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Lora's Adventure Game Reviews: The 7th Guest

The 7th Guest (Game release date: 1993)
A series of computer puzzles loosely held together by a flawed mystery plot.

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Highlights: Many good puzzles Lowlights: Stupid plot, primitive gameplay, no puzzle integration

This pioneering 3D puzzle game has not withstood the test of time. The puzzles are still plentiful and fun, but they have nothing to do with the plot or the environment you're exploring. In fact, the whole plot is very thin and inconsistent, and the ending is so idiotic it's intelligence-insulting. The overall gaming experience is that of wandering around a large house watching random puzzles and games pop up at you for no sensible reason. It's hard to enjoy that kind of thing anymore, not when there are so many superior games clamoring for your attention. I recommend 7th Guest primarily for old-school puzzle enthusiasts fed up with the plot twists and extended conversations of modern graphical adventures--in this game, there is nothing to get between you and the puzzles, not even a main character.

Style: The 7th Guest is a simple puzzle adventure game with a 3D first-person view of the environment and a point-and-click interface. The plot, such as there is, is a murder mystery. The game is untimed and no manual dexterity is required. Combat and leveling are not elements.

Series: The 7th Guest has had one sequel, The 11th Hour. The two have a vague plot connection (the villain in both games is the same), but plot is hardly the focus of these games, and each stands alone perfectly well. If you intend to play both, it may be slightly better to play 7th Guest first, as gameplay is slightly improved in 11th Hour and it's always easier to go forwards than back.

Finding The 7th Guest: This game is long out of print, but it was popular in its day, and you shouldn't have any problem finding a used copy on the cheap. Here it is for sale online for PC or Mac.

Getting The 7th Guest to Work: The 7th Guest is an old DOS game and it can be tough getting it to work on newer systems. Most CDs of the game come with a game developers' patch enabling 7th Guest to run on Windows 95, 98, or NT. If yours isn't working on one of those systems, try downloading the patch from Computer Hope. The game isn't compatible with Windows XP, but there's a helpful site here that gives you step-by-step instructions for getting it to work on XP anyway.

Hints For The 7th Guest: I do not have a walkthrough page for The 7th Guest myself (it is a very linear plot and would not benefit much from my low-spoiler treatment). There is a terrific hints page at UHS which reveals only one hint at a time, so you won't accidentally learn the answers to future puzzles while scanning for the one you're stuck on, or you could buy the 7th Guest Hint Book.

Game Length: 15 hours--quite short for a puzzle adventure, but because there's no excess travel, pixel-hunting, or other time-wasters to contend with, it's got as much actual puzzle content as many 25-hour games.

Age-Appropriateness: This game is rated T (for 13 years old and up) due to ghosts, non-graphic violence, and the suggestion of an extramarital affair.

Lora's 7th Guest Review: (Flawed)

Plot and Quests: The biggest weakness of the 7th Guest is that it clearly tried to have a plot, but didn't really succeed. The actions and fate of each ghost make little sense, none of it is in any way related to the puzzles scattered around the mansion, and the ending is nonsensical. There are no quests in this game, just puzzles.
Puzzles and Mental Challenges: There's a good variety here: spatial puzzles, word puzzles, logic puzzles, and a maze, some more challenging than others. Most are internally consistent, though a few never did make any sense. None of them are externally consistent at all.
Characters: There aren't any, really. You play the game in first-person, and luckily your own identity is the only part of the plot that makes any sense. The villain is a cliched evil cackler with no personality, and the ghosts have inconsistent backstories and are badly acted.
Gameworld: The mansion you are trapped in has a nice feel to it, but the puzzles are completely inorganic to the environment. (At one point, peering into a microscope in an old-fashioned laboratory causes you to be taken to another screen where you play a strategy game against the computer. That sort of thing. It gets jarring.)
Gameplay: Very, very simple. You move from room to room, watch videos of the ghosts doing things, and click on things to activate the next puzzle to be solved. 7th Guest may seem downright primitive to modern gamers. (In retrospect I sometimes can't believe any of us actually paid out good money for early 80's games like "The Search For The Most Amazing Thing" that make 7th Guest look like the Star Trek holodeck, but I digress.)
Interface: Not bad, especially for a sixteen-year-old game. This was one of the earliest 3D point-and-click interfaces and though it doesn't have the elegance of some of its modern descendants, it's still quite playable.
Ambience (Graphics, Sound, etc.): The rooms and especially the puzzles are nicely drawn. The characters are badly acted and badly rendered to video, which is usually tolerable because most of them are supposed to be ghosts, but it certainly doesn't add anything. The mood never really rises to the level of suspense.

Lora's Recommendations: The 7th Guest played a pivotal role in gaming history, but unless you're a gaming historian of some kind, you're unlikely to enjoy revisiting it now. Try out one of the many modern adventure games that built on The 7th Guest's success, like Sanitarium, Dark Fall, Grim Fandango instead.

If You Loved The 7th Guest: Then you will probably also like its sequel, 11th Hour. Also, if you haven't yet, you should play the classic Myst series of games (Myst, Riven, Exile, and Revelation). The puzzles in those four games are even better than the ones in 7th Guest, and they are set in an absorbing gameworld to boot. Other puzzle-adventures you may enjoy include the surreal psychological thriller Sanitarium, the spooky ghost story Dark Fall, or the funky magical-realism/film-noir adventure Grim Fandango.

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