This is the version I think I'll be playing...maybe
As pleased as I am that I have no more MacVenture games to grit my teeth through, there are undoubtedly loads more terrible adventure games waiting for me on the playlist (particularly if Canageek has his way!). As strange as it might seem though, I know from experience that it’s not impossible for a terrible game to still be somewhat enjoyable, particularly when it comes to blogging. I’ve had a think about it, and I’ve come up with four things that need to be in place for a truly bad game to be tolerable, if not a complete delight to play. 1. They mustn’t be too buggy, 2. They must be reasonably short, 3. They must at least make sense (I’m looking at you Captain Blood), and 4. They must be really, really bad (yay for Psycho!!!). I’m therefore a little bit excited about the 36th game on the list, as the small amount I know about it gives me hope that it might be all four! Hugo’s House of Horrors was released by Gray Design Associates on the 1st day of January, 1990. It’s a game that has a surprising amount of fans (despite rating rather poorly) for one particular reason. You’ll have to read on to find out what it is, but first, let’s go back to the beginning!
In 1988, David P. Gray was writing air traffic control software at Raytheon, Massachusetts. He’d previously written underwater weaponry software for the UK Ministry of Defence too. This might sound like exciting stuff, but David wasn’t completely convinced that his future financial success was assured. He wanted to start his own business doing something, but he wasn’t entirely sure what that something would be. In 1989 he had a chance encounter with a gynaecologist (at a party I might add), who informed him that he’d been developing programs using BASIC on his home PC, and was now selling them all over the world for a stack of cash. This inspired David to try his hand at creating his own software, and since he was a fan of computer games (we’ll discuss which ones a bit later on), decided he’d try to make one by himself. For three months, he banged away at his computer, programming an adventure game using Microsoft Quick C, with graphics created in Z–Soft Paint, and sound that was transcribed by hand. Despite noting how many names there were in the credits of his favourite games, David required no help at all, and eventually named his creation Hugo’s House of Horrors!
He made a game with this? Respect!
The plot of Hugo’s House of Horrors was pretty straight forward. The protagonist, named Hugo, must rescue his girlfriend from an evil scientist living in a haunted house. Sound familiar?! That’s likely because Maniac Mansion, which came out three years prior, had exactly the same plot. In that game, the protagonist, named Dave, also had to rescue his girlfriend from an evil scientist living in a haunted house. The only differences between the plots on a high level were the names of the characters and the method in which the girlfriends arrived at the house (Penelope was babysitting in Hugo’s whereas Sandy was kidnapped from school in Maniac Mansion). Despite the very obvious similarities, not to many numerous articles claiming otherwise, David remains adamant to this day that he never played Maniac Mansion, and still hasn’t. He wasn’t even aware of the LucasArts classic when he made his game! If he’s to be believed, and I see no particular reason why he shouldn’t be, the biggest inspirations for Hugo’s House of Horrors were Leisure Suit Larry and a shareware game called Captain Comic. The horror theme hatched from his love of Hammer House of Horror (hence the haunted house and the evil mad scientist named Hammerstein). Perhaps I’ll have more of an opinion on all this once I’ve played the game myself.
Captain Comic: Another shareware classic
Now to the reason why so many people played Hugo’s House of Horrors back in the early nineties. It was free! Well, it was shareware anyway, meaning you were supposed to pay for it, but you didn’t have to. Many people don’t realise that the game was actually released commercially as well, but David made six times more money through the shareware avenue than the commercial one (at least initially). The game was also family-friendly, which meant that lots of parents could play it alongside their children (unlike its main inspiration, Leisure Suit Larry, which was very adult focussed). Dozens of shareware distributors picked up the game and started selling it in mail order catalogues, and more and more vendors began selling it commercially (giving David a royalty for each sale). Finally in 1992, a company called Sofsource released the game into retail stores, resulting in more sales than ever. By this point David was earning twice what his day job was paying from the game’s sales, so decided to become self-employed. More games would follow, but they’ll likely be discussed another time.
The cover doesn't exactly scream quality
I didn’t actually own a copy, so solving Canageek’s recent Escape from New York riddle got me one…or so I thought. Unfortunately, David appears to have put a time limit on downloading purchased copies of the Hugo Trilogy on his website, meaning it’s no longer possible to download the copies that Lars-Erik purchased for the blog. I decided I could afford the $10 it costs to purchase it myself, and have done so. However, I now realise that this got me the Windows version of the game rather than the DOS version! There may or may not be many differences between the two versions, but cranking them up made a few apparent on the very first screen (the music is vastly better and moving the cursor over items reveals what they are in more instances). I've therefore decided to play a downloaded DOS version anyway (I'm sure David will forgive me). This version contains a text only manual, but there really isn't anything in there worth mentioning. The Windows version contains a hint guide, but I have no intention of looking at that, so can't comment on it. Enough chat though! It’s time to enter the haunted house to save Penelope! Since no-one actually forced me to play this game (it qualified all on its own), I'm not going to pressure anyone. I hope some of you will join me for the ride though. Anyone?
Wow! It really does look like a cross between Sierra and LucasArts!
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). If you get it right I will reward you with 150 CAPs in return (it's going to keep going up until someone beats me)! It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.
Sebz gur ynaq bs vpr jr tbJvgu Fpnaqvanivna va gbj
Naq lrg vg frrzf jr’er abg nybar
N zbafgre evcf bhe syrfu naq obar
Jub nz V sbe 20 PNCf?
Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of Loom from Steam! How awesome is that!? Good luck!