In 1993 there was a revolution in home computing and PC gaming. CD-ROM was fast becoming a must-have piece of hardware for the PC and the killer app that drove people to upgrade was the horror adventure The 7th Guest.
The game was described as “the first interactive Drama” with beautiful high quality 3D graphics, the inclusion of live action video clips and its horrifying adult content. The game was a record breaker selling over 2 million copies. Bill Gates called The 7th Guest “the new standard in interactive entertainment.”
At only 6 years of age when this was released I was fully aware of the game but no opportunity came my way to play it, although I recall my dad returning from a tech convention of some description and mentioning he had played the game. Jealousy overwhelmed me.
As an adult I was excited to get hold of this game recently and could not wait to explore the haunted mansion and find out who the 7th guest really is.
Heads coming out of pots was terrifying in 1993
After the lightning speed installation I found myself in the chunkily rendered main menu (which is styled like a Ouija board). At this stage I was petrified about clicking new game, what was in store for me? Would I get possessed by playing this? How scary will it be? These thoughts all popped up in my head as the opening video began.
After sitting through the lengthy video which sets the scene we are introduced to the main antagonist, who is also my favourite character in this whole story purely for his back story.
The villain is a toy creator and entrepreneur named Stauf. He murders a woman pretty much straight away, this unprovoked attack makes him sleepy so he has a dream about creepy children’s dolls, he makes the dolls and gives them to children, this business formula works out for Stauf and he becomes very successful. With the amount of money he makes he builds a huge mansion outside of the town, judging from the size of the place he must have been the equivalent of Hasbro in 1935. Anyway, at the height of his success some of the children with Stauf’s dolls become ill with an incurable virus, Stauf finishes his mansion and disappears. Sometime later six people receive invitations to stay at the mansion and solve puzzles to receive their greatest desires.
This is Stauf, the murderous toy maker
The game is played in the future from a first person perspective; you must solve all the puzzles and witness the events from the past to discover the secret of the house and the 7th guest.
The puzzles themselves are deviously difficult, they include dividing a cake up evenly, arranging random letters into sentences, to exploring an impossible maze. Though difficult compared to puzzle games of today, the gameplay is very rewarding and the story is engaging and I found myself persevering to find out what happens next. Almost every puzzle rewards you with a live action segment which is ALWAYS entertaining to watch. After a lot of struggling with puzzles I did discover a book in the library which assists you in solving the puzzles although if it is overused there is a penalty on the final puzzle.
Exploring the mansion is great fun, and there is a genuinely creepy atmosphere which, despite the dated graphics still chills today. Overall I found it an enjoyable experience and a brilliant gem from the days of CD-ROM gaming. With the rise of gaming distribution sites such as GOG.com I won’t reveal any plot spoilers as the game is very easy to get hold of and run on high-end systems today.
Playing chess against a ghost was harder than I imagined
For those wanting more, a sequel is also available entitled The 11th Hour which is set further into the future and has enhanced graphics and puzzles.
The 7th Guest is available at GOG.com for $9.99 (around £7) and is a recommended purchase, not just for the history lesson in early CD-ROM gaming but for a fun point & click adventure which still chills today. It can sometimes be difficult to see past the dated graphics though and the puzzles will test your patience with much trial and error, for these reasons I give The 7th Guest an honourable 70.
…for the record I did not get possessed playing this game.