Back in 1997, Trilobyte and Ozacq1 released The 7th Guest. Graphics were a bit cruder then, and FMV (full motion video) was rather choppy. Neither, however, can detract from the lure of this diabolical puzzle-style adventure game. The plot is not well fleshed-out (pardon my pun), but the game requires little plot to progress. Our opponent, Henry Stauf, a self-made man, gives us no reason for his misanthropy, so we have to assume inherent evil is the cause. His toy empire, begun from a vision and a whittled doll, has enabled him to create a mansion to be reckoned with.
It is this haunted mansion and the puzzles of Stauf that create the entirety of this game. You must make your way through, room by room, in a baffling sequence, that defies logical three dimensional space. You will be shunted up, down, and side-to-side to reach the next step on your goal. You will be allowed entry to certain rooms only upon completion of the puzzles from a previous room or area, and not necessarily adjacent to where you are. In the library, off the main floor, is a book which gives clues on the puzzles, then whisks you right back to them.
I did say haunted, didn’t I? There are many ghosts, and scene re-enactments of the night in question where guests were invited to dinner and a puzzle-solving quest. All of the ghosts are played by real actors, though caricature and hyperbole seem to be the order of the day. The voice acting, including the screams, was also over the top. Never mind – don’t let that dissuade you from the real pleasures of this game – the puzzles.
Puzzles are the fun parts, right? The dastardly, devious minds that created this need to be making more adventure games for us mere mortals. Yes, there were some aggravating ones, but you can’t please all the people all the time, now can you? The piano puzzle, probably the simplest one in the game, using a follow-the-leader key-by-key progression, was executed so agonizingly slowly that it was easy to lose your place, causing the puzzle to restart. It took twenty minutes to get through the entire 18 key progression. The microscope puzzle, also known as the blue blobs vs. the green blobs, was a frustrating one for me, and one which I was unable to complete – fortunately this one could be bypassed, since it is a game, not a puzzle.
There is a maze, which you are shown a floor plan of earlier, so you can map it out. Piece of cake, right? Not so fast! First, all walls and doorways look alike; second, as you make a turn, you are rushed around to the nearest dead end. You must backtrack to a place you think you recognize, and proceed from there. Third, Stauf prods you with both correct and false clues to your direction. If you can ignore him, and watch closely when you are scooted around the corners, the maze wasn’t too bad to negotiate. In most cases, the puzzles were solved by first learning what you have to do, then learning through trial-and-error what the rules were to get you there. Since this usually required several consecutive losses, you were treated to the annoying wheezing laughter of Stauf repeatedly.
Though you go through ostensibly 22 areas (I didn’t actually count them), it would seem that there was much to explore. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. In each room there were only one or two areas to interact with, one which might trigger a cut scene, and the other being the puzzle for that room. While a few rooms had a bit more, there was not really enough to explore for my liking. Since the second CD was only about 20% used, there was certainly room for more content.
This was a fun game to play for perhaps 6-10 hours. With little story or exploration, it is only marginally in the genre of adventure games. It is a great game for the puzzles, and if you like cheesy “B” grade horror flicks, you’ll love the melodrama.
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