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Tool-assisted game movies
When human skills are just not enough

Submission #1838: Arc's NES Maniac Mansion in 06:29.77

Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Game name: Maniac Mansion
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Maniac Mansion (U) [!].nes
Branch:
Emulator: (unknown)
Movie length: 06:29.77
FrameCount: 23386
Re-record count: 4460
Author's real name: Jeff C
Author's nickname: Arc
Submitter: Arc
Submitted at: 2008-01-29 07:27:28
Text last edited at: 2008-02-12 21:03:16
Text last edited by: adelikat
Download: Download (2621 bytes)
Status: published
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Author's comments and explanations:
This submission is 46 seconds (2761 frames) faster than the currently published Maniac Mansion movie. It is my 8th TAS of this game. The emulator is FCE Ultra 0.98.16.

Maniac Mansion is difficult to TAS for four reasons: (1) the player has no direct control over the characters; everything is controlled by a clumsy cursor that accelerates slowly, (2) the game has many bugs and oddities, (3) the game lags easily (e.g., sometimes if the cursor hovers over an object), and (4) finding the ideal route, which is far different than any route the programmers intended, is an extremely difficult task.

Rerecord-count snobs: many rerecords occurred on deleted copies or test runs.

In short

This movie is faster because (1) I discovered a new way to deal with Green Tentacle, (2) the designated brick-pusher kid (Jeff) is captured by Ed in a much more efficient way, (3) I use the main kid (Dave) to open the water valve instead of using the front-door kid (Razor), (4) I use two kids on the same screen more often, and (5) I corrected minor lagging and other gameplay errors.

The most important element of the route is that I'm able to bypass Purple Tentacle because of a glitch. Therefore, most of the movie is dedicated to acquiring three essential items: (1) the glowing key, which allows access to the inner lab, (2) the card key, which allows access to the Meteor's room, and (3) the yellow key, which allows the kid to start the car (which blasts the Meteor into outer space).

Everything looks very quick and easy, but it was slow and difficult to produce because I had to test all possible methods in every room.

In detail (room-by-room)

Character selection (a.k.a. Logistical Nightmare #1)

This screen is the hardest part of the whole game. It's buggy and difficult to figure out. Visually, it looks a bit suspicious to the viewer. When I select a character, it takes many frames before it registers. Additionally, I have to move the cursor as far left as possible (for the next screen) after I click on Start. Therefore, my plan was to get the maximum possible rightward speed when I select Razor and Jeff, and then use the delay time between selecting Jeff and clicking Start to gain the maximum possible leftward acceleration that doesn't lose time.

I just tested again right before submitting in order to be sure, and I still can't beat this combination of speed and cursor position, even with Michael (the kid at the far right).

Front gate

NEW TRICK! When kids are in the same room, the player can switch kids without having a screen transition occur. And so, I move Dave to the left edge of the screen, switch to Razor and move her to the left edge of the screen, and then switch to Jeff and move him into the next room. This maneuver saves time because the kids move simultaneously. I tried using Jeff and then Razor, but it was slower, as expected (because Razor needs to walk farther).

Front porch

First, I command Jeff to go to the porch instead of the left edge of the screen. When he pulls the mat, I have the next command ready before the key appears. Then I need him to ring the doorbell so that Weird Ed will come downstairs. Finally, I have to move Jeff into the next room before I switch kids. (In previous versions, I proceeded into the kitchen.)

At the gate, since Dave is at the edge of the screen, he doesn't need to take any steps to exit the screen, and so the screen transition occurs quickly. At the porch screen, I direct him to the porch, then the door.

Front hall

NEW TRICK! Dave and Jeff are in the same room. I get Dave moving, then I switch to Jeff and move him to a specific point near the top of the stairs. Then I move Dave to the very top of the stairs but not to the next screen. After only a brief pause, Weird Ed appears on the same step as Jeff (the lower spot). Jeff is captured almost immediately, and then I move Dave into the next room in order to avoid Ed's speech.

2nd floor landing

I'm going upstairs because there are essential items up there. At this door, the fastest method was to open the door right away. Other possibilities were (1) going to the door and then opening and (2) going toward the door and then opening.

2nd floor hall

First we have the cutscene of Jeff in the dungeon; I skip Ed's text. This hall is the first example of walking rightward. When kids walk rightward, the player has to input the command to walk about 2.5 times more often than when kids walk leftward. Simply, walking leftward is much easier than walking rightward. The stairway part is slightly tricky because the lamp can make the kid take a weird angle and because it's important to minimize the number of commands.

3rd floor landing

NEW GLITCH! Green Tentacle is here. By design, the player needs to feed him something (like the waxed fruit) and then give him a drink (like the can of Pepsi). In previous movies, I used a glitch that allowed the kid to bypass GT with only the drink. But, I have discovered that the kid doesn't need either one.

GT isn't like the other residents of the house. Ed, Edna, and Purple Tentacle have 'capture' programming. Green Tentacle has 'blockade' programming. Therefore, switching kids doesn't 'freeze' GT like it does with the others. If you do get by him, the blockade programming eventually kicks in (with the message 'oomph') and drags the kid back. But, if the player selects 'New Kid' while the kid is walking, the kid can walk all the way to the top of the stairs (but not to the next room). Then I do the kid switching trick, and now the kid can go into the next room before the 'oomph' appears.

