The 7th Guest Review
Old Man Stauf built a house, and filled it with his toys Six guests were invited one night, their screams the only noise Blood inside the library, blood right up the hall Dripping down the attic stairs, hey guests, try not to fall Nobody came out that night, not one was ever seen But Old Man Stauf is waiting there, crazy, sick, AND MEAN!
This is the bone-chilling premise upon which the classic computer game The 7th Guest is built. When the Trilobyte game launched in the early 1990s, it not only scared the pants off of adults and children alike, it also became a huge hit that helped popularize the CD-ROM. Because the home computer has evolved considerably since Windows 95, The 7th Guest was unplayable on modern machines until just a couple of weeks ago, when it was released for the iPhone and iPad. Now a new generation of gamers as well as old-school fans can experience the horror that is Old Man Stauf, for a small fee.
You may have heard the basic plot before: a handful of people are invited to a creepy old mansion, and the one who survives the night wins the game. Stauf has promised six guests their most secret desire, so long as they solve the many puzzles hidden within the house. Throughout the night, the guests are involved in betrayal, seduction, and murder, with most of them willing to stop at nothing to get what they want. The player watches these events unfold while also solving Stauf’s riddles and unraveling the disturbing mysteries of the mansion, though seemingly not for the same selfish reasons.
The 7th Guest is a first-person adventure game, with the bulk of the gameplay focused on various puzzles in the many rooms of the house. The controls are simple; point in a direction to move, click a door to open it, and all of the puzzles translate well to the iPad’s touch screen. Solving puzzles or touching certain items will trigger full-motion video cut scenes, and while they’re certainly dated and a little cheesy, they still manage to be effectively creepy. The player will most likely uncover these story moments non-chronologically, depending on the direction he or she takes while exploring the house, but the uncertainty actually adds to the tension. The more puzzles that are solved, the more doors will unlock, and there are also a few shortcuts and secret paths to find throughout the mansion.
The one problem that kept occurring with the touch screen was that the fact that it was too easy to accidentally hit the top or bottom of the screen, which either brought up the menu or started a puzzle over. The menu has the same effect, and returning the game if you were mid-brain teaser will take you out of it, forcing you to start from the beginning. On the puzzles that required some strategy and planning, this could be quite frustrating. Additionally, while instructions are available, they’re not easy to find and the menu isn’t exactly intuitive. If you’re a veteran player, you’ll probably remember how to navigate that Ouija board, but those experiencing The 7th Guest for the first time may be in for some confusion. Most of the game appears intact, but some animations seem to have been sped up, causing musical tracks to overlap, occasionally with some narration. It’s a minor annoyance, but one that should be noted.
Both iPad and iPhone versions of The 7th Guest are available, but the iPad version has the advantage due to its bigger screen. It’s not so much about the graphical prowess (though the mansion does look pretty good on the iPad, even if the FMV scenes are a bit stretched out), but having more screen space should ease the frustration of accidentally touching the wrong part, and will make puzzles easier to solve. On either device, the haunting score is as fitting as ever; from the first piano notes to Stauf’s taunting to the ending credits, the audio is a definite highlight. You may find that some of the puzzles are much easier than you remember, but there’s still a decent amount of challenge overall, and it’s a very satisfying gameplay experience.
With PC games of the 90s, it’s sometimes hard to remember if the title was really stellar, or your judgment is clouded by nostalgia. Luckily, with the re-release of The 7th Guest on the iPad and iPhone, it has become clear that this is indeed a fun game with plenty of challenging and disturbing moments, even if the plot does employ a few notable clichés. Trilobyte has once again granted the world a memorable game, and it’s great that these devices have given the developer the ability to revive this long-dead game.