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The Manhole is a 1988 computer game by Rand and Robyn Miller of Cyan Inc., better known as the creators of Myst. It presents a whimsical universe for children to explore at their own leisure, with the exploration as its own reward. The authors had started with plans for an interactive but linear storybook, but found that building a storybook universe was much more fun.
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In 1989, it earned the distinction of being the first game ever published as a CD-ROM. In the 1990s, the original Apple Macintosh HyperCard version started receiving ports to other platforms, including MS-DOS, Windows, and most recently, the iPhone.

The Manhole was followed by a Spiritual Successor IN SPACE, Cosmic Osmo.


This game provides examples of:

  • Can't Take Criticism: Hamlet Pig will get irritated and refuse to let you pass if you say you don't like his (non-sequitur, randomly generated) poem. The rhinoceros lady he's guarding (presumably his superior) will tell you to just humour him whenever you speak to him because "his brain is very small".
  • Chess Motifs: The flamingo's domain.
  • Edutainment Game: Very mild educational elements, such as a book of the alphabet and a few sentences written in both French and English.
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  • Elevator Gag: The "New and Enhanced" edition added some on the floors between the sunken ship and the walrus's island.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins
  • Featureless Protagonist: The player character is implied to be a kid, and that's pretty much the only thing you know about them.
  • Macro Zone: And Macro Zones within Macro Zones. You can sail a tiny boat around the teacup of a rabbit who lives inside a fire hydrant.
  • Mythology Gag: In the Masterpiece Edition, the rhinoceros at the top of the tower tells you she was a flamingo in a previous life.
  • Non Sequitur Environment: By climbing a beanstalk, you can find a forest above the clouds or a tropical island under the eponymous manhole; a tower sitting in the middle of the forest turns out to be a rook in a giant chess set bobbing in an underground canal, but only when you reach the top; a perfectly ordinary elevator can open in a sunken ship; a wrong turn in one of the canals can take you through the teacup of a rabbit living in a fire hydrant across from the manhole...
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  • No Plot? No Problem!: The game has no plot or storyline to speak of, just wandering around a bizarre world to see what there is to see.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: This dragon is a laid-back dude in Cool Shades.
  • Portal Picture
  • Shout-Out: The whooshes of a passing spaceship form the five-note motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
    • In the CD-ROM version, clicking on the TV in the house plays you a trailer for Myst.
  • Take That!: On a shelf of children's books with pop-up descriptions of what they're about is a textbook called "Metaphors of Intercultural Philosophy".
    "This book isn't about anything."
  • Turtle Power: He speaks French!
  • Updated Re-release: The "New and Enhanced" edition, the "Masterpiece" edition...
  • Warp Whistle: Mr. Dragon's TV set.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Most of the characters have only a couple of lines of dialogue (some only have one) and they'll just repeat themselves if you try to talk to them further.
  • Wide Open Sandbox
  • World of Chaos: There's no rhyme or reason between how the game's areas connect at all. But then, that's part of the fun.


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