Alternatively, in some cases the player can just reclick after the 'oomph' appears, but that way is slower because (1) it's an extra input and (2) the kid isn't at the edge of the screen.

Also, note that I used this opportunity to move Razor to the front-porch screen. This move will be important later.

3rd floor hall

Ideally, I'd want the kid to go get the yellow key first (the previous movie should have done so), but Ed is coming back from the dungeon this time, and so I have to go to his room right away.

Weird Ed's room

Ed's room contains the card key, which allows the kid to get into the Meteor's room. Ed cannot be in the room when the kid gets the card key, even with the 'freeze' trick, because the card key is hidden behind Ed's hamster. If Ed sees the kid touch his hamster, Ed will throw the kid in the dungeon. The kid has to pick up the hamster first. This room is fairly difficult.

3rd floor hall

Ed is right outside the door! Actually, the kid can escape in either direction, but it's a better strategy to go rightward here, so that the longer walk is leftward (thus, fewer inputs). I'm not sure why the kid walks to the right edge of the door, but, for some reason, he does so when you tell him to go to the door (not an error).

Dead Cousin Ted's room (Hunk-o-matic room)

This room is very glitchy and difficult. I spent way too much (real) time in here. The Hunk-o-matic is a machine that allows the kid to open the grate and the garage. It previously had been believed (by FAQs and such) that the kid needed to use it twice, but once is sufficient.

3rd floor hall

Now I need the yellow key.

Dr. Fred's room

Ah, the easiest room in the game. I just command the kid to walk to the ladder, and there's no lag.

Green Tentacle's room

Interestingly, Green Tentacle is absent. The game recognizes that he's still at the 3rd floor landing, but it should be impossible for the kid to be here if that's true. Anyway, I leave the cursor off of the yellow key when the screen loads in order to avoid lag.

Dr. Fred's room

It's not quite as easy this time. The door can cause lag. But I avoided it.

3rd floor hall

Ok, I have everything I need up here. Now I need the kid to get to the silver key. The quickest way is to get captured. Because I didn't get the can of Pepsi this time, Edna is still in the kitchen. Therefore, I need Ed to capture the kid. You don't need to mention that the kid briefly stopped walking here. I tested all of the possibilities, and this method was the fastest by a few frames.

Weird Ed's room

The capture occurs the moment that Ed and the kid touch. I switch kids in order to avoid the speech and because I need to do so anyway.

Dungeon (a.k.a. Logistical Nightmare #2)

I switch to Jeff in the dungeon. He needs to move to the loose brick so that Dave can escape from the dungeon. While Jeff is walking over there, I needed to test the various ways that affect how soon Ed and Dave appear in the dungeon. The extra 'Push' command you see is the result. The reason that this room is a nightmare, however, is that I need to find the ideal cursor position and acceleration rate for pushing the brick before Ed and Dave appear. So, I try something, wait endlessly for Ed and Dave's mini-scene, and then see if/how things worked. This room took hours to complete.

Basement

Dave escapes and picks up the silver key right away. The silver key opens the door to the pool, which contains the glowing key. This room is another instance of walking rightward, but it's also done in total darkness. It's slightly tricky when the kid is near the stairs.

Front hall

Finally, another easy room. It's just walking leftward.

Front porch (a.k.a. Logistical Nightmare #3)

Since Dave used the Hunk-o-matic, he can open the grate now. (I tried it with another kid after Dave used the Hunk-o-matic. It didn't work.) Initially, I planned to move Razor at the same time on this screen. But, I noticed that when I direct Dave to the bushes, he takes a 90 degree angle instead of walking diagonally. He walked diagonally only when I directed him to the left part of the steps first. I found that, overall, it was slightly faster to ignore Razor for now.

Under the house

NEW TRICK! In previous versions, Dave merely opened the grate, and another kid opened the water valve later. The reason was that if the water valve is open for too long, the house blows up. I thought that it was impossible to finish the game in time. I was right. But what I didn't know is that when a kid reaches the inner lab, the water valve timer is disabled. Therefore, I save quite a few seconds by having Dave turn it on now and never turn it off. Unfortunately, this means that whenever I'm inside the house, the klaxon (alarm sound) is going off. It's somewhat annoying, and it creates more (avoidable) opportunities for lag. But it's definitely worth the time that it saves.

There's a cutscene that I skip in which Dr. Fred sends Purple Tentacle to investigate the alarm.

Front porch

These next few rooms are interconnected. I get Dave moving, switch to Razor and move her toward the porch, and then switch back to Dave and move him to the door. Razor's turn toward the door indicates that she moved just far enough for my purpose.

Front hall

I command Dave to go to a spot above the door before he opens the door, because it's faster.

Kitchen

First, the kid walks rightward. Then we see that Edna is at the refrigerator. I need to use the kid-switch trick to make her disappear. Notice that I moved the kid as far right as he could possibly go. He 'touches' Edna (but not really).

