Sunday, 1 May 2022

Game 127: The 7th Guest - Introduction (1993)

Written by Reiko
PC front cover
Many of you will undoubtedly be familiar with The 7th Guest. From what I can tell, when it was released, it was an unprecedentedly huge multimedia-rich adventure puzzle game, doing for horror adventure what Myst did for mechanical puzzle adventure. Or at least, that's my general impression, knowing almost nothing about the game. Yes, you are getting as a reviewer someone who is going in almost completely blind to this classic game. I certainly played Myst back in the day, but I wasn't interested in horror, so I skipped over 7th Guest and never played it despite being very interested in puzzle games (for instance, you can see my definitely not-blind coverage of the first two Dr. Brain games here and here. I'm hopeful that as an adult, the horror aspects of the game won't bother me too much, and I'll be able to enjoy it more for its puzzle aspects.Another interesting thing about the 7th Guest is that it has seen a recent commercial re-release in the form of the 25th Anniversary Edition, which tells me that it really was a classic game, and popular enough to have enough interest even this many years later. Wikipedia says it was originally released on DOS in April 1993 (and the original manual says 1993 also). In fact, according to Moby Games, it has actually received several re-releases starting with Windows in 1997, iPad and iPhone in 2010, a "remastered" version for Android in 2015, and now the anniversary edition for digital distribution starting in 2019. The modern versions also include extras like a novel, a script, extra audio tracks, deleted scenes, and a Making of file.
Modern Trilobyte Games logo, displayed in-game
Oddly enough, the original developer, Trilobyte, went out of business in 1999, but it was resurrected in 2010 as Trilobyte Games specifically to port the 7th Guest series (7th Guest, 11th Hour, and 7th Guest: Infection) to mobile platforms. This really is an enduring game. I need to find out whether it stands up to all the hype.

The legacy edition of the 7th Guest seems to still be available on the Internet Archive, but as it's being distributed with the 25th Anniversary Edition, I decided to buy that version, and I would recommend anyone playing along do likewise.

Normally we try to play and review the version of the game that's closest to how it was presented when it was published, so I could just play the legacy version, as that's really the "original" 7th Guest. I am going to show a few screenshots and comparisons between the legacy and Anniversary editions, but I decided to primarily play through the Anniversary edition, for several reasons.
Legacy edition’s game menu
Anniversary edition’s game menu
The Anniversary edition changes the framing interface somewhat, but as far as I can tell so far, it doesn't fundamentally change the in-game graphics or gameplay. The default look is rather softened, though, compared to the legacy version, but the settings also include options to use original graphics rather than "high" and original rather than "modern" aspect ratio. So wherever possible, I have set the options to use original settings, including graphics, controls, and music. I think enhanced controls automatically highlight hotspots when you mouse over them, but the original only changes the cursor shape, which is fine. There's a button to highlight all hotspots in the current view anyway.

Here's a comparison of the mosaic view in first the legacy version, then the "original" settings in the Anniversary version, then the "high" settings in the Anniversary version.
Legacy edition
Anniversary edition, “original” settings
Anniversary edition, “high” settings
One big improvement that's really helpful in the Anniversary Edition is the option to display subtitles. Yes, it's a feature that wasn't in the original, but it's not a change to the actual game, and it's a quality of life option that's exceptionally helpful for me as a reviewer to make sure I'm understanding the dialogue correctly and spelling proper names correctly and such. So you'll see subtitles on some of the screenshots here and there.

Another improvement is simply the movement speed. The legacy edition movement is incredibly slow, like four or five seconds just to turn 90 degrees or walk a few steps across a room. The Anniversary Edition cuts this at least in half, so it doesn't feel like you're wading through molasses to get anywhere.

