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Platform(s): PC, Playstation 4, PlayStation Vita
Release: 1993 / Remastered 2016
Despite being a sequel and perhaps due to the six year gap between the two games no knowledge of the original game is required to enjoy this one but if you feel inclined to do them in order then you can find the original “Maniac Mansion” hidden within this game.
Following three friends the nerdy Bernard, portly rocker Hoagie and medical student Laverne (she’s a special girl) as they return to the Edison family motel in an attempt to stop the evil Purple Tentacle, who as the name suggests is in fact a sentient disembodied tentacle who following drinking from a toxic waste polluted stream suddenly grows arms and sets his sight on conquering the world.
Seeing how Purple Tentacle’s plans are unstoppable thanks to his now heightened intelligence, Dr. Fred decides to use his Chron-o-John time machines which use porta-potties for teleporters to send the trio back in time to stop tentacle before he can drink from the stream. However thanks to a screw up with the machine they end up instead being scattered through time with Hoagie being sent 200 years into the past were the founding fathers for some reason are using the mansion to write the constitution. Laverne meanwhile is sent 200 years into the future were the tentacles have under the rule of Purple Tentacles enslaved humanity.
Each of the three protagonists has their own distinct personality and look which in a way makes up for the lack of individual abilities. This individualism really comes into play with the dialogue especially, something that LucasArts have always excelled with in these games since “The Secret of Monkey Island” which memorably managed to make a sword fighting mechanic based on participants exchanging insults. Despite being the nerd Bernard might be one of the earliest examples of Geek chic, while Hoagie is based on a Megadeath roadie that Schafer had once met while Laverne is based on an ex-girlfriend of Grossman which I guess says a lot about his taste in women especially with her monotone voice and crazy eyes and yet somehow out of the three she was unquestionably my favourite, perhaps due to her walk which sees her essentially bounce around from location to location. Even outside of the protagonists it’s a colourful collection of random characters that they encounter on their individual paths which only adds to the fun, especially when everything is animated in such a cartoony style.
From a gameplay perspective this game is equally noteworthy for being the last game to use the classic LucasArts interface for their point and click adventures as they changed it really for the worst starting with “Sam and Max Hit the Road”. The game however still mixes up the formula by requiring the player to switch between the three protagonists in order to solve puzzles and pass items to each other by flushing them down their assigned toilet….I mean Chron-o-John. Alternatively some items such as a hamster have to be passed in a more creative manor which often like so many aspects of this game chooses to throw logic out of the window for.
No doubt as we all know that if you change something in the past it will affect something in the future and while the changes might be minor at best, its another fun way to approach some of the puzzles we encounter here, such as Laverne being stuck in a tree and requiring Hoagie to cut down the tree in his timeline in order to free her. I suppose it’s equally great if you’re being given the chance to mess around with time that this was the first game from LucasArts that doesn’t punish the player for their choices which was certainly welcome especially for those of us who got burned by one of Sierra’s adventure games like “Leisure Suit Larry” which was notorious for punishing players who didn’t save at the right time.
While a fun journey throughout, some of the puzzles come with some truly random solutions making this at times a frustrating experience as you find yourself seemingly faced with nothing but dead ends, only for something truly out of left field to prove the solution such as the numerous attempts it felt like I was making to get a dime stuck to the floor with gum. Alas though this is a minor complaint much like the item transferring mechanic which only allows one item to be passed through the time machine, rather than giving the player the opportunity to send several items across.
Ultimately this is truly a stand out entry in the genre and really a good indication of what Tim Schafer would give us the years which followed while the great sense of humour and cartoonish design means that you will likely stick with it when things grind to a halt if only to find some new whitty response or sarcastic belittlement over your attempts to combine random objects together and now having recently been remastered by Double Fine Productions for the Playstation 4 and Vita as well as PC (on STEAM here) there really is no better time to rediscover this cult favourite while holding out hopes that perhaps one day we’d get a third adventure.