Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”Â Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:
Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.
Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.
Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.
Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.
This week, we’re looking at Lucasarts’ first, and arguably its most popular franchise ever: Maniac Mansion. This point and click adventure game was originally released in 1987 and remains to this day, one of the most popular and critically acclaimed games not only in the genre, but of all time. The SCUMM engine that powered Maniac Mansion would go on to be the core over thirteen more games over the next decade, all of which were considered some of the biggest adventure games ever. Maniac Mansion was also one of the first games ever to feature multiple endings However, this game has only ever seen a single sequel in Day of the Tentacle and a short lived horrible TV series that ran from 1990 to 1993. A fan made remake was released back in 2004, but that’s been the only real attempt to dust off this franchise. Join Diehard GameFAN as some of their staff discuss what they feel should be done with this long dormant Lucasarts favourite.
Alex Lucard – Start Over
Although it’s painfully obvious LucasArts has abandoned their longtime audience, customer base and the genre that brought them to the dance in favour of poorly made Star Wars and Indiana Jones games, the success of other recent revived LucasArts franchises such as Sam and Max or Monkey Island have proved that there is still a large fanbase clamoring for more games featuring these character. It’s just too bad Lucasarts has to farm out the license to get them made. Telltale Games has done a great job with those aforementioned Lucasarts licenses, but I’m not sure how well Maniac Mansion (or Grim Fandango for that matter) would hold up as short episodic content. I suppose it could work, but it seems to me Maniac Mansion would be better served by one long very good game instead of five short little titles. Besides, Telltale episodic games so far have had some interesting bugs in them, especially the Strong Bad quintet, so I’m not even sure I’d want the license to go to them, even if they have proven to get the sense of humour LucasArts one had right.
Maniac Mansion IS one of those timeless games however. It’s a well written game designed to task your wits as much as it makes you laugh and it’s appealing to all ages. You could just re-release the C-64 or even the neutered NES on the Virtual Console and it would sell nicely while re-introducing the game to new generations of gamers. Of course, a solid remake would sell even better. Update the graphics for today’s potential, tweaking some of the references for timeliness and maybe expanding or changing a few puzzles and you have a game that would perform quite well. White Birds Productions would be a good choice to do either a remake or a re-imagining of Maniac Mansion. They did a great job with both Nikopol and The Sinking Island and I’d trust them far more than Telltale in terms of technical quality or making a full length adventure game. The question is whether or not they could pin down the style of humour.
I’d say at this point it’s not a question of, “Should Maniac Mansion be revived?”but, “Who should revive the game since LucasArts doesn’t want to themselves?” Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, where are you when we need you most?
Chris Bowen – Start Over
I had to think about this one. See, here’s a dirty little secret… I never played much of Maniac Mansion when I was young, save a bit of time with the NES version. At that time in my life. It wasn’t really my cup of tea. I didn’t really find it very humourous, and the interface on the NES game was hard to use. Don’t ask me how I skipped Maniac Mansion and fell right into Shadowgate, because I have no clue either.
With that stated, the success of games such as the new Monkey Island games, Sam and Max and Homestar Runner titles have shown that there’s a market for adventure games nowadays that are funny and cleverly written. thankfully, Maniac Mansion, if done properly, could fit that bill. If you could get someone with a respect for the original property – and not someone just whoring the name (the way Leisure Suit Larry‘s been destroyed) – then this could work out beautifully. I’m all for it.
Mark B. – Start Over
Well, the franchise has already seen a sequel/spin-off, called Day of the Tentacle, so I don’t think we need to go that route again, but Maniac Mansion is a good enough concept to keep it going for a while, so it seems a waste to let it stay dead. I think that, were the game handled properly, a reboot of the series could not only be good, but popular (or as popular as adventure games can be these days), so let’s go with that.
That said, the reboot would have to really adhere to certain rules to make it worth playing. For example: NO COMBAT. I know that I’ve personally likened the Obscure series to Maniac Mansion because of the, “everyone has a unique ability that you can use to solve problems” gimmick, but that does not mean we should attempt to emulate Obscure in specific or survival horror in general. Sweet Home did much the same sort of thing with RPG-style combat and I don’t want to see Maniac Mansion become THAT, either. For the game to work, it needs to retain the concepts that made the first game awesome (no combat, three character teams that can solve the puzzles of the house NO MATTER WHAT) as well as the horror and humor elements that made the game unique.
