The 7th Guest is a cult classic puzzle game amongst older gamers like myself. It was one of the first CD-Rom games I owned for my PC back in 1993 and absolutely scared me to the point in which I couldn’t play it with the lights off and never had the courage to complete it at the time. Looking back on this, after playing through it from beginning to end a few days ago, it seems very silly as it’s more cheesy than scary. However, the early ’90s was a different time, this sort of interactive FMV media was new and there was no internet to dilute young children from this sort of creepy experience.
To mark the 25th anniversary, Trilobyte Games teamed up with MojoTouch to touch up and re-release The 7th Guest on both Steam and GoG. Truth be told, the game is essentially the mobile version which MojoTouch released a few years ago, but the PC version comes with a few Quality of Life improvements as well as a whole host of special features and bonus content. The remaster has also allowed the developers to fix issues which were present on the original version, creating a much more user-friendly edition.
So, are you brave enough to enter the old Stauf mansion and face the spirits of those who died there, or are you too scared to discover the truth behind The 7th Guest…
The 7th Guest begins in 1935, describing the story of Henry Stauf, a drifter who lives on the streets and resorts to petty theft and crimes in order to survive. However, one day he went too far, killing a woman as he stole her purse, resulting in him being haunted by nightmares. Strangely, these dreams which kept him awake at night weren’t of the horrific act he just performed, they were visions of a child’s doll. The next day, he carved out the doll and created a perfect copy of the one from his dreams, trading it in for food and shelter at a nearby tavern. This was the beginning of a string of visions which in turn, helped Stauf become a successful toymaker thanks to the amazing success he had with each and every creation he made.
Everything seemed great for a while, Stauf was making money, enough to build a mansion at the edge of the town, and the children all seemed happy. But then the illnesses came. All the children who possessed one of Stauf’s toys began to get sick as they clung to their toys and dolls. Until eventually, they started dying…
Fast forward to the present day – you awaken as the nameless and faceless protagonist within the mansion, a mansion which is haunted by the spirits of those who died there, forever cursed to haunt the hallways. In total, there are six ghostly guests, all invited by the infamous Henry Stauf sometime after the children had died. They’ve all been advised that the great Stauf has left behind a bunch of puzzles for them to solve, each one getting them closer to receiving that which they desire the most. However, there is another guest, The 7th Guest, who is a key part of this crazy toymaker’s evil plans.
How things are connected and what the agendas are is all up to you to find out – solve puzzles and explore the mansion as you piece together why the ghosts still haunt the mansion and how they met their untimely demise…
The 7th Guest is similar to games like Myst, you move around the creepy mansion by click on things in the distance to walk up to them, the edges of the screen to turn around, and items in front of you to either start a puzzle, view a strange animation, or play a spooky cinematic. Rather than playing like a point and click game where you pick up objects and use them to solve the puzzles you find as you’re exploring, The 7th Guest is more like a bunch of puzzles spilt up by various FMV narrative moments.
It’s not uncommon to become lost whilst playing the game as it’s a linear, yet open game. Yeah, I know that’s a contradiction, but that’s the way the game is. You’re free to explore the mansion but various rooms will be locked until you have completed certain puzzles. However, if you have a few rooms you can access, you’re free to complete the puzzles in whichever order you choose. The problems begin when you’re not sure what to do next, you can sometimes find yourself wandering around for ages, unable to trigger any more cutscenes or puzzles. If this happens, it means you’ve overlooked a puzzle in a room somewhere as every room within the mansion hides some sort of puzzle to solve.
Instead of filming in a real mansion, as I recall hearing that it would be too expensive and take a long time, the entire mansion is a 3D render with green-screened ghostly apparitions placed upon it in good old ’90s FMV glory. As such, it allowed the developers to really mess with your head, having hands distort the shape of a painting when you click on it, the environment seamlessly changes into a puzzle, and other crazy events occur before your eyes. So, although you’re walking around the virtual building, you’ll regularly view visions of the past as the ghosts appear in front of you and reenact key events or beckon you into the darkness…
The puzzles within The 7th Guest are the main gameplay element. Technically, some may say they are the only ‘gameplay element’ as the rest of the game is wandering around the mansion and hoping you’ll bump into the ghosts in order to indirectly unlock the next room or puzzle. However, unless you’re extremely clever and love your logic-based cryptic puzzles, be prepared to have your mind scrambled and trodden on by the sheer randomness of some of these cryptic conundrums.
I’ll be honest here, I had to use a guide in order to solve a few of the puzzles due to not having a clue as to how to solve them. Supposedly, there are clues around the mansion which are there to help you, including a floor rug which is actually a map to the maze-like basement. But, who has the time for that these days? Also, you can read a book in the library (if you don’t mind a bit of back-tracking) which offers up to three hints about the last puzzle you tried to solve – if you read the book a fourth time, it lets you skip the puzzle (which is very helpful but also a big fat cheat).
Despite the game showing its age in the visual department (sorry, you were once beautiful yet now you’re a little pixelated and too-retro), the puzzles actually stood up as some really hard and thought-provoking predicaments. I tried my best to do a spoiler and guide-free run, but I had to buckle a few times as I’d rather cheat and solve the puzzle than go back and forth to the library and simply skip the puzzle instead.
There was one puzzle which was thankfully fixed within this version of the game – the microscope puzzle. The puzzle is simply a game of Reversi but it had an AI CPU opponent which became more advanced the faster your CPU was. Now, imagine how much faster today’s CPUs are to the ones back in 1993 – before they fixed this puzzle, it was literally impossible to beat!
