Written by Morpheus Kitami
It's here. The game you've all been waiting for. The game you all think is going to be the highest rated game on this blog. Anybody feel one of those laser sights on their back?
When we last left Lucasarts, the developer of a flight sim, Hal Barwood, had developed their highest selling adventure game to date, and indeed the one that would remain their best-selling adventure game. Unfortunately he was busy working on the ill-fated Indiana Jones sequels. Gilbert was gone, off making children's games for children, leaving...uh...no one left to make adventure games. I dunno, let's get Gilbert's assistants to make a game, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, nerds do what nerds do when they're put on the spot, and they say they're gonna do another Maniac Mansion game. Not a terrible idea, it might not have sold great when it first came out, but it had great legs. And there's a crappy cartoon about it...for some reason. It's like that Beetlejuice cartoon, barely relevant to the source material. Except I assume there are reasons to like the Beetlejuice cartoon since it somehow has a DVD release. Shout Factory ain't releasing a questionable DVD of Maniac Mansion.
SIDENOTE: Before looking up the series on Youtube, I wrongly assumed it was a cartoon. Because I made a mental leap that someone adapting a cartoony game would turn it into a cartoon. Because that's logical. Unfortunately, I forgot this was the time when people were trying their hardest to make live-action cartoons...or something. You can find more about it on Wikipedia, but the short version is this is basically irrelevant to the games and is a weird offshoot of SCTV, which in turn is a weird offshoot of Second City, an improv company (for lack of a better term) founded in Chicago. My desire to tell you about this in detail is currently being sucked out by the absolute black hole of comedy this show is.
|Gilbert, shortly before leaving this game|
Despite Gilbert having gone off by the time the game was released, he did have some input in the beginning. Grossman says it was Gilbert's idea to do a time travel game, that he always wanted to do one (wonder if he had any input in Putt-Putt Travels Through Time). There was never a specific idea in mind, just picking out whatever seemed like they could think up enough for. Two time periods they specifically singled out were the [American] Revolutionary War and the future. The latter because they could philosophize about it.
|A French shot, detailing the process behind making the backgrounds|
Despite the more enduring popularity of the game, magazines weren't lining up to preview the game at the time. At least English-speaking ones. Computer Gaming World was the only one I could find, but thankfully Trickster's stash had another. CGW goes over the voice acting. This is actually the second Lucasarts talkie, after Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. More importantly, the process describes how every line is voiced, which the article points out is something like 4500 lines. That said, the game could fit on a single disc twice over.
The voice acting was directed by Tamlynn Barra (now Niglio) who would go on to direct the voice acting in most Lucasarts titles going forward, with an exception in Full Throttle for some reason. Each actor did his lines without another actor in the studio, which I guess was uncommon then. I guess this approach worked well, because I can't really say I've ever noticed an issue with the voice acting in any of the games she's produced that I've played. This is also an aspect that's given the game praise over the years, not to mention that they used professional actors at a time in which that wasn't as common...outside of Japan anyway. (they were slightly earlier to this whole "talkie" business)
|I feel the money in my wallet loosening itself right up|
Most of these actors are just your typical voice actors who have a bunch of cartoon and video game credits over the years. A lot of attention has been placed on the person who plays Bernard, Richard Sanders, who was in WKRP in Cincinnatti. If you're not American or below the age of 40 or so, you probably don't know what that was. That was a sitcom which was immensely popular during the late '70s and early '80s about a radio station that switched to then popular music, like Pink Floyd and Blondie. Because of a loophole at the time in the way music got played on TV, they could get these songs for cheap for a show which I don't believe had that high a budget. (something to do with shows being shot on tape IIRC) Unfortunately said music turned out to be immensely popular in the long term, so when that loophole got closed, they had to stop showing it with the original music, resulting in a show that got hacked apart pretty badly. I understand that most of the music has come back in recent rereleases, but I haven't seen it.
