Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Game 9: Uninvited - Final Rating

It’s time to pay the consequences Uninvited, for all the pain and torment that you caused me over the last week. You thought you’d get away with it didn’t you! Perhaps you assumed that I’d never defeat Dracan, rescue my brother and escape the mansion! Well I did, and now you’re going to get PISSED the way you deserve...

Puzzles and Solvability
I have to say that the hardest thing about Uninvited is not necessarily that the puzzles don’t make much sense. It’s that there are hundreds of items spread out all over the house that you can pick up and put in your inventory. Every time you come across an obstacle, you have this horrible feeling that the answer would be obvious if only you’d picked up the correct item. The inventory limitation only adds to this complexity, meaning you spend a lot of time going back and forth around the house looking for an item that might assist you with your current dilemma. Of course you soon realise that using this sort of logic just isn’t going to work, especially after you’ve scared a spirit away with a spider, convinced an angry demon to leave you alone by offering him fruit, and caused a bouncing smiley face to give you a diamond by releasing a bird in its presence, which it then flies after. Oh, and then there’s the unnecessary time limit, and the fact that there are rooms that play absolutely no part in the resolution (that I can see anyway) such as the bathroom of the master bedroom, the cell up the stairs, and the observatory in magisterium, all of which contain items that do nothing. This game nearly killed me!
Rating: 1

One of the rooms that seems to play no role in the story whatsoever. Am I wrong?

Interface and Inventory
The interface is the same as it was in Déjà Vu, meaning the only time you ever have to use the text parser is to enter a safe combination. Otherwise, the entire game is controlled by the mouse, which should make things easier, but doesn’t due to everything listed above. The game has a fair amount of pixel hunting, which can be difficult due to the CGA graphics and the amount of small items spread throughout nearly every room, but this task is made more challenging as the mouse cursor doesn’t seem to do what you want it do. I don’t know whether it’s the port or just playing it through DOSBox, but the actual tip of the cursor doesn’t have any effect, meaning you have to click with a bit of the cursor more towards the middle. This is frustrating, but it’s deadly during the numerous times in the game when you have one action to achieve something or you are killed. Clicking those hot and cold knobs on the bathtub was so difficult that I first thought it was impossible. I don’t really need to tell you what I think of the inventory system. I hated it in Déjà Vu, but Uninvited has twenty times as many items to collect.
Rating: 2

Oh joy! Another fifty objects that I may or may not need to use somewhere in this godforsaken house.

Story and Setting
The story of Uninvited is certainly a bit cliché these days, but it was probably the only thing that kept me interested. Everyone’s heard stories like this, where someone’s car breaks down and they’re forced to enter some creepy house from which they may never escape. The goings on in the house are suitably creepy, including the mysterious woman, the vicious hounds guarding the chapel, the underground caves, and of course your brother’s possession. Unfortunately a lot of this effective work is undone through silliness such as the grinning bouncy head, the annoying demon running around waving a key at you, and some rather odd attempts at humour. Plenty of adventure games use humour to keep things enjoyable, even when you’re stuck in the same section for two hours, but it often clashes with the otherwise oppressive tone in Uninvited. Still, the story is there, and I really did want to find my brother.
Rating: 4

The puzzles might not feel satisfying, but at least the story has closure.

Sound and Graphics
Yes, the graphics were damaged immeasurably by the port to four colour CGA, but they’re not by any means terrible. There’s certainly a lot more detail on the screen than there was in Déjà Vu, and the tone of the game is not lost despite the pinks and blues that make up the pentagrams, grimoires and phantom spirits. That being said, the lack of colours makes discovering and identifying objects much more difficult than I imagine it would be in the windows 3.1 remake. I have nothing good to say about the sound! The game regularly tries to scare you through the use of thunder and screams, and I have to say that the resulting sounds are indeed scary. So scary that your ears may never recover from the ear piercing, blackboard scraping quality of it all! While I would never, ever, actually recommend Uninvited to anyone other they my worst enemy, I recommend you all watch this video on YouTube all the way through. Make sure you turn it up real loud, not only so you can experience the truly awful sound effects, but so you can also enjoy the most marvellous closing music ever (watch the player struggle to click the bath knobs too)!
Rating: 2

Nothing could make that kitchen floor look good.

Environment and Atmosphere
Credit where credit is due! The haunted house and the atmosphere created within it are the best things about the game. It’s testament to the design that it feels quite creepy, despite the poor quality graphics and sound. I can only imagine that the developers are rather fond of haunted house and possession horror movies, as many of the occurrences and scenery that appear in them are replicated in Uninvited. The use of satanic imagery, as well as various cosmological pieces of equipment that play no real role in the story otherwise, give the game a real sense of dark mystery that enhances the playing experience. Even those horrible sounding thunder claps, squeaking doors and screams have the desired effect, even if it is partly due to how horrible the quality is. If I’m going to be generous in any of the categories, this is the one.
Rating: 5

One wrong move and you're dead again. The game at least manages to make you feel under threat.

Dialogue and Acting
Uninvited continues with the rather graphic approach found in Déjà Vu, but it seems much more appropriate this time around, given the situation the player finds themself in. Not satisfied with “you are dead”, the game gores it up with lines such as “You are frozen in horror as she begins ripping your body into a bloody mess” and “the three of you roll around, biting, kicking and scratching until the dogs manage to sever your jugular”.  Other than this, there isn’t much to say for this category. There are no conversations to be had, so it’s all description, which is done adequately if not impressively.
Rating: 4

The writing clunks under its weight. The clunky writing echoes throughout the whole game.

That leaves Uninvited with a PISSED rating of 30, positioning it at the very bottom of the nine games I’ve played so far. It totally deserves that position too, so I don’t feel sorry for it. It’s unfortunate that the more illogical and frustrating an adventure game is, the longer the player is required to spend completing it. Here’s hoping that Shadowgate, when I get to it, doesn’t take ten hours of pain and torment to get through.


  1. Thanks for a great review and for sticking with the game until the end! I thought I was close when I got the diamond, but I see there still was a lot more to go through. I can't believe the amount of items that served no purpose whatsoever. Especially those stupid masks in the bathroom, the salami or the mounted fish! My favorite piece of "creative" thinking came early - I was convinced that somehow I had to fool the Scarlett O'Hara ghost that I was Clark Gable, and you had to tailor your appearance using the big-eared mask and the feedback extracted from the various mirrors in the mansion. If anything, the game forces you to think out of the box, even if some of the puzzles just end up chewing the box up and spitting it. Anyhoo, kudos!

  2. I was expecting low, but not rock bottom. I wonder if any other game will achieve as infamous a rating.

    Don't worry too much about Shadowgate. I don't remember as many useless items, and only a few puzzles are truly devious, requiring some out of the box thinking. I'm intimately familiar with the game on the NES, so I can always give you hints.

  3. Having grown frustrated simply *reading* about the troubles you were encountering, it seems like the score is well justified...

  4. Kinda wish you hadn't linked that video! The sound... the screams! Reminds me how far we've come since those early days.

    Here's a lovely little video about PC sound: www.youtube.com/watch?v=a324ykKV-7Y as told through the Secret of Monkey Island theme music.

  5. Excellent review! I must say, I enjoyed this review *far* more then any of your other ones, and I felt I got a lot more of a feel for the game.

    By the way: the walkthrough simply says "ignore the bathroom"

    I don't pay attention to numerical ratings too much, I find the writing much more important, but I did notice that it is hard to see the rankings as you read through this post-- I thought that first 1 was a typo. Perhappes you should put 'Rating: X' or something? Perhaps on its own line at the bottom of the paragraph?

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to your next review, and I hope that your reviews are all as good (or better) then this one!

  6. Oh, and while I don't know anything about maniac mansion, I voted for the nerd and the punk rocker. I notice a lot of votes for the nerd: I wonder if that is because people know something, or the fact that we are all nerds? Oh and the punk rocker because I like characters in black leather and denim.

  7. I've just added a Rating: line at the bottom of each category. You were absolutely right that my ratings looked more like a typo than the extremely important numerical values that they are! ;)

  8. While I haven't played Maniac Mansion, I have played Day of the Tentacle. Could it be that people are voting for Bernard because he makes a reappearance in the sequel?

    Anyway, I think the poll was an excellent idea and I'm going to award Chumazik 10 companion assist points for the suggestion. What is the real purpose behind the companion assist points? I don't know yet, but I'm going to keep giving them out regardless.

  9. Wow, I just put that video of sounds in the background and I can't believe you suffered through 10 hours of that.

  10. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Lucas chose Bernard for the sequel precisely because it was the players' favorite. In MM, he's not as nearly as brave/resourceful as in the sequel. I guess the character of the cowardly geek struck a chord with many of us.

  11. Shame on you, Uninvited. Pshaw, pshaw. Good review. :)

  12. I have a feeling that the Nintendo ports of Shadowgate, Deja Vu, and Uninvited may be the few cases where a port to a console wound up being a better thing than the PC version.

  13. I'm not really sure that's true. The NES ports had the detailed text descriptions hacked to pieces. Some hints to puzzles became indecipherable messes, and the interface is a little clunky to navigate with a D-pad.

    Unless you're mainly referring to the graphics, then I think you're right, although nothing can beat the old Macintosh black and white graphics for nostalgia.

  14. By the way, at least one internet celebrity has beaten Uninvited; https://twitter.com/wilw/status/272838186026295298

  15. I clicked the YouTube link, and... actual sound effects? Through the PC speaker? Years before Mean Streets? Granted, they do sound horrible, but shouldn't that be considered a technological achievement? Not many games had digitized sound effects before 1990.