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Video Game / Maniac Mansion

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"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 Lucas Film Games' first in a long line of Point-and-Click adventure games (before they were renamed to "LucasArts" 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 college kid, 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, 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. 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.

A few 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. Most recent has been the 3D remake Meteor Mess from late 2022.

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!
  • Adaptational Expansion:
    • The NES version has an additional ending where the meteor can be fed to the man-eating plant.
    • The Meteor Mess remake adds a fair bit of content, mostly in making Jeff a viable character to beat the game with: if he has the right resources, he can fix the stairs in the library. It even made the arcade games actually playable. Unfortunately, it also added Dr. Fred catching party members he runs into and throwing them in the dungeon anytime he comes upstairs to play video games.
  • 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 remakes, Dr. Fred and his family have cyan blue skin.
  • Another Story for Another Time: If Dave is dead at the end, Dr. Fred will apologize and remark he could build a machine to bring him back to life, "but that's another story. Ha ha ha ha ha"
  • 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.
  • The Artifact: The Steel Security Door in the mansion's front hall bars the protagonists from the majority of the game unless they can pass the Copy Protection tests... except in the NES release, where it loses all this functionality and is just a big door that's imposing for no particular reason. In the version included with Day of the Tentacle, which came with its own copy protection, the door is simply open from the start.
  • 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 Animal: Dr. Fred has Purple Tentacle, who guards the lab and will look for intruders whenever something goes wrong with the power. A large part of the unique puzzles in different paths through the game are about finding backup to deal with him, or getting an item that'll get him to stand aside.
  • 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.
    Dr. Fred will go on to take over the world and a small part of the galaxy.
  • 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.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The statue on the second floor (which isn't included in all versions because of depicting a naked woman) has a plaque that reads "si trouve envoyez le au louvre poste pay." note 
  • 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. Again omitted from the NES port, where it just makes Green Tentacle run around his room in a panic.
  • 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, swearing, 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. Ironically, while the nude imagery was removed for the released game, the uncensored version was used for screenshots in Nintendo Power, as the map provided in the article shows the statue and poster. They can be seen in the fourth and fifth scans here.
    • 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!"
    • Also after you manage to infiltrate the secret lab, if you try to save or load, you can't: the meteor managed to disable that part of the interface so close to its lair, and your character will tell you so. (Note that this will still be true even if he's been arrested by the Meteor Police.)
    "The meteor has control of the system, and he says 'no saved games'."
  • 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.
  • The Cameo: If you turn the telescope left instead of right, it shows Mars with an angry Jaggi from Lucasfilm Games' earlier Rescue on Fractalus!.
  • 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 contains the skeleton of some unlucky previous occupant, but 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.
  • 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,at least until he learns that Sandy is the one they're trying to rescue, and runs away screaming when he meets Green Tentacle for the first time, so somebody else has to solve that puzzle instead of him.
  • 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 a complicated world domination plot.
  • 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 implied to be exploded in the microwave, it's suggested that Razor or Syd was involved as well.
  • Developer's 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 slightly 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 the poster 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.
  • Distant Prologue: The game intro shows the meteor falling to Earth and awakening everybody in the mansion, 20 years ago.
  • 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 the "fix" and "unlock" commands, which were situational and any occasion the player could use them in would also allow "use" to carry out the action) 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, and is the one thing he openly regrets about the game's design.
    • 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. The puzzles also more frequently reach Guide Dang It! and Moon Logic Puzzle territory than any future LucasArts adventure — except for Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, which was in development simultaneously with this game, though released afterwards — in the worst cases being borderline Violation of Common Sense.
    • Cutscenes in this game actually live up to their name (which is why Ron coined the term in the first place) — they can show up at any time during normal gameplay and aren't necessarily triggered by Event Flags. So as a result, they really do "cut" away from the game. In later games, cutscenes only tended to show up after a major game event occurred.
    • 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, and the idea of tagging along with other characters would only be done one more time in its direct sequel.
  • Easily Forgiven: In some endings, the Meteor is this.
    • 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 would be illegal."
    • Only Razor and Syd will microwave the hamster, the other characters find it "too cruel"
  • 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.
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: The game begins with a Distant Prologue showing that the meteor felt "twenty years ago today". In the NES version, Edna begins her story from that day, when she believes she is catching up on the phone with Cousin Ted.
  • 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.
  • Fast-Killing Radiation: You can have your characters microwave water from the swimming pool and then open the door. After doing so, they get just enough time to shout about "radioactive steam" before a cut to their Instant Gravestone in the yard.
  • 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.")
  • Foot Prints Of Muck: The Meteor Mess remake has players leave glowing green footprints for a little bit after walking through the puddle of toxic waste on the basement floor.
  • 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 ScummVM.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Steve L. Kent in The Ultimate History of Video Games discusses how Nintendo's censors went out of their way to censor things that could even be considered offensive from the NES port (which Douglas Crockford corroborates here). They went through all of that trouble to have the creators remove even some innocent things... and completely missed the fact that you can put a hamster in a microwave and essentially nuke it, then give the exploded remains back to its previous owner! They fixed this only in the international release, when it was too late to revoke it from the original US port.
