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Saturday Crapshoot: Maniac Mansion (TV)

Richard Cobbett at

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, it's the TV show even many adventurers thought was only a joke - the Lucasarts classic that went from the smallest screen to... a slightly bigger one.

One of the many puzzles in Day of the Tentacle, the 1993 sequel to the 1987 adventure Maniac Mansion, is fixing a broken down time machine by getting enough money to replace the diamond at its core. The hero, geeky teenager Bernard, blinks at this, asking the mansion's owner, crotchety mad scientist Dr. Fred Edison, why he needs to bother. The guy owns a mansion. Isn't he already rich enough to just order one? Sadly, it turns out not. Not only is Dr. Fred broke, he's never even seen a penny from a big TV show that was made about his family, due to him forgetting to return the contract.

Fixing that problem with time-travel makes for a fun comedy puzzle, but when I first solved it, I figured that was all it was. Like most non-Canadians/Americans, I had no idea that the TV show he was talking about actually existed. But did we miss out, or escape? Let's finally find out...

Saturday Crapshoot: Wing Commander Academy

Richard Cobbett at

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This morning though, he's settling down in front of the TV in his pyjamas for an animated series that really set the fur flying throughout deep space.

Watching the Wing Commander movie was a difficult experience for me, mostly because I couldn't decide whether it was more like a dentist accidentally drilling through a nerve, or like being stabbed in the back with a serrated dagger. Even by the low, low standards of game to movie conversions, it was a stinker. The characters I'd been flying alongside since around 1990 were ruined. The addition of mystical elements to its serious sci-fi universe were just as stupid as George Lucas trying to mix a bit of science into his magic. Most of the storyline was cut due to a lack of budget, and the need to keep the hideous alien puppets off camera as much as possible, and... oh, god. Just no. Terrible film.

It wasn't however the Wing Commander series' first foray into the mainstream. Back in 1996, shortly after the third game took the world by storm with its full motion video, incredible space combat and then-unheard of $4 million budget, the decision was made to bring Wing Commander to TV audiences.

...as a Saturday morning kids cartoon. This is really going to hurt, isn't it?