Hey, maybe LucasArts could hire Tim Schafer to make the game. Wouldn’t that be great?
A.J. Hess – Start Over
I’d say sequel but there’s not enough name recognition. My pitch? A haunted house game on the DS. All ages, but like certain kid shows these days enough adult humor to keep us big kids happy too. Maybe something like Professor Layton would go well, with lots of dialogue and puzzles abound.
Bryan Berg – Start Over
While Maniac Mansion for NES was a great game, the one thing that held it back was the clunky interface. That isn’t a problem today; in fact, such a game would play great on Wii, where the point-and-click games of the past can find new life. An updated version of Maniac Mansion would be a perfect WiiWare game. It’d be a short, fun, entertaining game that would channel old memories while simultaneously creating new fans.
Dave Olvera – Start Over
Let me get this out of the way: I love SCUMM. The Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion lead to so many incredible games from Lucasarts (Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Maniac Mansion/Day of the Tentacle, The Dig, Full Throttle). Maniac Mansion, the first game SCUMM was used for (and where it gets its name) was released for the Commodore 64 way back when and that is still, if you ask me, the definitive version if only because it holds the most fond memories for me.
Playing MM was a departure from most other games I had played up until then. You had to choose your group that had different skills and were mainly separated from one another. You swapped between characters and tried to keep them safe from your enemies (the Edisons).
The influence of Maniac Mansion is not to be taken lightly. SCUMM (in its various versions) has gone on to be used in some very well received games and in jokes referencing MM can be found in all sorts of other games. MM allowed for player character deaths, had multiple endings and was a great comedy/horror game with memorable characters very well written. Overall Maniac Mansion had many good things going for it but could it benefit from starting over?
Bringing the graphics up to speed could help as well as fine tuning of the interface (not that SCUMM isn’t easy to use). The mix of humor and sci-fi horror makes MM a game that appeals to a wide audience and a more modern update can introduce new people to the joys of meteors and tentacles. Maniac Mansion is an important game in the lineage of gaming, with its success leading to other games from Lucasarts in the adventure vein (which gave us Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Monkey Island and other beloved games) but a new coat of paint would not hurt.
Hell, do a sequel or spin off. Maniac Mansion had characters that could easily be used for another game (I still love Bernard Bernoulli and Day of the Tentacle is quite great). There is a wealth of material and, unlike most console games, I believe PC (C-64 was a personal computer yo) games stand a better chance of having remakes or new sequels be decent to good than consoles because of there being a chance that fans of the original can do remakes. Either way, I can still pop in Maniac Mansion to my C-64 and have a good ole time; I’d like a new generation of people to have a similar experience.
..oh, and more hamster microwaving.
Mohammad – Stay Dead
“Why do you want Maniac Mansion to stay dead?” You cry, “You love point n’ click adventure games, don’t you?”
That’s true, I love adventure games such as the iconic Maniac Mansion and some may point to the mini-renaissance of adventure games such Sam & Max and Monkey Island as proof that Maniac Mansion would sell well in the current videogaming climate.
That may be, but that’s not what bothers me. It’s the way these new games are distributed: episodic. I dislike episodic videogames. They are neither as fun or as epic as the olden days of Lucasarts adventure games and never will be if they are divided into bite sized chunks that can be played separately.
So until we get full fledged adventure games, Maniac Mansion must stay dead.
Ian Gorrie – Stay Dead
Gone are the days of wide-eyed innocence and pure gameplay appeal. The point and click puzzle games that we enjoyed in our wonder years are quite rare now. The newly licensed sequels that have come out are short and simple.
I can’t see a revised release of Maniac Mansion being popular without them putting guns and zombies into it and making it a toned down version of Resident Evil.
I don’t have a confidence that a remake would be done well and in the spirit of the original. Therefore, stay dead.
Start Over: 6
Stay Dead: 2
Although the majority of the staff would like to see Maniac Mansion return to the realm of the living, we do have a vocal minority that is right in voicing their fears that today’s generation of gamers might nor “get” what the game is all about or that a new developer would do a disservice to the license. What about you? What do you think should be done with the Maniac Mansion license? Let us know.
Next week, we’ll be tackling an old SNK fighting game series that is neither The King of Fighters nor Samurai Showdown and seeing what could be done with that.