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!
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.
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.
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)!
Nothing could make that kitchen floor look good.
Environment and AtmosphereCredit 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.
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.
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.