Murder. Mystery. Mind bending puzzles. Dark visions and demented toy makers. The 7th Guest had it all. It’s the perfect game to remember as we enter the Halloween season.
The 7th Guest was developed by Trilobyte and published by Virgin Interactive Entertainment in 1993, one of the first games created strictly for CD-ROM. It set itself apart from other games of the era thanks in large part to its 3D graphics and was referred to by Bill Gates as, “”the new standard in interactive entertainment”.
The game featured you as “Ego”, a character inside of the abandoned Stauf Mansion, former residence of wealthy toymaker Henry Stauf. We learn early in the opening scenes that Stauf started his life as a drifter. He committed a murder before having a vision of a doll that he then created. This lead to his life as a toymaker. Children who owned his toys began contracting mysterious, deadly illnesses and eventually Stauf disappeared from the public eye.
As Ego, you see a series of flashbacks to a party hosted in Stauf Mansion. The event featured six guests, along with a seventh uninvited guest: a boy named Tad.. The game moves through the course of the party, revealing the dark machinations that Stauf has put in place for the party goers. It features a series of puzzles that the guests must solve. As the evening progresses it turns bloody, creeping its way towards a shocking climax. Being a supernatural mystery, I would do you and the game a disservice to reveal too much about the rest of the plot. Suffice it to say, that the story is equal parts House on Haunted Hill, The Sixth Sense, and Twin Peaks. Dark secrets abound.
The game was designed by Rob Landeros and Graeme Devine, who pitched the idea to Virgin Games, only to have their jobs taken away. However, Virgin had a surprise. They decided to help Landeros and Devine set up their own company, Trilobyte, and the two set about making the game. Along the way they encountered problems that they somehow turned into assets. As they created the game’s graphics they found that their characters had a ghostly sort of glow about them that they didn’t intend. Unable to get rid of it, they opted to include it as a feature, referring to them as auras which added to the game’s ambiance. They then discovered that puzzle and toy manufacturers owned the copyright to many of the puzzles that they wanted to include. Without the budget to pay, they began collecting puzzles from 19th century books, using them instead.
The game was also innovate in its use of music. George Sanger composed the score, giving each party guest their own musical theme. Sanger insisted that the game support general MIDI, pushing the game to two discs. The second disc included a large file containing all of the game music and two additional live tracks, which featured lyrics and vocals.
The final result was a dark, twisted tale that delighted and terrified players. The7th Guest still has a devoted following, gamers who look with fondness on the shivery horrors found within Stauf Mansion.