The map is also very nice. It looks functional enough in the legacy version, but the Anniversary map is larger and clearer.
1st floor map (legacy)
1st floor map (anniversary)
With all that out of the way, what's this game even about? When I start up the game, I'm taken to the main menu first. The legacy menu only has Load, Start New, and FAREWELL (yes, in all caps), while the Anniversary menu has New Game, Save (grayed out when not in an active game), Load, Continue, Settings, and Exit. Starting a new game runs the intro sequence.
Main Title Screen
After the company logos, first we see a spooky, isolated manor (actually this opening shot reminds me a bit of the beginning of Castle of Dr. Brain), then the title logo appears over it and some opening credits roll. Shortly a book appears and we get a narrated sequence of short animated scenes about the origins of a toymaker, Stauf, who began as a no-good vagabond who killed a girl for her wallet.
Stauf trades the carved doll for food and lodging.
At the end of his rope, he suddenly had a dream of a unique doll, which he was able to carve and trade for some food and lodging. The next dream inspired him to make a wooden puzzle. Each toy was somehow so engaging that it was instantly popular, and he soon found himself becoming rather wealthy and eccentric. Unfortunately, a mysterious illness spread among the children of the town, many of whom coughed their lives away while clutching their Stauf toys. The final dream for this creepy toymaker was a vast manor, surely the one in the opening shot, and the one we're going to visit and explore in the game.
Elinor and Edward’s ghosts
The book closes and the view zooms away from it on a table in the house, and we are moved over toward a wall with what looks like a huge stained-glass mosaic. In turn, what look like the ghosts of several people appear out of the mosaic, walk forward, make a negative comment about the house or Stauf, and disappear. There's a woman, Burden, a couple, Elinor and Edward, another woman, Heine, a younger man with a cane, Dutton, and another man in a cloak and turban who doesn't say anything (and therefore the subtitles don't give me a name for him). That's six.

Am I as the player character the eponymous seventh guest for whatever strange party this is? The PC doesn't remember anything about why he's there (but clearly has a male voice). Are we just seeing flashbacks somehow? Are the other guests dead? Am I dead? I have no idea yet!
Main stairs, oddly inviting.
The PC comments while facing the wide stairs going up to the second floor, having been turned around so that the mosaic is behind, and then control is released to the player. Those stairs are intriguing, but first I turn back around and look at the mosaic again. If I click on it, another little scene plays, this one focusing on Dutton: he's been given a letter, presumably from Stauf, who reads it out while Dutton frowns. Stauf is telling Dutton about the final guest who is different from him and the others; he has a special task for Dutton, a puzzle to solve. He also warns him that in the morning, only one guest will walk free, with all of his desires granted.
Dutton reads his letter; did all six receive one?
I'm not sure if Dutton is meant to be different, or if this is just an example, that perhaps all six received this letter with the same kind of request/warning. Are they all out to get me? It's an efficient way to make the start of the game rather unsettling, in a way that makes you want to look over your shoulder every few minutes.

Normally I will carefully look around the first level before going to the second level, but to start, I'm going to walk up the incredibly inviting stairs and see what's up on the landing. The view smoothly moves me up the stairs and I end up on the landing with a large painting on the facing wall, some sort of gloomy landscape.
Is someone trapped inside the painting?
When I put my mouse over it, the cursor changes to a set of teeth, which the manual indicates means that some kind of supernatural event will occur. Indeed, when I trigger it, the painting ripples and then appears as if a pair of hands are trying to push their way out from behind it. After a moment, the hands disappear and the painting looks as it did before. This can be repeated if I want. Apparently it's just some ghostly flavor.
A woman in white appears briefly.
I turn to look around and am startled to see two ghostly figures, a woman in white and a man in brown, move toward me from down the hallway and disappear without saying anything. They disappear so quickly that I'm not sure if they are people I've seen before or different people. They could perhaps be Elinor and Edward in different clothing, or maybe a maid and one of the men? Even the screenshot I took is no more informative. I turn the other direction and another figure appears, a woman in white, maybe a wedding gown? Certainly a different outfit than the previous apparition. Am I going to see things every step I take? This place is positively full of ghosts, apparently.

Back down to the first floor I go. Now I'm ready to explore in earnest and start solving the puzzle of what is really going on here. See you next time! Leave your score guesses in the comments, but please don't spoil anything!

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 without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with X CAPs in return. 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.

30 comments:

  1. As I recall, T7G was graphically VERY impressive for its day, and was essentially the killer app for buying a CD-ROM. In that sense it is groundbreaking and that would account for its longevity as well.

    The puzzles are very good and original; they're more logic puzzles (like Dr. Brain) instead of "traditional" adventure game puzzles. The plot, acting, and mood fell completely flat to me personally; I found them overly cliched and couldn't get myself to care about any of the characters. But I love a good puzzle game.

