basement: The basement is dark. 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 with a specific good ending. Not in the original version, though, because "smart ass" is used instead.
  • 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:
    • Many US (S)NES games had to go through heavy censorship to get published, this game is such a rampant case that a former employee wrote "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 in the PAL version.
    • The TV series has none of the offensive material from the game; 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 Mummy Cousin Ted's room.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: As it turns out, Dr. Fred isn't actually evil, and was being controlled by the meteor in its efforts to take over the world all along.
  • 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:
    • The chainsaw. One is obtainable from the kitchen, 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. The can can't be picked up because "it is for another game."
    • In the game's 1989 Updated Re-release, there is a poster of the Zak game in the arcade room. 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.
    • In Full Throttle, Razor shows up as a biker with a chainsaw. In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, the Scabb Island bartender jokes that he can't make a drink called a Bloody Stump because his chainsaw is out of gas.
  • Building of Adventure: Dr. Fred's manor is the only location in the game.
  • But Thou Must!: Invoked against Cowardly Sidekick Bernard (if chosen) at the beginning of the game, when Dave asks if anyone wants out. Apparently he was being rhetorical.
  • Can't Drop the Hero: Dave is the only character who always has to come on every playthrough and can't be reselected, because he's Sandy's boyfriend. Despite the fact that he, unlike all his friends, has no special skills whatsoever.
  • 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. It's even possible to unlock the entry door, leaving it wide open for all characters to leave.
  • 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 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 either Bowdlerization or be removed completely thanks to Nintendo of America's former policy on such content. 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 until later PAL port.
  • 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. The programmers never put the gas in.
  • 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 Damsel in Distress kidnapped by the Mad Scientist and his family, thus motivating her cool boyfriend and his highly-varied friends to ride to the rescue.
  • 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, who is the only inanimate object in the game with a name. He would appear in countless future games.
  • Concealing Canvas: Dr. Fred's safe is hidden behind a portrait of him, with hair.
  • Cool Shades: Syd, the cool guy character, is always wearing sunglasses. Even indoors.
  • Copy Protection: The original game versions had copy protection as an in-game puzzle, requiring the player to input a code from the game's box into the security door's keypad. A wrong answer would cause the mansion to explode. Hope you didn't lose it.
  • 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 meteor give up by getting him a contract deal for his memoirs. 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. Because Green Tentacle manages to get his band started, and not to mention Weird Ed's original hamster being blown up in the microwave, it's suggested that Razor or Syd was involved as well.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • If you're ever feeling bored, try sending every single possible altercation of the manuscript or blank tape to the "Three Guys Who Publish Anything." Including tentacle mating calls, a broken record, or even just an unaltered blank tape. Every possible permutation has a special cutscene to watch.
      • Additionally, sending in a demo tape recorded by Syd or Razor gets you a recording contract for that character. If someone shows this contract to Green Tentacle, he kills that person.
    • In later versions of the game, dead player characters have a package appear in front of their tombstone containing all the inventory items they had. This at least somewhat helps to prevent an Unwinnable by Design game.
    • You can radio the Meteor Police, then quickly finish the game by giving the book publishing deal to the Meteor before the police arrives. This will result in a different ending where the Meteor is arrested during its talk show appearance.
  • Dirty Coward: 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. After capturing a boy, she says, "How silly of me. I should've tied you to my bed instead!" Girls get "You're lucky you aren't a boy." She also responds to an apparent prank phone call with, "There's no heavy breathing. Let me show you how to do it."
  • Disco Sucks: Green Tentacle has a poster displaying his feelings on the matter in his room.
    • Take That!: The Fan Remake Maniac Mansion Deluxe had an Easter Egg where this would occasionally change to say "Tierra Sucks!" note 
  • Distaff Counterpart: Razor to Syd, as they have the exact same abilities: playing the piano and microwaving Weird Ed's hamster.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Jeff, being a Surfer Dude, goes barefoot (except in the NES Version). Apparently, he thought they were going to the beach.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: The button at the bottom of the pool: "DO NOT PRESS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!"
  • The Dragon: You have to get past Purple Tentacle before getting to Dr. Fred. Same for Dr. Fred himself to the meteor.
  • Early Installment Character Design Difference: Green and Purple tentacles both have four suckers rather than three. Additionally, in the Commodore 64 and Apple II versions of the game they both have their suckers on their backs. Starting with the DOS port, their suckers were moved to being on their front.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Being the first in a long line of LucasArts' point and click games, and being such an early example of the genre entirely, there are quite a few differences from their future throughput:
    • The interface has a whopping 15 verbs to select from; this can be quite overwhelming especially if you're used to their more common 9-verb interface from future games. The number of verbs was slowly dwindled down by combining some of the more redundant verbs (such as "fix" and the turn on/off commands, both of which were consolidated into "use") and removing the rarely-used ones entirely.
    • Control was done quite differently; no right-clicking shortcuts exist nor do "default" verbs, and you must double click an object to actually carry out the command. In addition, the cursor is only context sensitive if you have the "what is" command highlighted; later games made the cursor context sensitive all the time and removed any need for this command.
    • Death and dead ends are very much possible in this game, which can easily startle a few LA adventure veterans who knew how adamantly opposed to that kind of thing Ron Gilbert would later become.
    • The game is rife with Useless Items; there are a solid number of red herring items that never come in handy at any point in the game.
    • Perhaps what sets this most apart from future adventures is the inclusion of Multiple Endings and replayability; a single game can be finished somewhat quick, but the game's lasting appeal comes from the many different ways it can be completed. Later LucasArts adventures ditched this in favor of one long, coherent beginning-to-end narrative.
  • Easily Forgiven: In some endings, the Meteor is this.
    • In the non-character-specific good ending, the Meteor flies away from Earth in a modified car, and no one knows where it is going to end up next.
    • In Wendy's regular ending, the Meteor gives up its plans for world domination to pursue a writing career, and stars in a local talk show.
    • Subverted in Bernard and Wendy's unique ending. The Meteor appears in the talk show as before, but then the Meteor Police appears and arrests it.
    • Averted in Bernard's ending, with the Meteor Police arresting the Meteor.
  • Easy Level Trick: The door to Dr. Fred's lab has a four-digit code. To get this code, you have to go through a convoluted and long, well-spun series of Moon Logic Puzzles which could take quite some time. Or, you could skip all that and just guess '0000'.note 
  • The Everyman: Dave. He's Sandy's boyfriend, but other than that, he's pretty much just this. The other six characters all have special abilities or talents, but Dave has none 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.
  • Extreme Omnivore: 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: Playing a recording of a high-pitched screech causes the chandelier in the living room to fall (and break).
  • Fan Remake: Maniac Mansion Deluxe, is a fan-made Windows compatible remake with updated graphics and several bugfixes, finished in 2004.
  • 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 most of them as "pretty boring.")
  • Final Death: The game operates on this principle, dead characters cannot come back to life. But since the only ways to actually die (being spotted just gets you stuck in a Cardboard Dungeon) are either so convoluted or require such a lapse of thought, one might not even realize it until after a couple of playthroughs.
  • Forgets to Eat: Dr. Fred. At one point Weird Ed mentions that he hasn't seen him at dinner in 5 years. Word of God says it was to invoke this trope, but since Ed then immediately mentions that Fred has been dragging bodies into the basement, Nintendo of America assumed accused cannibalism. Thus, the NES version was changed to have Ed say Fred hasn't slept in 5 years instead. Which amusingly is made canon in Day of the Tentacle, where it is revealed that Dr. Fred has gone without sleep for years by means of imbibing massive quantities of coffee.
  • 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...
  • For the Evulz: The game never elaborates why exactly Doctor Fred or actually the Meteor wants to take over the world. Or why the Meteor seems completely content to abandon all this if you send it away in the flying car.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Re-releases of the German translation no longer allowed you to send letters, rendering some ways to solve the game impossible, and depending on the characters you chose, you might not have an alternative. Fortunately, this bug does not occur when using SCUMM VM.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: If you play the tentacle mating call recording in a room with glass fixtures, it will shatter them, including if you mail it to the "Three Guys Who Publish Anything."
  • Going Critical: The titular mansion is powered by a nuclear reactor in the basement. It can be set off by draining the swimming pool (which is used to cool it), letting the reactor overheat, turning off the power in the basement, or simply setting off the mansion's security system. All of these lead to a mushroom cloud explosion. 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, making use of so many Moon Logic Puzzles that the average player will need to consult a guide at some point (or many points). Although thankfully, the game isn't Unwinnable by Design... that is, unless you mess up.
    • If the envelope is opened the regular way, it renders Syd, Razor, and Wendy's paths Unwinnable by Design unless you also have Bernard or Michael. There's no way to foresee this, and finding out the correct thing to do with the envelope is likely to invoke guide usage.
  • Have a Nice Death: In the bad endings where all the kids die, either one at a time or in blowing up the house, the description of the carnage ends by saying "You lose. Heh, heh, heh..."
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Dr. Fred and his family in all the good endings, as they are freed from the Meteor's machine.
    • The Meteor itself in Wendy's ending, as it abandons its plans for world domination to pursue a writing career.
  • 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!"
    • When a playable character dies, this is their response to trying to do anything.
    • 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 Man-Eating Plant can be grown instantly to giant size thanks to radioactive waste.
  • Infinite Flashlight: With a good set of batteries, the flashlight will never turn off unless you switch it off yourself.
  • Instant Gravestone: Whenever one of your characters dies, a gravestone appears on the front garden of the mansion.
  • Instant Home Delivery: The mailbox must operate on some kind of magic. Mailing a manuscript or demo tape to the "Three Guys" will show a cutscene of the publisher receiving it. Then the reply is received within mere minutes of in-game time.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Averted. All the locks are differentiated and require different keys, they can all be re-locked, and all of the keys stay in your inventory (which can end up being a pain with three different inventories).
  • 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: If Bernard is chosen, "Don't be a tuna head!" is spoken both at the very beginning and very end of the game. The first time is Dave to Bernard and the second time is Dr. Fred to Dave.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: There are two endings to the game achieved through multiple different means, the first involves a nuclear meltdown. The second involves Big Bad Dr. Fred being able to take over the world (and others).
  • Joke Character: Jeff, the most useless partner character. His only ability is being able to fix a phone, a non-essential skill which Bernard can do anyway, and he is the only player character without an ability to reach the final area. The "college newspapers" that come with the game suggest that Jeff originally was supposed to have another ability that never made it in: 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: Dr. Fred applies this trope by disabling a Self-Destruct Mechanism minutes 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: Characters will pick up anything lying around Dr. Fred's mansion, even rotting meat, hamsters, or chainsaws.
  • Left the Background Music On: In the NES version, each of the playable characters carries a CD player that plays that character's theme. You can turn them off or just leave them playing.
  • Leitmotif: In the NES version, every kid has their own theme music, as do the "Three 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.) You can look at the CD Player to see the name of each kid's song. Dave's is "The Boys Are Still Back" by Fat Patty.
  • Little Green Men: Alien police can be called in order to arrest the Big Bad. The policeman who comes is small and green.
  • Live Item: Weird Ed's hamster can be picked up as an item.
  • 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 Scientist: Dr. Fred, who kidnapped the protagonist's girlfriend to test out his new zombification machine, and lives in a mansion with a highly volatile nuclear reactor.
  • Magic Meteor: The one that characters say Dr. Fred is obsessed with.
  • 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: A snapping potted plant is named literally as such.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are several ways to die, so unique that they may be too convoluted to figure out on the first playthrough or require a giant lapse of thought on the part of the player.
  • Microwave Misuse: One of the most infamous moments involves blowing up a hamster in the microwave.
  • Microwave the Dog: You can put a hamster into a microwave. If you set it on, the rodent will explode in a bloody mess. You can even give the remains to the original owner... (Day of the Tentacle makes the microwaved hamster canon.)
  • Mind-Control Device: The Zom-B-Matic's purpose is to be this, with the side effect of sucking peoples' brains out.
  • Missing Secret:
    • The library contains a broken spiral staircase. You cannot fix it, even though you have tools and you just KNOW there would've been something awesome up there.
    • There's a cabinet in the doctor's office that "seems to require a special key" but cannot be opened. Made worse by the fact that there are so many keys in the game, one may be prone to go back with each key to test it out.
    • There is also a chainsaw that doesn't work because it's out of gasoline. So you'd figure there would be a canister of gas to be found somewhere, wouldn't you? Well, it's in Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders on Mars, where you can find a can of gas labeled "for chainsaws." There is no chainsaw in that game.
    • In the edited NES release, there's a keypad with no sprite hidden on the second floor to the left of the security door, on a column. No matter what you enter on the keypad, the mansion will blow up a minute or so later. It's possible that this was the copy protection left over from the computer versions, or it could've been an abandoned Pepsi promotion with a code to win.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: Practically every puzzle in the game requires the player to either use highly unconventional logic, or be a psychic:
    • Can't open the garage? You'd think you need to find the garage opener, right? Wrong. You need to use a workout machine, then open it with pure strength.
    • How does one open an envelope? With their hands? Or through a microwave?
  • Multiple Endings: There are at least several endings, all affected by which characters you chose and who's still alive. There are even different game overs achieved through many various means (which result in an exploded house or all kids dead).
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table:
    • For an example with a literal Mummy, there's one named Dead Cousin Ted, who is hidden standing behind a shower curtain. His "bed" is in the adjacent room, a sarcophagus with a pillow and TV inside. Dead Ted would be a regular family member in sequel Day of the Tentacle, despite being inanimate.
    • One puzzle in the game involves making a phone call to Dirty Old Woman Nurse Edna. In the NES version of the game, Nintendo found this call "obscene." It was censored into Edna instead assuming that Mummy Ted is the one calling, explaining that only he has her number and that she never knew of or accepted his death.
  • Mutually Exclusive Party Members: Naturally, since you can only pick two out of the six characters. In a variation, Syd/Razor and Wendy have opposing goals, since you can only send either the demo tape or the manuscript to the "Three Guys," not both in the same run.
  • Nerd: Bernard, "President of the physics club and winner of the college's Geek Award."
  • 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: "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.
  • Noodle Implements: At some point the meteor had a 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, Dr. Fred remarks that they're going to have another meltdown. We are given no indication how the family (or the house) survived the first one.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Dr. Fred uses a nuclear reactor to power his machine. Thanks to his severely limited budget, the reactor had to be installed in the basement of his house, and using a swimming pool to cool the fuel rods. No wonder it's so easy for the reactor to blow up.
  • Only Sane Man: Ironically enough this is "Weird" Ed, who is the only person 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.
    Weird Ed: Daddy's been acting very strangely ever since his secret project in the lab...
    Nurse Edna: YEAH, SO!
    Weird Ed: Well, Mommy, I'm worried about him. He hasn't been at dinner for 5 years...
    Nurse Edna: YEAH, SO!
    Weird Ed: ...and he's been bringing those bodies down into the basement late at night.
    Weird Ed: [looks at the player] Never mind.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Normally, you need to do a lengthy puzzle to get the combination of the second door to the secret lab in the dungeon. However, if you just guess the simple 0000 it opens.
  • Pixel Hunt: If a character is captured, the cell door can be opened by finding a particular brick that's very small and purposefully not obvious.
  • Point-and-Click Game: One of the first of its kind, with an entirely mouse-oriented interface.
  • Prank Call: The player can call villainess Nurse Edna in order to distract her from entering her room. She naturally mistakes this for a poor quality prank call, commenting that there's "no heavy breathing," and she could do it better.
  • Precision F-Strike: In the original version of the game, in one of the endings, a character says "Don't be a smart ass!"
  • Press Start to Game Over: Played literally with the Fictional Video Game arcade machines. You need to play one to progress, but all you get is a high score list and "GAME OVER: INSERT QUARTER".
