Kickin’ It Old School – The 7th Guest/The 11th Hour

When my family moved to a town outside of Cincinnati in 1994, we finally decided to join the (nearly) 21st century and get a computer with a CD drive. It was an old Apple Macintosh. It had AOL version 2.7 (and what are we at now? 15.0?), and a few fun little games already installed on it, but once we figured out how to use that new-fangled CD-ROM thing, the party really got started.

My brother, 3 years older than me, and I each got our own games to play. I got Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (a story for another day), and he got this game that was allegedly too scary for my young eyes called The 7th Guest. Nowadays, I recognize that the game had such themes as murder, adultery, and the stealing of little children’s souls, but, as a naïve 7 year old, I just saw a fun little puzzle game. And, by the way, playing a game like that at such a young age hasn’t screwed me up in the slightest, so fie on Jack Thompson and that silly little rating system!

The 7th Guest (PC/Mac, 1992)

The 7th Guest begins with some back story on the antagonist, Henry Stauf. A drifter during the Great Depression, he murdered and robbed a woman one night. Later that night, as he slept, he had a vision of a beautiful doll and he set about making it upon awakening. He was able to sell it and other dolls like it, labeling them “Stauf Toys,” which every child everywhere wanted. Soon though, the children started dying, and it is later revealed in the game that their souls were captured in the dolls as part of a deal Stauf made with the devil.

Stauf built a grand, but scary, mansion, and invited six guests to spend the night at his house, though he has invited them there to bring him one last child, the titular 7th guest, one last soul he needs to satisfy his deal. In return, he offers them whatever wish they want granted. None of the guests are seen again, as they all murder each other during the night, trying to be the one to have their wish granted.

The game opens up sometime in the future, in Stauf’s mansion. The man the player controls has no idea how he got there, or how to get out. He encounters the ghosts of the guests in various places in the house as the story unfolds. Your objective is to solve the puzzles Stauf set for the guests, some of which tell them their objective, to bring the last guest, a boy named Tad, to him.

The characters show interesting development over the course of the game, despite the fact that they’re dead. All of them have a specific wish they want granted, mostly money and power, and most are shown to be willing to do anything to get it. Two of the characters, however, show a less selfish side, choosing to try and help Tad rather than deliver him to Stauf, although these two are also killed during their efforts.

In the climax of the game, the player’s character finally remembers that he is Tad, the 7th guest, and has been reliving this same night over and over, and never changing anything. As he sees himself being brought to Stauf he decides to not let it happen this time, and Stauf is dragged to Hell as Tad is finally free to leave the house, presumably going to Heaven.

The soundtrack to the game is excellent, but the graphics and visuals were, at the time, fairly revolutionary. The heavy use of 3-D graphics and live actors was almost unprecedented, with this game and later Myst setting the bar for how games should look and feel using the CD-ROM’s capabilities. The success of The 7th Guest necessitated a sequel, though this would be quite disappointing as many sequels can be.

The 11th Hour (PC/Mac, 1995)

The 11th Hour was released in 1995, 3 years after The 7th Guest. The game is set in, more or less, the present day. A TV reporter named Robin comes to town to do a report on the murders in Stauf’s mansion. During her report, she becomes trapped in the mansion, and it is up to her boyfriend, Carl, to get her out. Carl encounters the original characters from the first game, so they must still be trapped. He is aided during his quest by a PDA/portable television/phone called the “Gamebook”. This enables you to get clues to solve puzzles, as well as providing a way to communicate with Robin and Stauf.

Despite the fact that I was older (around 10 or 11) when I got this game than when I got The 7th Guest, I may not have actually been old enough to play this one. The game is generally darker and features far more adult content, including blood and other gruesome imagery. Also, much to my pubescent disappointment, scenes containing nudity were filmed, but were cut before the game was released.

Despite the fact that the game is graphically beautiful, perfecting the technology The 7th Guest popularized, the game itself was far inferior to its predecessor. The game didn’t really add much from the first one, besides more characters. The puzzles can be either be fairly easy or frustratingly hard, for example, the game gives you riddles to solve which reveal clues as to how to progress through the house, though they are nearly impossible to decipher. Also, the game was programmed to run on DOS, despite the fact that Windows was the most widely used operating system by the time it was released.

In the climax of the game, you have a choice of 3 endings to see, only one of which enables you to successfully leave the house, though it’s not a very happy ending as the woman you love burns down with Stauf’s mansion. Another ending depicts a rather racy sex scene, also not a happy one due to the fact that the woman you are with ends up eating you (as in, devouring your flesh; the game isn’t THAT racy).

So, one revolutionary masterpiece in The 7th Guest, one genuine stinkeroo of a sequel in The 11th Hour. A third sequel was in the works, set in a museum with Stauf as its curator, but that game has apparently been canceled. I believe a re-release of The 7th Guest could make up for it. Maybe for PSP? Somebody get to work on that!

Next time:…I don’t know. Somebody drop me a line and request something. Either here or in an email: