Maniac Mansion and the Orphaned Tone 22 Aug, 2020 / 5 comments

As someone whose experience playing Maniac Mansion on the NES (30th anniversary, incidentally!) was a formative one, that game means a lot to me. Consequently I’ve had a lot of inchoate and way-too-personal thoughts over the years about the game’s atmosphere, how promotional imagery managed to capture it, and how Day of the Tentacle opted to recast it. I also find myself struck by the attractively open-ended future this fairly unexamined series has, should anyone care to give it one.

Regrettably, I didn’t bother to actually pull those thoughts together before publishing them in an article, but hopefully the pretty pictures will distract from that. Don’t be a tuna-head; read it, and preferably not on a phone! MojoEx isn't up to it.


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    Kroms on 29 Aug, 2020, 21:59…
    I enjoyed this article, Jason! These have been fun to read.
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    KoneJone on 29 Aug, 2020, 07:34…
    Thanks for writing this. This is the kind of unique quality content I come to the Internet for!

    I never really thought about Maniac Mansion that often - until I subscribed to the Mojo RSS. I guess I was about a year too young to understand anything about it when MM was released, but I feel a growing urge to revisit it because of this bombardment of Maniac Mansion news and articles.
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    shuv-oohl on 27 Aug, 2020, 19:54…
    New Sam and Max game got teased at Gamescom today. Just letting you guys know so you can post about it in a few weeks/months. ;)
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    AlfredJ on 24 Aug, 2020, 18:25…
    Oh man, articles like this are why I come here. This is the good stuff. Really fun read!

    The art style change from MM to DOTT never struck me as weird when I was a kid. I just accepted that as a thing games did whenever they made a sequel. Monkey Island did it (even Monkey 1 to Monkey 2 felt like a huge change for me back then), Mario did it, and especially Zelda did it.

    You mentioning those old Nintendo manuals made me remember how much I loved staring at those drawings and trying to recreate them (and draw my own comics based on that art). Every Mario game felt like a different art style, and trying to see how they reinterpreted all the returning characters was a big part of the fun to me. I remember seeing Mario 64 for the first time and being completely baffled by it, because that weird early 3D face with his odd high-pitched voice wasn't at all how I imagined the guy (blasphemy, I know, but I didn't care for that game at all).

    Based on the art in those old manuals, to me the tone of those earlier games was always closer to the tone of the European comics like Asterix I was reading at the time, instead of the style they started to settle on from Mario 64 onwards, with most games featuring little variations and all those characters being perfectly on model all the time. For a long time it all just felt a bit soulless to me, although I will admit that some later games have done some interesting and pleasing things in that regard.

    Yes, I guess I was a cynical little boy.

    As for that hypothetical/unlikely third Maniac Mansion game: I have a feeling that, if it ever would end up getting made, it would stick pretty close to what DOTT was doing rather than reinvent the wheel a third time, since that style seems to be where most of the nostalgia is focused at this point. Trying to give sequels to games a completely unique visual style doesn't seem to happen nearly as often these days.


    The way I see it, Maniac Mansion was Friday the 13th The Series and Day of the Tentacle is Scooby Doo.

    This is pretty spot-on, yeah.
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    Jennifer on 23 Aug, 2020, 16:59…
    The way I see it, Maniac Mansion was Friday the 13th The Series and Day of the Tentacle is Scooby Doo.

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