With so many games available thru streaming and on powerful console gaming systems, it is difficult to believe that once upon a time, PC games were disc based. It was not uncommon for games to come with multiple 3.5” discs or even the 5 1/4 inch floppy. But as technology advanced, it finally became necessary for game developers to up their game. Higher definition graphics and the new FMV required more space to play. This is where the CD-Rom disc came in. And one of the first games that came specifically on that new medium was 1993’s the 7th Guest.
Produced by Trilobyte and originally released by Virgin Interactive Entertainment, The 7th Guest was an interactive movie puzzle adventure game. Players were challenged to investigate the mysteries at the Stauf Mansion by solving 21 various video based puzzles. Gameplay was supported by a creepy soundtrack produced by one of the leading video game musicians of that time, George “The Fat Man” Sanger.
“Guest” was praised upon release for its use of Full Motion Video (FMV) and for its challenging video puzzles. When added to the atmospheric music and some creepy video cut scenes, the 7th Guest became a top seller. It also helped push sales for the burgeoning CD-ROM drive market. Most computers these days do not even included a CD/DVD Rom Drive. Progress? I think NOT!
Gameplay and Plot
The main antagonist for the game is Henry Stauf. Stauf was a drifter who supported his existence by stealing from people. Eventually, he kills a woman while trying to steal her purse. This begins a series of more deplorable acts. It also makes for trouble sleeping. During one of his restless nights, he has a vision of a beautiful doll. Obsessed by the image, he begins carving it.
Once complete, he trades the doll for food, drink and a place to stay at a local tavern. This begins a series of more visions of dolls and toys, and he sells these as well. As his dolls become more popular, Stauf becomes a successful toymaker. He uses his fortune to build a mansion at the edge of town. He has it built following another vision he had.
As time passes, several children possessing Stauf’s toys contract a mysterious illness and die. Stauf’’s toys are blamed. With his toys now feared, Stauf disappears into his mansion and is never seen again. It is the Stauf Mansion that is the backdrop for the game.
Welcome to the Stauf Mansion
The player is represented by the narrator (the player’s character) named “Ego.” He awakens in the Stauf mansion with no knowledge of why he is here. The mansion appears deserted, but as Ego explores it, he sees ghostly visions of events in the past. These visions all take place on a night sometime after the deaths of the children, where six guests were invited to the Stauf mansion.
These “guests” include Martine Burden, a former singer; Edward and Elinor Knox, a dissatisfied middle-aged couple; Julia Heine, a bank worker who reminisces of her youth; Brian Dutton, a fellow shop owner; and Hamilton Temple, a stage magician. They are charged by a written note by Stauf to solve his puzzles and find the “7th Guest.” A young boy named Tad who had snuck into the mansion on a dare. It is said that whichever guest solves all the puzzles and finds Tad will be rewarded.
Your Puzzle Guide
As gameplay advances, Stauf is ever present during your “stay.” He taunts the player with clues, while mocking the player (you) when you fail his puzzles (“We’ll all be dead by the time you solve this!”). At the same time, he expresses his displeasure when you succeed. (“Don’t think you’ll be so lucky next time!”). Each time you solve his puzzles, more of the storyline is played out in video cutscenes.
With each solved puzzle and as the story advances, you find that the six guests started turning on each other. Slowly eliminating themselves (permanently) until only one guest remained: Julia. As the last survivor, she located Tad and dragged him to the attic where Stauf awaited them. It appears that Stauf had made a pact with the evil force that gave him his visions and killed the children, For his efforts, Stauf has been transformed into a horrific creature. He needs Tad’s soul to complete the pact he agreed to. For her reward, Stauf kills Julia and entangles Tad with a prehensile tongue.
It is at this moment when the realization is revealed: Ego is the spirit of Tad. He had witnessed the events of that night over and over but was unable to prevent them. With this discovered, Ego finds he can now intervene in the events. He helps Tad to escape. Because Stauf is unable to recapture the child, the evil entity consumes him for failing to complete the pact. Tad thanks Ego for his help, and then Ego steps into a sphere of light and disappears.
Sales and Sequels
With its full motion video and challenging puzzles, The 7th Guest made many players become the games 8th guest. Sales certainly reflected that. In its first year, it sold 450,000 units and earned more than $15 million. Its sales surpassed two million copies by 2000. And with sales like that, a sequel was inevitable. Trilobyte released a sequel entitled The 11th Hour in December 1995. The game’s reception was initially mixed and it did not sell as well as Trilobyte had hoped. At least no where near it’s predecessor.
However, as the years have passed, the game has been revisited porting it to different systems. It was recently released for both the Android and IOS systems. This was the 25th Anniversary Edition. I have been playing it. Damn, I have forgotten how to solve many of the puzzles. It will come, in time. So if you want to try your hand at solving the mysteries at the Stauf mansion, download it. You have been invited as the next guest.
I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.