Ways to lose
Unlike later Lucasfilm titles as well as most adventure games nowadays, in Maniac Mansion it is both possible to die and possible to get yourself into a dead-end. Many people see this as a flaw, but I personally enjoy it. While I admit it can be frustrating if it keeps happening to you, it normally doesn't happen too often here (unlike the Sierra games), and I think this kind of randomness and unpredictability is part of the appeal. You just never know what's around the corner, and anything can, and will, happen.
Killing all kids at the same time
Killing all kids at the same time is an immediate "game over". Here are the ways to do it, which always involve making the house explode.
- In the copy-protected versions of the game, enter a wrong code on the security door. An alarm will go off. If you don't hurry and enter the right code, the house will explode, killing everyone inside (and everyone within a five mile radius).
- Use the circuit breakers in the basement to turn the power off. An alarm will go off. Wait a few minutes without turning it back on and the house will explode, presumably due to Dr.Fred's nuclear reactor malfunctioning.
- Use the water valve to drain the swimming pool. An alarm will go off. Wait a few minutes without refilling it and, as the pool serves as a cooling device for Dr.Fred's nuclear reactor, the reactor will overheat, making the house explode.
- Go to the bottom of the drained pool and push the big red button. This will make the house explode.
- In the versions of the game featuring the steel security door (whether the game is copy-protected or not), have Bernard read the warning sign if there is one. He will attempt to crack the security system, fail, and make the house explode.
- Enter the secret lab and wait for Dr.Fred to activate the self-destruction mechanism. Wait for the countdown to reach zero and the house will explode.
- Enter the Meteor's room without a radiation suit and let the Meteor's radiation wave hit you. For some reason, although this logically should only kill the kid who got hit by the radiation, this also makes the house explode.
Killing a single kid
When you kill a kid, a tombstone will appear outside the house and you can no longer control that kid. The game will continue as long as you still have at least one kid left. If you kill all three, it'll be "game over". While not an immediate game over, getting a single kid killed can sometimes ruin your chances to win the game (see below), so if that happens you may want to reload a previous saved game. Here are the ways to kill a single kid.
- In one of the most famous (although unnecessary to win) segments of the game, you can use Syd or Razor to put Ed's hamster in the microwave and blow it up. Pick up the bloody remains of the hamster and give them back to Ed. Ed will become enraged and kill you.
- Copy the "tentacle mating calls" record on the tape, then play the tape in Green Tentacle's room. Green Tentacle will run towards you and attempt intercourse with you (this is implied but not shown), resulting in your death.
- Make a tape of Syd or Razor playing the piano and send it to Mark Eteer. When you receive the contract, show it to Green Tentacle. He'll be so jealous he'll kill you.
- Use Wendy's skills to obtain a publishing contract for the Meteor, then show it to Green Tentacle. Since he is against the Meteor, he will kill you for supposedly being on the Meteor's side.
- Use the water valve to drain the pool. Have another kid go down the pool, then switch back to the first kid and refill it. The kid in the pool will drown.
- Fill the glass jar with the radioactive water from the pool. Put the jar into the microwave and turn it on. When it's done, open the microwave door and the radioactive steam will make you spin around and kill you. Note that only the kid opening the microwave will die, even if there are others standing next to him.
Getting into a dead-end
Getting into a dead-end means doing something which makes the game unwinnable, even though you can keep playing and perhaps not even be aware that you can no longer win. Here are the ways to get into a dead-end.
When I mention that the game is unwinnable with a certain character, this means their special ability that allows you to win the game can no longer be used. You may or may not have other possibilities to win, depending on the team you chose. Remember the game is always "unwinnable" with only Dave or Jeff as they have no useful abilities, so I never mentioned them specifically.
Some of the dead-ends involve no longer being able to obtain the code to Edna's safe, or the code to the secret lab's door, which are both necessary to win. The codes vary from game to game, but they only vary between a few possibilities, so if you are using a walkthrough giving you the possible codes, it is still technically possible to win. But this is cheating, since you would have no way to figure out the codes without a walkthrough.
- Killing kids can often result in a dead-end and I'm not going to go into specifics as the possibilities are nearly endless. If you still needed the dead kid's special ability and if the remaining kids cannot replace him, you won't be able to win. All the possessions of a dead kid disappear with him, so this can also very easily make the game unwinnable by making you lose important items. Some puzzles require you to have at least two kids to solve them, so if you only have one kid left and if there are still "two kids puzzles" to complete, it is once again impossible to win.
- If you let Ed collect his package, you can no longer help him find his plans, making the game unwinnable with Michael, and you can no longer collect the unused stamps, making the game unwinnable with Razor, Syd and Wendy.
- If you do catch Ed's package before him but if you give it to him without collecting the unused stamps, the game becomes unwinnable with Razor, Syd and Wendy.
- If you open the undelevoped film when the lights are on, the film will be exposed, making the game unwinnable with Michael. The same will happen if you open the film when the lights are off and then walk into a lit area for more than a few seconds.
- If you waste the paint remover on anything else 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, eventually making you unable to obtain the code to the secret lab.
- If you waste your dimes in the telescope room by making the telescope go back and forth too much, you may at one point no longer be able to move it to look into the attic and see the combination to Edna's safe.
- If you kill the man-eating plant by pouring the developer on it, you can no longer go to the telescope room, or leave it if you were already there. This means you can no longer obtain the code to Edna's safe if you hadn't already seen it. And if you have a kid trapped in the room upstairs, there is no way to get him out and he is as good as dead, with all the dead-end possibilities explained above.
- If you open the sealed envelope in Edna's safe the regular way (instead of steaming it open in the microwave), you will rip it and will no longer be able to send anything to Mark Eteer, making the game unwinnable with Razor, Syd and Wendy. In the Nes version, this was deemed too hard on the player, and if you try to open the envelope the regular way it will simply refuse to open.
- If you send irrelevant material to Mark Eteer, you won't get to send anything else and this will make the game unwinnable with Razor, Syd and Wendy.
- If you call the Meteor Police three times without unlocking the secret lab's door, they will refuse to come afterwards, making the game unwinnable with Bernard.
- If you only have one kid left, if he doesn't have the old rusty key, and if he gets trapped into the dungeon, then you are trapped for good.
- Similarly, if you only have one kid inside the house, if he doesn't have the old rusty key, and if he gets trapped into the dungeon, you will be trapped for good if the kids who remained outside the house can no longer get in. This will happen if they do not have the entrance key and if the entrance door is closed (either because you closed it or because Ed closed it after someone rang the doorbell and he came to check it out).
- If you make the car lift off without the Meteor on board, this means you can only get rid of him by calling the Meteor Police with the radio fixed by Bernard or giving him the contract obtained by Wendy. If you can't do either, you no longer have a way to dispose of the Meteor and the game is unwinnable. In the Nes version you get an extra chance as you can feed the Meteor to the man-eating plant, as long as you didn't kill it with the developer (see above).
- If you pick up the radio tube from the old radio, then put it back inside, you will no longer be able to pick it up afterwards, making the game unwinnable with Bernard. This is a bug, a rare occurrence in a game that was otherwise pretty thoroughly playtested.
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