In 1987, Lucasfilm Games (later renamed LucasArts) brought us Maniac Mansion, a point-and-click adventure created by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick (Thimbleweed Park). Together, they introduced us to the Edisons- Dr. Fred, Nurse Edna, and Weird Ed- as well as the insanity that lies within their home.

In the beginning there was Zork…
Without a thesaurus to tell you a shrub and a bush were the same, it would only be a matter of time before the curse words were unleashed.

Gilbert and Winnick, like many geeks of the 80’s, were fans of text and graphic adventure games. Adventure games were interactive stories driven by exploration and puzzle solving. Up until the creation of Maniac Mansion, popular predecessors such as Zork or King’s Quest, were primarily played by typing commands such as “grab key” or “open door” to progress the story. Over time, typing a verb/noun command could become stale or frustrating for users, to the point of typing curse words into the games’ parser.

Rebel SCUMM…

To address these issues, Gilbert took it upon himself to develop the SCUMM engine (Script Utility for Maniac Mansion). It provided gamers with improved graphics and an interactive interface instead of entering commands into a parser. Also, SCUMM gave the developers the ability to create the game’s story, dialogue, items, and environments from within one program versus writing individual code for each element. The SCUMM engine would go on to be used in many adventure games such as Monkey IslandFull Throttle, and The Curse of Monkey Island.

A tale forged out of love for B-horror Films…

maniac mansion

Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick were motivated to create a game based on their favorite B-horror films, and Maniac Mansion has them splattered across the property. It’s the story of Dave Miller, a man on a mission to save his girlfriend, Sandy, from the mad-science of Dr. Fred and the homicidal purple meteor controlling his mind. In order to prevent Sandy from having her “brains sucked out,” Dave enlists two of his friends to help break into the mansion and save her.

Wait, I’ve seen that mansion before…
Found on Skywalker Ranch, this home inspired the creation of the Edison’s house of horrors.

As you step upon the property you will notice a familiar building. The mansion you are about to enter was inspired from the main house found on Skywalker Ranch. Cue the Star Wars theme!

Inside, you will find a crazy cast of characters and absurdities such as a man-eating plant, a basement/dungeon with a nuclear reactor, a mummy in the shower, a rocket powered Edsel, and one scared hamster who’s fate lies within your mature hands. Will you enlist the help of depressed tentacle with rock and roll dreams? How about calling in some cops from outer space? You could appeal to the meteor’s ego or blast him back to space? Or do you join the family revolution and storm the lab?

How you save Sandy is up to who you choose to join Dave’s quest and how you use their individual skills. There are multiple endings based on the choices you make, which gives replay value to a game released during the Ronald Reagan presidency.

In 1987, Maniac Mansion redefined a genre. It was also an example of how video games could be a powerful vessel to tell character-driven stories. It laid a foundation for today’s top adventure games, such as those created by Telltale Games.

So, stop being a tuna-head and check it out!. 

maniac mansion
The characters of Maniac Mansion

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