  • Press X to Die: You can push a Big Red Button to a nuclear reactor. You were warned.
  • Prison Escape Artist: A viable strategy is to have one character stay in the dungeon for the entirety of the game to let the others out, skipping the entire puzzle of having to find a key.
  • Product Placement: A can of Pepsi is obtainable, and for some reason Dr. Fred keeps a Pepsi vending machine in his lab. Oddly enough, most characters will refuse to drink the Pepsi because it "makes them burp".
  • Punny Name: Mark Eteer (Marketer) will publish anything!
  • Puzzle Boss: There's no way to rescue Sandy with brute force - you're going to have to solve some Moon Logic Puzzles to best the villain.
  • The Quincy Punk: Razor, "Lead singer for the punk band 'Razor and the Scummettes'." She has a spiked collar, somewhat spiky red hair, and a safety pin earring.
  • Red Herring: This game has plenty. The staircase that's out of order, the chainsaw without fuel, the unopenable medical cabinet, shall we continue? And due to having multiple characters and multiple endings, many items were worthless if you had the wrong party.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: A possible ending involves a Big Bad becoming a rich celebrity only to be arrested as he's schmoozing on live TV, actually being told it doesn't matter that he's reformed.
  • Reluctant Monster: Green Tentacle is generally friendly and in certain cases even helpful. Unless you go out of your way to upset him.
  • Replay Value: Unique amongst games of its time for introducing non-linearity by allowing multiple player characters to be selected. This means there can be different Story Branches on every replay.
  • Rescue Arc: The game revolves around Dave and his friends trying to rescue Dave's girlfriend, Sandy.
  • Running Gag: Chuck the Plant. He may be a total Red Herring, but that doesn't stop him from appearing in countless other games. It's common to find him in other LucasArts games, despite being completely inanimate. Fan Remake Deluxe has the character comment, "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has a plant named Charles who gives an ingredient. That ingredient? Meteor Slime. Phoenix Wright keeps a plant in his office named Charley. Strangely enough, he is called "LeChuck" the Plant in the demo of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  • Schmuck Bait: Come on, who didn't press the button at the bottom of the pool at least once?
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: You can only pick two player characters out of six to assist Dave in rescuing Sandy. The manual indicates that this is either due to time constraints, or because he felt a smaller team would go unnoticed.
  • Secret Room: A kind-of example. The room wasn't meant to be hidden. It's just that the door was painted over so many times that it now blends into the wall. However, the player can't find the door without using paint thinner.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism:
    • Dr. Fred will initiate this when the player barges in on him and his hostage Sandy.
    • In the original version of the game, for Copy Protection Dr. Fred has installed a security system on a door which will blow up the mansion when the wrong code is input. That's one hell of a security system.
  • Slasher Smile: Dr. Fred sports a very impressive one in the cover art (see above).
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: In early versions of the game, if a character dies, everything he or she was carrying is gone. Losing certain objects can even cause the game to become Unwinnable by Design. Later versions avert this by dumping the inventory into a box by the character's grave in the front yard.
  • Spiritual Sequel: Thimbleweed Park exists in the same universe and even has several of the characters within the game.
  • Spiritual Successor:
  • Story Branching: The game lets you choose two of six player characters to accompany mandatory Required Party Member Dave Miller (canonically, Bernard was one of the two, but he is optional). 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.
  • Stupid Evil: There are a few tasks — turning off the electricity to repair the attic wiring or draining the pool to retrieve the batteries in the radio — that will not only draw one of the Edisons right to the exact location where someone's screwing with things, but cause the house's nuclear reactor to overload within minutes. Stupid part? If they capture the character before they undo whatever they did, the Edisons won't fix it themselves. Unless someone else fixes it, the Edisons will let the house explode!
  • Sudden Downer Ending: A possible ending involves a former Big Bad discussing his rich fame on live TV, only to be suddenly interrupted with an arrest because he's Reformed, but Rejected.
  • Surfer Dude: Jeff, whose description even says he "responds to the name Surfer Dude."