  • 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.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Edisons will throw any intruders they catch in the dungeon, but they'll let you keep all your stuff, including the key that lets you out, or the one that opens Dr. Fred's secret lab. So, say, if the last thing you needed to do before the endgame was get the keycard, you could go from Ed's room over to his mom's room next door. She'll throw you in the dungeon right away, which lets you skip walking through the whole house, having to get a second party member to open the basement door, fumble around the basement in the dark looking for the lights, and then enter the dungeon yourself.
  • Guide Dang It!: If the envelope is opened the regular way, it renders the game Unwinnable by Design unless you have Bernard or Michael. There's no way to foresee this, and finding out the correct thing to do with the envelope (steaming it open) 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.
  • The Hero Dies: Any character can die and the game will stay winnable depending on the situation. Dave can die without gameplay consequences, and when Sandy is rescued, Dr. Fred will remark in the final cutscene that he could build a machine to bring Dave back to life. The courtesy is not extended to the rest of the characters.
  • 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.
  • 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 just a couple minutes later. Then the reply is also received within mere minutes.
  • 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.
  • 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. It's also why you can't climb the thing into the observatory until you give it some Pepsi: it'll try to bite anyone who tries.
  • 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 Ed's 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. This was the copy protection left over from the computer versions, which had a keypad in that location.
  • 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? note 
  • 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, showing up in all time periods the game covers, 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.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: 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.
  • 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.
  • Nuclear Mutant: A Man-Eating Plant can be grown instantly to giant size thanks to radioactive waste.
  • Oh, Crap!: Dr. Fred will freak out if you drain the pool or turn off the basement circuit breakers, since that risks making the nuclear reactor explode. If you do it multiple times, he'll ask how he can take over the world when these things keep happening.
  • 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.
  • Permadeath: 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.
  • 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, and considered the Trope Codifier.
  • 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 from the kitchen fridge, and for some reason Dr. Fred keeps a working 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. Some versions tone it down by losing a lot of the punk trimmings and giving her a slightly more conservative hairstyle, but the tiny Little Black Dress remains a constant.
  • 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.
  • Save-Game Limits
    • Due to limited floppy disk space, the original C64 version only has one slot per save disk. The Apple II and first DOS ports inherit this limitation.
    • The Amiga release, in addition to higher-resolution graphics, increased the number of saves per disk to 10. The Atari ST and second DOS port inherit these improvements.
    • The Famicom adaptation has no save files at all, just a Password Save.
    • The NES port goes back to only having one file, again due to limited save RAM.
    • The version inside the DOTT remaster originally had no slots at all, and you couldn't save and load your progress, just suspend it. This has since been fixed in an update.
    • Inside the secret lab, the "New Kid" command and the ability to save the game gets disabled. You get the line: "The Meteor has control of your computer and he won't let you save the 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 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.
  • Space Police: The Meteor Police. If you have Bernard along, he can call them to get rid of the Meteor for you.
  • 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!
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Trying to pick up the photo developer fluid in the pantry is impossible: your character will always drop it so it spills into the grate in the floor, down into the crawlspace.
  • 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, and the number will only appear if you have already gone to her room and revealed the safe. 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.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: If you pick up the radio tube as Bernard and then put it back in the old radio, you won't be able to pick it up again due to a glitch. Since you need the tube to fix the radio and call the Meteor Police, this renders the game unwinnable with Bernard.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • Getting a kid killed can make the game unwinnable in a few ways.
      • If you still needed their special skills and nobody else can win the game (most easily achieved by picking Dave and Jeff, who have no game-winning abilities), the game is unwinnable.
      • If that kid had important items with them when they died, the items will be lost for good. The NES version fixes this by dumping that kid's inventory in a box in front of their gravestone.
      • Pouring film developer on the Man-Eating Plant will kill it, so if a character is up there when the plant keels over, they will be stuck in that room forever, which has the same effects as if they had died.
    • If one kid is locked up in the dungeon without the old rusty key and the other two kids are unable to get to him (either because they died, or because they got locked outside the mansion), the game is unwinnable as that kid will be unable to escape.
    • By wasting the paint remover on anything other than the paint blotch in the room with the Man-Eating Plant, you won't be able to reveal the door behind the paint blotch, making you unable to repair the arcade machines and generate the code to the secret lab. However, if Dr. Fred hasn't set a high score in Meteor Mess yet, the code to the lab will always be 0000 (which is obviously never stated in-game, but can be discovered thanks to a walkthrough).
    • Using the yellow key in the Edsel early will make it take off, which means you are unable to get rid of the Meteor unless you have Bernard or Wendy on your team, or (in the NES version only) if you rush upstairs and feed the Meteor to the Man-Eating Plant.
    • Syd, Wendy and Razor need to obtain an envelope and stamps in order to win the game, which can be lost in many ways.
      • Not picking up the package before Ed gets to it or giving it to Ed without getting the stamps off of it first. The former also makes the game unwinnable with Michael, as he needs to give the package to Ed personally. Failing to do so means you can't initiate Ed's friendship quest and make the film with his secret plans trigger.
      • If the envelope is opened the regular way, it will get ripped to pieces, rendering it unusable. The NES version amends this by forcing the player to steam it open.
      • Sending irrelevant material to Mark Eteer will waste the envelope and stamps, which means you can't send anything else.
    • Exposing the film or using up the developer fluid makes Michael's path unwinnable.
    • Calling the Meteor Police on the radio three times as Bernard will make them stop coming to his help, making his path unwinnable.
    • Entering the lab without the key card in the inventory will render the game unwinnable, as there will be no way to return to Ed's room.
  • Updated Re Release: The original 1988 PC release has cruder graphics, akin to the Commodore version. The MS-DOS Enhanced 1989 version is the most known and the one featured inside modern versions of Day of the Tentacle. The GOG version includes both.
  • 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).

Don't be a TUNA HEAD.


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?

4.91 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / VideoGameCrueltyPunishment

Media sources: