The 7th Guest

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US DOS cover.

The 7th Guest is a horror-themed multi-genre puzzle video game developed by Trilobyte and published by Virgin on 1993-04-01 for DOS and CD-i, and later ported to Macintosh, and Windows. It's the first game in The 7th Guest series. The game's 3D graphics were rendered in 3D Studio.

You play as a mysterious character in an old haunted mansion who, by solving various puzzles, uncovers the story of an evil toy maker who used his toys to murder children and capture their souls. The story is told though ghostly vignettes with horrific imagery which sometimes include clues to the puzzles.

Personal

My first experience with this game was at a friend's house shortly after it was released. He had bought the game, but his computer wasn't powerful enough to run it, so, when he launched the program, it just changed DOS prompt foreground color to dark blue, and began playing the intro music, but didn't advance. After his father upgraded their computer's video card, he was able to play, and, by the time I came over again to see it, he had already solved a couple of the early puzzles. We loved how creepy the game was, but we weren't very good at it, so my friend bought the strategy guide and we used it to get through several of the harder puzzles. However, even with the hint book helping us solve all the puzzles, we were never able to get into the attic. I later played the game in a Windows port, alone in a basement of my cousin's house at night, and got creeped out all over again. This time I had the Internet to help me with the more difficult puzzles, but I still failed to enter the attic after solving the all the other puzzles. I later learned that the microscope puzzle, which I couldn't beat, could be "finished" by using the in-game hint book. After learning that, I replayed the game, skipped the microscope puzzle, and finally beat it on 2021-04-24. I was a bit disappointed after all those years that, microscope puzzle aside, I was only two simple puzzles away from victory.

I own the Windows port of this game, I beat it (though I needed to skip the microscope puzzle).

Review

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6 4 9 9 3

Best Version: Windows

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • For the time, the game was state of the art. The graphics, sound, music, video, and 3D animation were all extremely impressive. To give you an idea of how far ahead it was, Secret of Mana was the technological apex of consoles at the time.
  • The story, written by Matthew Costello, is quite insidious, and, as a young teen, I found the game to be sufficiently scary. Several of the puzzles, animations, and vignettes are unsettling.
  • There is a pretty good assortment of puzzles that tax different areas of your mind including pattern recognition, lateral thinking, memorization, and more. Also, a good amount of effort has been put toward ensuring the puzzles organically fit the setting. They even incorporated a couple word puzzles in a way that doesn't seem out of place.
  • Robert Stein III created wonderful art for the game designing a properly creepy mansion, and the modelers created 3D objects that were way ahead of their time.
  • George Sanger and Team Fat composed a wonderfully haunting soundtrack, and the fact that you could put the game into a CD and hear much of the soundtrack, as well as a special track, was a wonderful addition. The ending song, Skeletons in My Closet, is a great song for the credits.
  • Using a Ouija board for the menu was clever, and the cursors (skeleton hands, eyes, chattering teeth, throbbing brain, drama mask) are all perfectly fitting.
  • The included crime scrapbook was an in-game universe document which adds verisimilitude to the game.
  • I like that the game reactivates all the puzzles after you win so you can replay any puzzle you want.

Bad

  • A lot of the puzzles are just old public domain puzzles: eight queens puzzle, peg solitaire, coin flipping mazes, follow the leader on the piano, etc. Others were derivative of existing games like Lights Out and slider games.
  • Navigation through the house and puzzles themselves ends up taking about ten times longer than they need to because the animation is so slow, and you can't speed it up or turn it off. Also, there is no way to end it prematurely, even if you've already seen it.
  • There were four puzzles that were variations on a theme: the coffin puzzle, Stauff's portrait, the mansion puzzle, and the block puzzle. There are also four puzzles based around chess. More variety would have been nice.
  • The acting is pretty terrible.
  • Like most puzzle games, once you discern the trick needed to win the puzzle, it's over, and you'll have to wait until you forget the solution before it's a challenge again. Only the microscope puzzle taxes you every time, but that one goes overboard. This hurts the replay value.
  • Some of the audio is poorly engineered. Dialogue is sometimes quieter than the music and you can barely hear it, and, at other times, it completely overpowers it. The lip-sync is often badly off as well.
  • Entering the menu and resuming play often places you in a different part of the mansion which is annoying. You also can't load a game without first quitting the game and restarting it, which is even more annoying.
  • The game demanded very impressive hardware for the time preventing anyone who didn't have an impressive PC from playing it. However, I have to give the developers props for including a huge assortment of display drivers.
  • I don't like the fact that the left wall in the dungeon has the wrong lighting. Same with the bricks in the fireplace. That's just lazy design.
  • I wish they had kept in aspects of the bad ending for players who used to hint book too much. However, since the microscope puzzle is so difficult, it's best that they didn't.

Ugly

  • The microscope puzzle is way too hard. The AI looks three turns ahead, meaning it will beat all but the most expert human players. The designers really should have added a way to dial back the difficulty to allow casual gamers a fighting chance because the completionist in me hates that I have to use the library hint book to skip it. Even the game's official hint book can't help you, and suggests skipping it.
  • Due to the random initialization of the mansion flipper puzzle, it frequently creates unwinnable puzzles. I spent a fair amount of time fiddling with this one until I finally realized that there was just no way to solve it. After restarting several times for a better initial random state, I finally beat it. Had the program started with a proper board, then randomly flipped it behind the scenes, and gave you the scrambled result, this problem wouldn't exist.
  • The ending is disappointing. There isn't one last grand complex puzzle to solve, just the window puzzle, which isn't too difficult, and then you just sit there and watch yet another cut-scene unfold. It felt very underwhelming.

Media

Boxes

Documentation

The game also included a "crime scrapbook," of which I have yet to find a digital copy.

Fan Art

Videos

Review - PushingUpRoses.
Longplay.
Speedrun.

Links

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