Part 1: Getting by the Green
The full name of the SCUMM interface system is Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion. As you might think, Maniac Mansion was the first LucasArts game to use the system, and aside from Labyrinth and the last two (3D) games, all of LucasArts’ adventure games used the system, even after the huge bar of interaction items went out of style.
Maniac Mansion itself is an homage to the low budget horror films of the 50’s and 60’s that feature a group of teens and/or college kids and the evil scientists who want to do Terrible Things to them (they tamper in God’s domain). You can sort of see this in Day of the Tentacle, but there’s a lot more weird interfering with the references, courtesy of Tim Schafer.
Anyway, you can also see here that this game is old. As in double-wide pixels old. If you’re not used to seeing pixels act like this, you’ll be noticing some very odd proportions on most things.
The way this works is that you get to pick three out of seven kids to explore the mansion and save Dave’s girlfriend, Sandy (That’s all there is of the backstory, by the way). You’ve got Syd the punk (not to be confused with a certain other Sid in the punk rock scene), Michael the black dude (also a photographer, but that hardly matters in horror schlock), Wendy the smart chick (writer, to be specific), Bernard the nerd, Razor the punk chick, and Jeff the surfer dude.
Aside from Dave, every character has different skills and drawbacks. For instance, Bernard can fix stuff and Syd/Razor can play the piano, which distracts one of the mansion occupants. I’d put it up to a vote, but since I have to use Dave and Bernard is canon, the last character has to be either Syd or
Sadly, I didn’t manage to capture the crash itself. As you can see in the title, Ron Gilbert, one of the other guys behind the Secret of Monkey Island, was one of the two guys in charge of this project. The music and all sound effects come courtesy of the IBM internal speaker, which also tells you just how old this game really is. Did I mention that I was 3 the year it came out?
I’m sure I saw Dr. Fred take Sandy here.
If anyone wants to back out...
Bernard, you sissy.
I’m not a—wait, a what?
You’re a total fucking tuna head if you don’t help me out! Remember, I’m the male lead, and that means I’m in charge of this little expedition and everyone does what I say! Now are you going to help me out, or do I have to teach you what the phrase “Indian burn” means again?
Oh, very well. I just wish you had picked someone else to come with you; there are physics problems I could be solving!
You’re a nerd, Bernerd, and Dr. Fred’s an evil scientist. I may need your nerd powers to counter his.
That’s...um...fine, whatever. Let’s go rescue Sandy!
To tell the truth, I’ve only completed this game once, compared to the dozen or more times I’ve finished DotT. As such, I’m leaning rather heavily on a walkthrough to get past most obstacles. If any of you Amiga/Commodore 64 vets want me to do something specific that isn’t covered by a direct playthrough (aside from that one canon event only Razor or Syd can perform), feel free to make a request.
Oh yes, and you can also see that the verb list was quite huge starting out, much bigger than the set the 90’s games used, and definitely more cumbersome than the radial menu the last few used. Heck, most of the words were all replaced by “Use.”
You may also notice that I’m using Razor here first. I’ll explain why when the time comes.
Trespassers will be horribly mutilated.
Oh, fucking great.
Fucking figures. Now, if I owned a house, where would I put the fucking key?
Ha! Fucking knew it.
Aside from the clock and the stairs in the front hall, Maniac Mansion’s layout has basically nothing in common with Day of the Tentacle. I’m pretty sure you can’t even get to the secret lab through the clock, and the kitchen is right through the door on the back wall there. You shouldn’t go through it, though.
What, they got a chainsaw for food? Fucking psychos living here.
Getting caught by most of the mansion’s occupants will drop the caught character into the dungeon. It’s not quite a game over to get all your characters caught thanks to this loose brick here...
...But the door doesn’t stay open long enough for the kid who pressed the brick to get out. You can still get others to leave by quickly changing characters and having them go for the door, but until you find the dungeon key, at least one kid will stay locked up.
We’d better just reload the only permitted save game and try again.
Oh hey, a mailbox! I get the feeling like I should sit here and wait for something to happen to it. Even dear Sandy made fun of me for it, but I happen to be the boiling pot-watching king!
Why is she wearing a bikini top? Why not, that’s why.
You’ll be hooked up to my machine getting your pretty brains sucked out.
You’ll never get away with this! Dave and his friends—well, classmates—will rescue me! You and your meteor can eat slime!
The meteor is already 8% slime by volume, and I lick it every day!
So where was I? Oh yes, going up the stairs. That giant, open security door sure looks inviting, but there’s someplace Razor should go first.
The fuck is all that purple shit? Oh hey, wax fruit! Wicked.
On the other side of the security door (much smaller from this angle, isn’t it?) we find some remarkable artwork, and several more doors.
We also have another set of stairs here. Trying to go left from the top, our path is blocked:
It’s Green Tentacle! Man, he looked different back then. More annoying, too. You can’t visit the top floor unless you fulfill his demands. Also, in spite of their apparent camaraderie in DotT, Bernard is scared stiff of Green in this game, and can’t stand to be in the same room as him. That’s why Razor here is leading the charge this time.
Also, although there is a package in the pantry invitingly labeled “tentacle chow,” Green only wants one thing to eat.
Fuck, watching you eat that is something I never wanted to see. Man, I wish I was wasted right about now.
Oh yeah, could you also, like, get me something to drink?
Son of a bitch tentacles and their goddamn food and water and shit...
Luckily, you can manage to run away from Edna (and the others) by keeping ahead of them and leaving the room before they catch up. In fact, Edna disappears from the kitchen once you’ve escaped her clutches, leaving us able to check the fridge.
Shit, ketchup? That explains all the leaking shit. I bet that’s what’s on the walls, too.
At least they got Pepsi.
Fuck you, greenie! You’re just lucky I don’t keep my knife in my dress.
At times, Crazy Ed here will decide to go on a kitchen raid. When this happens, he actively travels between each hallway on the way to the kitchen, and woe betide anyone he finds along the way, active character or not. Still, if you manage to run away from him, he resets back into his room.
So with my Pepsi offering refused, I need to look elsewhere for refreshment. Just past the fridge in the kitchen is the dining room.
The really, really long dining room.
Behind it is the pantry, which contains a selection of fruit drinks, among other things. While DotT and other later games always take care to make every inventory item useful, Maniac Mansion features several dozen items, most of them useless no matter which characters you’re using, although I imagine several of them are actually alternate puzzle solutions. Again, I’m not terribly familiar with the game.