Maniac
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7  |  The 70s Have Returned, Part II
Darryl B. , 5/4/2005 4:58:00 PM
Even with the much more fancy polygon graphics, voice synthesis, and real-time, 3-D environments, there are some things that will still live on forever -- even if they don't have any of the above, modern things going on with our beloved 500 bit systems (or whatever) of today -- as Atari games, Electronic Battleship, and miniature Simon handhelds keep getting on re-released throughout the new millennia.

However, I sincerely doubt that Maniac will be one of those re-released handheld units, as it's not exactly a game that comes to mind when thinking of the explosion of video gaming of the 70s (handhelds included). Not that it was REAL obscure back then (as there was a tv ad for it), but it's pretty much slipped from the radar (and memory) of gamers today that were around back then, as there was no database entry for it here on the site until I put it in when my mother unearthed the game from somewhere a few months ago, as I had totally forgotten about the thing myself.

Maniac's a bit misnamed, though, as being called "Paranoid", "Crazed", or even "Insane" would do just as well...after all, this isn't a game about axe murderers or anything of that sort (like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the Atari 2600). However, now that I look over this old box, it DOES proclaim itself as to being "the fiendishly clever paranoid electronic game" right on the front, which is pretty much a perfect description of it's gameplay.

The reason why -- and what sets this apart from just about any other handheld out there (ASIDE from what sounds like a physically violent title for a game, that is) -- is that, the more players you have on board, the more intense the gaming is going to get, which will result in the lowering of your score if you're not careful, which you could very possibly not consistently be the highest scorer around with all the peer and gaming pressure going on all around you.

Some of the games don't sound too exciting, though, unless you're actually THERE trying to get a better score than everyone else. So their descriptions won't translate that well here over the internet, especially the game where Maniac (the gaming unit, I mean) sounds a beep, and you have to guess how long the beep was for and press your Maniac keypad after the same time period has passed (example: if you feel the beep was three seconds long, listen for the signal to come from Maniac indicating when you should start counting and then pressing your keypad after three seconds). The person with the closest time gets the most points, which would usually be *me*, as I listen to death metal with vomit vocals in my leisure time, and anything other than that is easy as anything to concentrate on for me, but I pity the others who can't. Nyeh nyeh!

Another game involves Maniac playing a series of notes, then stops suddenly, as the players then have to press their button(s) as quickly as possible when the music stops (kind of like musical chairs, although with buttons instead of using your butt). Here's where sound and hand coordination really comes in handy (pardon the pun).

Another (somewhat) racing game involves Maniac showing a symbol in it's light display, then it will show you several more, which you have to press your button as soon as you think you see the correct symbol being repeated. Some are obviously not it, while others are close; oops, pressed the button on the wrong one! (In Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" voice: No points for YOU! Plus, insert a Freud joke here about what the shapes mean to you and what relationship they accurately represent that you had with your mother.)

Last, a fourth game has players keeping count of notes that vary in number, speed, and pitch, although it's kind of hard to describe it in words here, rather than experiencing it in person for yourself, so I'm not going to try to bother.

Maniac definitely had a unique batch of games, and adding adrenaline to the mix really can make it into an intense gaming experience; the more players you have, the more insane it gets. My high rating of this game is in regards to if you can have that high number of players (three to four would be the best) around; other than that, this isn't very fun at all by yourself, and so-so with two players (unless they freak out or something).

If this gets to be re-released in a miniature version (like the Simon and all I mentioned earlier), or you're able to find it at a garage sale or a resale shop, then I'd definitely see about picking one up, although make sure you've got a few extra players around to share in the insanity.

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