    I feel this will end at 70 points.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a game that aged terribly. Graphics are not important anymore, but time and transitions are. There is a chess puzzle in the bathroom that will drive you crazy. I remember the FMVs being incredible back in the time, but they are as cheesy as the ones in American Laser Games titles.

    I predict a 40

    ReplyDelete
  3. Never played this, so I'm guessing completely blind a 52.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would normally complain about playing the remaster instead of the original...but it doesn't look like it changes anything if you have it on the original settings. Subtitles are very nice for this game, because I do remember missing a few plot points because the sound wasn't very clear.
    That said, I am curious about a few things. This was made by the same company as the Simon the Sorcerer remaster and the Flight of the Amazon Queen remaster, I.E., the one that just released a modified version of SCUMMVM and called it a remaster. I can tell that the "high" setting is just one of those upscaler things, so is this the same case? I'm curious if there's any difference between this and just playing the game in SCUMMVM.

    Anyway, commenting on the actual game. I remember playing this like 10-11 years back and finding it having aged very well at the time. The ghostly effect of the game did a good job of hiding most of the flaws in their FMVs and the tone was suitably dark. My own biases, but only two of the puzzles in the game were bad, and one of those puzzles might have been fixed in this remaster. Might, knowing the company. (The arguably most infamous one, might be bad for you, but we'll talk about that one when we get to it)
    I'll go for 60.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The main difference between the "remaster" and the SCUMMVM legacy edition is the framing menu interface. I showed a few comparisons in the post between comparable views of the menu, the map, and the in-game mosaic wall. Hope that helps answer your question.

      Delete
    2. Ah, how foolish of me, it was right in front of me all along!

      Delete
  5. Visuals and audio were impressive for that era, people were very amazed with those back then. But gameplay and plot-wise I'm not sure if it will be up to par. I'd say 47.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'll go with exactly the same as Island of Dr. Brain at 45.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The era of FMVs are upon us then! I will shoot for 60, sounds like good puzzles but flat plot.

    ReplyDelete
  8. ah, the FMV adventure game era, full of games I never bothered with cos the whole aesthetic of them just wasn't for me.

    So I'm tempted to give this a low score, but it may actually be good? who knows. 55?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Call me a purist if you will, but I don`t consider this kind of game an adventure game. It is just a collection of puzzle mini games. I don`t like them. I hate them. I loathe them. In fact, I dislike them so much that I don´t even care for the Caps, this game deserves a score of 2 (the only reason for this one not getting a 1 is because I am keeping that one for Myst)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you hate the Dr. Brain games that much too? Because 7th Guest is a lot more like those than it is like Myst. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but given that these puzzle adventures meet the site's definition, they're going to be given a fair play, and I'll have to ask you not to ruin it for the rest of us that might find something to enjoy in them.

      Delete
    2. Hi Reiko. Although my comment might seem violent, it was made in a sarcastic over the top manner (not that well made, it seems). I really don`t like this kind of game and i really don`t think of them as adventure games, but as puzzle mini games. I salute all the people that like this kind of games, like you and many more, and I will never intend to ruin for the rest of the readers of this blog. Obviusly, my guess for a score of 2 is a joke, a bad joke. Even if I don´t like this games, i have read your playthrough of the Dr. Brain series and I will read the playthrough of Myst at due time. But again, sorry if my message was missunderstud,

      Delete
    3. Eh, conveying sarcasm over the internet is difficult for even native English speakers to do, so hopefully no harm done.
      That said, I do partially understand why you feel that way even if both games are ones I'm fond of. The 7th Guest, through The 11th Hour is basically the first game responsible for all those hidden object games around, while Myst shaped the course of the genre basically until the early '10s. Although neither of these two trends are going to affect things too much for a couple of years, especially so in this game's case.

      Delete
    4. Okay, no harm done. Just trying to keep things positive as much as possible.

      Delete
    5. Thanks Morpheus & Reiko.

      Delete
    6. It's very odd; I dislike on princple the idea of the adventure game sub-genre where the puzzles are all set-pieces with nothing to do with the plot of the game. But somehow most of my favorite games ended up in that sub-genre anyway. I think divorcing plot from game mechanics and telling stories primarily through environment rather than interaction was a positive step in the progress of storytelling in games and allowed the sophistication of the stories adventure games were telling to advance a lot more quickly than they otherwise might've.