  • Sycophantic Servant: Purple Tentacle, who obeys Big Bad Dr. Fred's every command, but can easily be bypassed under certain circumstances. He may even be willing to follow other orders under pressure.
  • Taking You with Me: The Big Bad sets off a Self-Destruct Mechanism when the player finds Sandy, more willing to have everyone including himself destroyed in a nuclear explosion than have his plans thwarted.
  • Teamwork Puzzle Game: The game operates on three playable characters, and cooperation is sometimes necessary.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: Operating on an old set of batteries, the flashlight lasts a long time everywhere except in the one place where you need it.
  • Theme Naming: Dr. Fred and his family all have names that are either some variant of "Ed" or rhyme with it (Ed, Ned, Edna, Ted). Even their car is the "Weird Edsel." In sequel Day of the Tentacle, they woud take on the surname Edison.
  • 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. He even gives a Bad Omen Anecdote.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay:
    • The correct way to turn the telescope towards Edna's safe number can only be found out by turning it in random directions. Wasting the maximum four dimes available trying to figure it out is an easy way to render the game Unwinnable by Design.
    • If one isn't aware that they should pick up the package Just in Time before Ed gets his hands on it, the game becomes Unwinnable by Design without Bernard, as the other paths require the stamps and/or Ed's plans.
  • Trouser Space: All playable characters can carry an unlimited amount of items, no matter how large, up to and including a bucket of paint remover, bowl of wax fruit, and a chainsaw. Particularly headscratching with the scantily-clad Razor.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Using several items in the wrong way will make there be no possible way to win the game, for example by:
    • Running out of dimes trying to figure out which direction to turn the telescope.
    • Not picking up the package before Ed gets to it (unless Bernard is in the party).
    • Picking up the package but then giving it to Ed without getting the stamps off of it first makes Syd, Razor, and Wendy's paths unwinnable (that is, by tearing it open, so it can't be reused to mail their artistic efforts to a publisher).
    • Exposing the film or using up the developer fluid makes Michael's path Unwinnable.
    • If the envelope is opened the regular way, you can no longer complete Syd, Razor, or Wendy's paths.
    • Pouring film developer on the Man-Eating Plant will kill it, preventing you from climbing into the upper room for the rest of the game. If a character is up there when the plant keels over, he/she says, "The plant's gone. I'm stuck up here!"
    • Call the Meteor Police on the radio three times as Bernard, and they will stop coming to help, making his path unwinnable.
    • Getting the kid with the special skill killed if playing with Dave and Jeff, who have no game-winning skills. Also getting the kid with the necessary items killed in some ports of the game, as the items will be lost for good.
    • Entering the room with Sandy and Dr. Fred without the key card in the inventory will render the game unwinnable, as there will be no way to return to Ed's room.
  • Useless Item: Not all items are needed for the characters you picked to play as, but they're all available nonetheless. And some items are just useless no matter what.
  • Useless Protagonist: Dave doesn't have any special abilities. Jeff to a lesser extent, his only ability is fixing the telephone (which Bernard can also do).
  • Vanity Publishing: Subverted with "Three Guys Who Publish Anything," who won't bother with material they know won't sell.
  • Vegetarian Carnivore: The Man-Eating Plant will drink Pepsi.
  • 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. He reacts accordingly.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Stealing Weird Ed's hamster is required to complete the game. Optionally, you can explode it in the microwave. You can take it a step further and give the remains back to him... His reaction is according.
  • You Can Turn Back: Subverted at the beginning, if you picked 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 tuna head! It's Sandy we're talking about!
    Bernard: [comes back] Okay.
  • We Buy Anything: Subverted with "Three Guys Who Publish Anything." They mean any kind of media, they do mind for the type and quality of the material. Certain mailed things might get thrown out the window.

THE GAME IS OVER. Press f4 to play again.


Video Example(s):


Maniac Mansion

Yeah, how did you THINK Weird Ed was gonna react to your heinous crime?!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / VideoGameCrueltyPunishment

Media sources:

Main / VideoGameCrueltyPunishment