Front porch

Since I needed to switch kids, I take the opportunity to move Razor to the front hall. BUT FIRST, Purple Tentacle finally arrives in the basement to do his investigation, and so there's a cutscene. When we return from the cutscene, we see that Razor has been boosted up to the front door! The cutscene occurred at the absolutely ideal time, because Razor just made it to the first 'boosting' step before the cutscene. In some tests, I could move Razor farther, but the cutscene occurred later. I admit, I didn't plan for it to work out so perfectly, it just did. Anyway, I move Razor into the front hall and then switch back to Dave.

Kitchen

Dave is far enough over that the screen doesn't need to scroll in order to reach the door. I get him moving, then have him open the door.

Dining room

Here is a long, pointless room that adds more rightward walking. The area between the end of the table and the doorway is tough. I tried all the combinations. Once again, it's best to stop for a few frames. If I move the kid too close to the door, it's more inputs, and he starts to take weird, extreme angles.

Pantry

This room is far more difficult than it looks. The 3-dimensionality is tricky. I had to find the best way to use the silver key in the door. I got the kid moving, then used the door with the key.

Pool

The pool is drained because of the water valve. I got the kid moving, then sent him to the ladder. In the pool, I again got him moving and then had him get the glowing key. The glowing key opens the locks to the inner lab (where Purple Tentacle, Dr. Fred, Meteor, and Sandy are). Ok, out of the pool.

Pantry

Again, this room looks like nothing to the viewer, but I tested all the angles and possibilities. You can't just tell the kid to go to the door.

Dining room

Walking leftward is easy. The doorway was slightly tricky (angles, again).

Kitchen

More walking leftward. No problems.

Front hall

Now we have Dave and Razor in the same room again. Dave needs to get into the dungeon again. I move him as far right as possible, and then I switch immediately to Razor while moving the cursor toward the 'Push' command. When the screen scrolls far enough, I have her push the gargoyle so that the one-way door opens, and then I switch back to Dave and walk him into the doorway. Not quite a nightmare, but it wasn't easy.

It is possible to have Ed capture Dave in this room, but then I can't have a kid ring the doorbell again (in order to activate the glitch to freeze Purple Tentacle) until Ed returns to his room. This way is faster.

Basement

Dave needs to walk to the dungeon door, but he can't open it. I need to switch to Jeff at the exact right moment. Again, this room is completely dark, and so it's more difficult than it should be. Also again, the kid's stopping is not an error.

Dungeon

Jeff pushes the brick that opens the door, switch, Dave walks through. Now Dave needs to use the glowing key on the lab-door locks. It's difficult because I need the cursor to be moving at maximum speed when it crosses the first lock, and there are many ways to cause lag here. Figuring out how to move the cursor back up ideally is a bit tricky as well. When the locks come off and the door opens, I have to input the lab code. The default is 0000. Usually the player learns the code by playing in the arcade room. The kid cannot enter the lab yet, because I need to activate the freeze glitch.

Front hall/porch

Razor needs to ring the doorbell so that a cutscene will occur. I switch back and have Dave enter the lab.

Purple Tentacle's room

Normally, if you enter this room without having a way to bypass Purple Tentacle (such as the Meteor Police or getting a contract), he just throws you back in the dungeon. Also, you cannot use the 'New Kid' command while in this room. But, since he's a 'capture' character, Purple Tentacle is prone to freezing, like Ed and Edna. Causing a cutscene—Ed's reaction to the doorbell—works just as well as switching kids. PT is frozen, and so I walk right by him.

Inner lab

Dr. Fred and Sandy are here, but the kid can't interact with them. I need to move the kid rightward, and eventually I put the card key in the slot. I used a different method than in the last movie. When the card key is placed in the slot, the kid automatically walks to the door, oddly.

Meteor's room

It's risky to go in here without the radiation suit. If the Meteor hits you with its projectile, the game is over. You cannot grab the Meteor without turning off the Zom-b-matic machine first. Actually, you can't grab it until after Dr. Fred's long cutscene. I've tried flipping the switch and then grabbing the Meteor, but it doesn't work. Unfortunately, the cutscene cannot be skipped, and so I move the kid into position to grab the Meteor after the cutscene. The kid naturally takes a bad angle to the door, and so I corrected it.

Garage (car hole)

Unfortunately, I cannot execute the 'Use' command before the scene is interrupted by Ed's reaching the front door. The best alternative is to move the kid as close to the trunk as possible. Doing so allows me to select the yellow key a bit earlier. Note that I put the Meteor in the trunk without opening it. Blast off.

At the moment, I don't know if/how the route can be improved again, and I'm not aware of any mistakes.

RAM addresses

  • 0207: The cursor's X-coordinate
  • 0204: The cursor's Y-coordinate

NesVideoAgent: Hi! I am a robot. I took a few screenshots of this movie and placed them here. Oh! I also corrected the ROM name.
  • You indicated Maniac Mansion (U).nes
  • I updated it to Maniac Mansion (U) [!].nes

Truncated: Well-made improvement. Accepting.


adelikat: Processing.

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