Maniac Mansion comes in several different versions.
The first version of the game was released for the Commodore 64, in October 1987.
The graphics are not as good as the Enhanced PC version (see "Version 2" below), though the main drawback with this version is that it only has one available slot to save your game! This was probably all the Commodore 64 disks would allow, so let's not blame the developers for that. But considering the open-ended nature of the game, this can be quite frustrating.
The game was subsequently ported to the Apple II, Amiga and Atari ST computers, as well as to the PC. All these versions are nearly identical. The only notable difference is the appearance of the security door on systems where it was easily possible for users to copy the game. The door was a copy protection that required you to use a chart included in the game box to be able to open it.
Version 2 (the version I recommend)
The Enhanced PC version was released in 1989, for the PC. Gamewise, it's nearly a carbon copy of the original, but with two big improvements which really make a difference: vastly superior graphics and the possibility to save your game on 10 different slots. I think this is the all around best version, and if you want to play Maniac Mansion for the first time, by all means, look for this one. The screenshots used to illustrate this website come from this version.
These two versions above are the real, authentic Maniac Mansion. When, in the rest of this section, I refer to the "original version", this means I'm referring to either of these versions.
In Day of the Tentacle
The whole Maniac Mansion game is included as a nostalgia bonus in Day of the Tentacle (even though I think this "bonus" is the better of the two games!), released in 1993. You access it by using the computer in Ed's room. You will get either version 1 or version 2, depending on the language in which you're playing Day of the Tentacle. This is because version 1 was not translated to as many languages as version 2, so it was not always available in the proper language. When version 1 exists in the language in which you're playing (which is the case if you're playing in English), you will get version 1. Otherwise you will get version 2.
An obscure version of the game was released for the Famicom (the Japanese version of the Nes) in 1988. It featured entirely redesigned (and inferior) graphics, simplified non-scrolling backgrounds, and the only way to save your game was through an excessively long password feature. It has not been released outside of Japan and thus only exists in Japanese.
A much talked about version was released for the Nes in 1990, this time internationally. Although I know it has its fans, I personally dislike it and do not recommend it, for several reasons:
- The graphics have been entirely, and inferiorly, redesigned.
- The backgrounds have been simplified and are often non-scrolling, when they originally were. In the original version, the rooms were purposely designed to force you to enter them and go through them in order to see everything. This created a sense of exploration and dread (since you didn't know what was around the corner) that is sorely missing here, as most of the time you only have to enter the room and stand in the doorway to see all there is to see.
- Music is featured all throughout the game, notably, but not only, through the "CD Player" in your inventory. While it may seem like a good idea, I don't think it is. The original version artfully combined comedy and horror, but here the omnipresent uptempo music gives the whole game a "cartoonish" and light-hearted feel which is detrimental to the atmosphere. In the original version, the absence of music keeps you on your toes and highlights the sound effects: the ominous ticking of the grandfather clock, the sound of a door telling you someone has just entered the room, the scary alarm sound warning you the house is about to explode... In the Nes version, these sounds are drowned in the music and don't have anywhere near the same impact.
- Nintendo's censorship is all over the place, making the game blander in order to make sure it could not potentially offend anyone. Douglas Crockford, the man in charge of the Nes port, wrote an article on this frustrating experience called "The Expurgation of Maniac Mansion", which you can read on his website (warning: it contains many spoilers).
- You must play the game using the Nes controller instead of a mouse, which is not as convenient.
I own an original copy for the PC but it won't work on my newer system!
Run it with Dosbox and it should work.
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