      Delete
  10. 42. It really hasn't aged well and has one puzzle that's more of a strategy game really and that even back in the day magazines suggested you just shouldn't bother with it and have the hint system solve that one for you. (Gur zvpebfpbcr/onpgrevn bar)

    ReplyDelete
  11. 58. From what I understand, it's groundbreaking but not too well-liked nowadays. Trope Namer for Solve The Soup Cans (poor story-puzzle integration).

    So many games started at once I'm tempted to play along with... The 7th Guest I haven't gotten around to experience yet, and this is as good excuse as any remedy that. Playing along.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I have found the soup cans.

      Glad to have you along for the ride!

      Delete
  12. Been waiting for this one, this is an all time favorite of mine. More of an experience than a game really. I give it a playthrough every couple years, the narrative and FMV scenes are an absolute delight.

    I've played multiple versions of this throughout the years, there are no real substantial differences between the original and the anniversary edition. The addition of subtitles are extremely welcome and makes this edition a good choice for the blog, the audio can be annoyingly hard to make out at times and a BIG flaw with the original was that neither the game nor the manual do that good a job informing you what the guests' names are, making it a big hard to keep them straight. It's common to get attached to Mr. Dutton simply because you can't avoid remembering his name the way Stauff keeps repeating it in that scene you just saw.

    Gonna guess a 65 for this one... it's a classic and I like it a lot, but it's more than a sum of its parts and I don't think the PISSED system is going to be all that kind to it. It's not really a traditional adventure game either, more of a puzzle game with an adventure game interface.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Also gonna bet 10 CAP you won't be able to solve gur ohvyqvat oybpxf chmmyr va gur qbyy ubhfr without any kind of help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Got a followup question regarding this (complete spoilers for the puzzle): Cneg bs jung znxrf gur chmmyr fb qvssvphyg vf orpnhfr vg cerggl zhpu erdhverf lbh gb xabj gur anzr bs bar bs gur punenpgref va gur tnzr (Gnq) gb neevir ng gur fbyhgvba. Gur bayl jnl gb xabj guvf anzr vf gb unir yrnearq vg sebz na bcgvbany phgfprar gurer'f n cerggl tbbq punapr lbh qvqa'g fghzoyr bire... HAYRFF lbh'er cynlvat guvf erprag erznxr, juvpu unf fhogvgyrf gung cersnpr nyy yvarf jvgu gur fcrnxre'f anzr, fbzrguvat V unq sbetbggra. Fb jbhyq vg fgvyy or pbafvqrerq "jvgubhg nffvfgnapr" vs vg'f pyrne sebz gur cbfg Ervxb bayl fbyirq vg gunaxf gb nffvfgnapr sebz gurfr fhogvgyrf anzrqebccvat Gnq? Vg VF n irel hasnve nqinagntr bire gubfr cynlvat gur tnzr va vgf bevtvany sbezng. :/
      It's a dilemma I'm not sure what the answer to should be.

      Delete
    2. That is a bit of special case, I admit. Let's say you won't at least lose the 10 CAPs you bet, if Reiko does solve the puzzle without assistance.

      Delete
  14. The Digital Antiquarian’s article, albeit perhaps a bit harsh, is an interesting read:
    https://www.filfre.net/2020/04/the-7th-guests-new-clothes/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll make a note to read that once I'm done with my playthrough! Thanks for the link.

      Delete
  15. 43. I can't decide if I'm being generous or just remembering how disinterested I was in this game then and now.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Going with 36. It was fun-ish back in the day, but I am sure it has aged really poorly,

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'll give it a 48 - I liked the game a lot. While the story is "horrific," I never considered The Seventh Guest to be a horror game. It's a puzzle adventure game along the lines of Castle of Dr. Brain, but with more story. The puzzles are generally much more challenging than Dr. Brain puzzles, closer to The Fool's Errand perhaps.

    Your comments about the game being very slow are interesting. It was super-slow on my computer at the time. At first, we thought that was the intended look of the game, to make it spooky. But we later learned that it ran much faster on better hardware; I had an older computer.

    ReplyDelete