I have no recollection of Sanders character in WKRP, but I only saw one episode, and I don't remember him being much of a factor in it. I have no idea if this was a factor at all in anyone's decision to buy the game.
This release also marks for Lucasarts a closing down of the systems the game was released on. Just DOS and a Mac port some years later. This partially represents the homogenizing of the computer industry into the Windows/Macintosh monopoly that would persist to this day. The Amiga and the FM Towns were only popular outside of America, and ergo, not something they concerned themselves with. Interestingly, this game doesn't have any console ports* for some strange reason, which would persist all the way to Escape From Monkey Island.
*modern ports don't count.
This perplexed me a little bit, since it's not like Lucasarts never released anything for consoles, and, I should point out, there were some weird games out on Sega CD, 3DO and CD-i. It turns out that while it did good at the time...that good was 80k copies. The lowest title of any Lucasarts game during the 1992-94 period for the PC at least. Their console titles are missing a lot of sales data.
|For instance a demo on this very disc|
Which is something that seems to be a trend for Lucasarts around this time. Fondly remembered in retrospect, but not so great sales wise. Unless it was related to something Harrison Ford was in. The best selling release they had at the time was Star Wars: Rebel Assault. An actual interactive movie. Which got on some of those aforementioned consoles.
So my choice basically just boiled down to soundtrack, with floppy/Roland MT-32, CD and the remastered release. I briefly checked out the remastered version until I saw that was not as simple a remaster as The 7th Guest or the ilk. Very much a full-fledged entry in its own right. I assumed in this case that the CD would have CD music in addition to voices, but alas, this wasn't the case. So MT-32 it is. I don't think there's much of a difference, just slightly nicer instruments.
Onto the game. The intro is pretty well designed and has what feels like an absolutely massive amount of animation. It feels impressive in a different way than it did back then, because it's impressive they managed to get all this done in such a tiny file size. These days even a 5 minute intro like this would probably take up a gigabyte of data.
They said they tried to capture a real cartoony, Looney Tunes atmosphere, and judging by this at least, they've succeeded.
The gist, if you're not watching that, is that Purple Tentacle drank some toxic sludge, and became super intelligent and super evil. Dr. Edison has them locked up, so Green Tentacle sent out a message to Bernard, the nerd from the original, via Weird Ed's hamster. It is intercepted by Bernard's not siblings, a fat rock drummer and a weird lady hyperfixated on anatomy. We get a couple of jokes about how the dude is going to bite the hamster's head off for his band, and chick dissecting the hamster. Guess we know part of how the original game went by now.
Then Bernard gets super dramatic and says that they have to go back...to the mansion. So close to a title drop. This is setting us up with three playable characters, Bernard, and uh...Hoagie and Laverne. Who I assumed were Bernard's siblings at first, but apparently aren't? Reading interviews, they originally intended to include six characters, with some more returning from Maniac Mansion, but execs forced them down to three. This was before the voice acting was in place. Tim apparently refers to it as his last easy project, owing to this, along with not having to work with 3D. Whatever was made would just get put on the screen.
Then we get the credits, a sequence of the trio driving to the mansion. Probably some of the best credits I've seen in a game, that's not hard, but this feels like more effort was put into it than some whole games.
Once they get there, Bernard suggest they spread out, and the game begins. I should note before I end this entry, I'm playing the CD version in DOS. This means I have no subtitles. I don't have an issue with this so far, but I haven't heard everyone's voice yet. Its not great quality, but there's nothing about it that screams awful to me. Then again I didn't catch the name of Bernard's not siblings the first time around...which also led me to assume that they were his siblings. Are they? Aren't they?
So the score, so far every Lucasarts game has gotten over the 60 range, even Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for some strange reason. I see no way this is going to change for this game. Unless it turns out everyone has really oversold the quality of the game. While I usually rate things on the lower end of the scale, I note that 3 out of the last 6 games I've played got a higher rating than most people would be willing to give. This would have to really buck the trend for me to change my mind.
This Session: 0 hours 5 minutes
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