Developer(s): Trilobyte
Publisher: Philips Interactive Media
Released: 1993

The 7th Guest is a first-person adventure game with an emphasis on pure puzzle-solving, as there are no inventory items to collect or characters to interact with. It opens with a storybook-style movie introducing a drifter and part-time murderer named Stauf, who one day has a dream of a wooden doll and wakes up to carve it. He trades the doll for some food and a place to sleep. Soon he becomes a successful and wealthy toymaker, until, that is, the kids who play with his dolls start dying. Years later six people receive an invitation to a party at his mansion, with a promise that their wildest dreams will be fulfilled… if they can pass Stauf’s tests.

I had the floating doll dream again

You play as a disembodied voice, wandering the mansion, witnessing FMV echoes of the cursed party. As you go through you’re able to access puzzles, which are implied to have been set by Stauf for the guests to solve. The puzzles are primarily classic logic puzzles but with a macabre bent. The first puzzle you’ll probably find is of a large cake that has to be divided into six equal servings, each containing the same number of decorations, except the decorations are skulls and tombstones. Spooky!

Cakes don’t get spookier than this

There are 20 puzzles to solve in total (two fewer than in the PC version for some reason, though the rooms are still there with nothing to do in them) and they’re primarily those types of brainteasers — place eight queens on a board so they can’t check each other or flip over a pattern of cards following certain rules — except for two: the maze and the microscope. The microscope “puzzle” is actually a board game, reminiscent of Othello, and instead of solving it you have to win it, against a computer opponent. It’s fun, in a way, and challenging, but as with everything in The 7th Guest, the animations that play when you’re taking a move are so painfully slow and unnecessary that it at least doubles the amount of time you’d otherwise spend on it.

The gang’s all here

The maze is a whole other problem. In the original release of The 7th Guest, there is a gimmick to the maze, in that you can find the entire layout of it on a rug in one of the bedrooms. If you’re enterprising, you could copy this down (or take a screenshot of it) and use it to get through easily. Though the CD-i version keeps the rug, it changes the layout of the maze. I’m not even sure the maze follows any rules of physical reality, as I tried mapping it on graph paper and kept crossing over myself. It’s a terribly designed and tedious section of the game, and walkthroughs on the Internet are all written for the PC version, so they won’t help you. It was enough to almost drive me to quit playing entirely. I’ve written down directions here if you’d like them.

Is there life on Mars?

Once you’ve solved all 20 puzzles, you see a concluding FMV sequence that I won’t spoil, and I guess it’s satisfying enough, though I’m not entirely sure what it actually resolved or how. I’m also not sure what year this is supposed to be, with Stauf’s origin looking pre-industrial and the mansion and its guests reading as early 20th century. Probably better if you don’t ask too many questions.

Graphics – 8
There is some genuinely unsettling imagery in this otherwise silly game that impressed me

Sound – 6
No subtitles and no way to adjust the audio balance, which is a problem when the music so much louder than the dialogue

Gameplay – 6
Mostly enjoyable puzzles, but it loses points for the maze, and for the tedious animations that accompany every action you take

Value – 8
If you can resist utilizing a walkthrough, you could be haunting this mansion’s halls for weeks

Reviewer’s Tilt – 7
As frustrating as it can sometimes be, it has a certain charm to it that I enjoyed

Final Score – 6.9