One of the best things about The 7th Guest is the amount of FMV which unfolds as you explore and investigate. Walking in on conversations you weren’t supposed to hear, seeing a woman beg to be young just before she turns herself into a baby, hearing people screaming down the hallways and in seemingly vacant rooms, and watching as everyone dies, one by one. The opening story is one which haunts me to this day, recalling how creepy it was when I was a child – kinda like that twisted face on the X-Files opening cinematics (that’s very creepy).
I thought that each character was acted out perfectly, based upon their personality the game implies and delves into the further into the game you get. As a kid, I wouldn’t have understood the events which were happening and the truth behind The 7th Guest, but now, as an adult, I’m glad I had the chance to go back and relive the experience with more understanding on the overall story. The game is still slightly spooky and unsettling, despite its rather unappealing visuals and effects, based on modern standards – it’s all about the atmosphere and how well the game can mess with you whilst its rather unusual story plays out as you watch on as an observer.
I’ve said this before on Twitter, and I know Trilobyte Games have mentioned looking into it as well, but I firmly believe that The 7th Guest would make a really good movie or miniseries on TV. Show us a bit of backstory for each of the seven guests, as well as the rise and fall of Henry Stauf, then work that in as flashbacks via a modern-day story within the mansion as events unfold and revelations are discovered by our mysterious investigator. There’s more than enough lore for the universe, plus all of the characters are all very interesting and dying to tell their story. Come on Trilobyte – team up with Netflix and make it happen!
**After writing this, I found out there was a Web series in production in 2016, starring James Rolfe, AKA the AVGN! However, updates stopped in September 2018 so I’m not sure if this is still going ahead – I’ve messaged them on Twitter.**
The question on everyone’s lips is – what do you get in this new special edition of the game? Well, you get:
• Three music options (the remastered music, the original Midi, or the original Adlib tracks)
• Higher-quality voice samples and optional subtitles (in many languages)
• Vocals in English, German, French or Russian
• Upscaled visuals for a cleaner experience on high-resolution monitors
• 28 new achievements to earn (yay?)
• Updated and tweaked controls
• 19 deleted videos and 34 delete audio recordings
• The soundtrack and over 70 original Midi-files
• A 157-page The 7th Guest novel
• The original 104-page script of the game
• The original PC manual and supplementary ‘The Stauf Files’ booklet
• You even get the original legacy edition of the game, for Windows, macOS and Linux, as a free DLC download – should you wish to play the original version
I can’t recall the last time that a game priced at only £7.19 gave you this much content as bonus freebies. Especially the option to download the original game as a free DLC for those who may want to relive the original game, despite its impossible microscope puzzle and unskippable cutscenes.
Additional media within The 7th Guest universe
As much as I love this game, purely based on the nostalgia it brings me, there’s so much more I’d love to experience within this world – such as the TV show idea I posted above. However, until that happens, what can I do to expand my immersion within this world? First of all, a few days ago Attic Door Productions released a fan-made game which is a direct sequel to The 7th Guest called The 13th Doll. I’ve played and completed this game (without any hints or guides) and my review will be up very soon for it. I highly recommend it as it’s the perfect sequel this game was begging for.
Now, there was an actual ‘sequel’ to the game many years ago called The 11th Hour, but most fans of the franchise refuse to acknowledge that game as it’s supposedly not very good. I own the game, but I’ve yet to play it.
However, the main thing which Trilobyte Games have been trying to push on their Social Media channels for the last year or so is their latest board game based upon the concept of The 7th Guest. You can read more about it here: https://trilobyte-games.myshopify.com/ – it’s a two to six player physical board game in which you must try and escape the mansion and receive everything you’ve ever desired by exploring the mansion and solving puzzles (sound familiar?). There’s even an expansion pack out soon with more puzzles for you to add to the base game. Personally, I really like the look of this and would love to get my hands on one. The last physical game I played was Fusionplay Heroes, which was created by our friends over at Fusionplay.
Although The 7th Guest: 25th Anniversary Edition isn’t as spooky or creepy as I remember it being, it’s still a very good puzzle game with ridiculously hard puzzles. The special edition has implemented a bunch of quality of life updates which makes the game much more accessible and user-friendly for both nostalgic gamers like me and newcomers alike. The cheesy FMVs and disturbing narrative makes the atmosphere much more enjoyable and immersive than your average adventure game from the early ’90s. If you’ve yet to step foot within Stauf’s mansion, you’re missing out on experiencing a piece of history, the birth of interactive horror puzzle games on CD-Rom.
Also, don’t forget all of the bonus features and additional files you get when you pick up the 25th-anniversary edition, it truly is a collection all adventure fans should pick up if they haven’t already.,
The 7th Guest£7.19
- - Very disturbing and unsettling atmosphere, despite the rather dated visuals
- - Great soundtrack by The Fatman
- - Lots of quality of life improvements over the original release, including fixing the microscope game
- - Tonnes of bonus content in the game directory for you to peruse
- - Great cheesy acting throughout
- - The puzzles are rather hard, unlike the types we usually see today
- - Despite being a special edition, the visuals weren't remastered or replaced with the visually superior Philips CDi edition
- - Although the developers have tried to modernise the game, it still feels a little clunky after all these years
- - If you know the solutions to the puzzles or seek the help from a guide online, you'll be seeing the end credits in around 2.5 hours