The 7th Guest
Old Man Stauf built a house, and filled it with his toys
—Traditional children's rhyme
The 7th Guest is a video game released in 1993. The plot-relevant events for The 7th Guest begin during the Great Depression. Henry Stauf, a wandering drifter and serial thief, kills an old woman on her way home from choir practice and sinks to a new low. That same night, he sees a beautiful doll in his dreams and carves one just like it the next day; he offers the doll to a local barkeep in exchange for room and board. Seeing that his doll is in such high demand, Stauf creates more toys based on his visions, and becomes a successful entrepreneur as a toy maker.
Some time later, a mysterious illness kills many of the children who owned Stauf's toys; because of this, Stauf decides to build a remote mansion and retire from society. Long after no one's sure if Stauf's still alive, he invites six guests to a dinner party. Stauf promises that whoever solves all of the puzzles in the mansion will get his or her dearest wishes granted. The puzzles themselves are more of a means to an end, as they serve as clues to what Stauf wants and what he wants the guests to do for him.
In case the ominous paragraphs above weren't enough of a clue, The 7th Guest is a horror story. The player controls an unremarkable amnesiac trying to figure out just what he's doing in Stauf's mansion, which is the setting for the entire game; the player wanders the mansion, solving logic puzzles -- and some suspiciously illogical logic puzzles -- and watching scenes that further the story. Stauf is an ever-present menace, taunting the player with clues and expressing displeasure when the player succeeds.
One of the first games to make extensive use of CD-ROM technology, the game was a technical marvel of its day. The prerendered CGI graphics and Full Motion Video were state of the art and frequently used by computer manufacturers to show off the capabilities of the CD-ROM drive. Underneath the graphics, the game has a fairly complex plot... which is rendered somewhat moot by the entirely non-linear nature of its play; without a FAQ of some kind detailing how to trigger events in a logical progression, it is more likely that a player will conclude that there isn't really much of a plot at all. There are a variety of puzzles present throughout the game, though many of them involve trial and error. For players who need help or simply cannot solve a particular puzzle, there is a hint book in the library of the house. The first two times the book is consulted about a puzzle, the book gives clues about how to solve the puzzle; on the third time, the book simply completes the puzzle for the player so that they can proceed through the game. Although the game's manual states that there may be consequences for using the hint book, it can be used without penalty for every puzzle save for the last one.
The 7th Guest was followed by The 11th Hour (1995), which takes place 60 years after the events of the first game; the game's protagonist, reporter Carl Denning, travels to Stauf Manor to look for his lost producer Robin Morales. Gameplay is practically the same as the original game: wander the mansion, solve puzzles, and watch scenes that advance the plot. Another sequel was in the works at one point (named The Collector, it would have featured Stauf as a museum curator), but the project seems to have vanished off the map. A Gaiden Game to the series was released under the title Uncle Henry's Playhouse: it was essentially a compilation of some puzzles from The 7th Guest, The 11th Hour and Clandestiny. Uncle Henry's Playhouse was only sold through mail-order and was Trilobyte's last game before their studios were shut down; it only sold twenty-seven copies in the US (and just 176 copies worldwide).
Just over fifteen years after the original game's release, Trilobyte Games rose from the grave and began porting The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour to the Apple iOS.
- Alien Geometries:
- The Art Gallery is completely isolated from the rest of the house, to the point that Ego effectively warps to get there. Carl navigates a hidden passage in the grandfather clock to reach the same room, but leaves through the same painting that Ego used.
- The whole house is this. Compare the floor plans for each floor to each other, and then to the outside of the house. And that's not counting all the weird shortcuts through walls, drains, etc, which may or may not count since you're a ghost.
- All There in the Manual: The game comes with a case book filled with newspaper articles and excerpts from other publications that outline the game's backstory.
- Amnesiac Hero: The very first line the protagonist speaks in the first game says it all.
Ego: How did I get here? I remember... nothing.
- Beat Still My Heart: The Heart Puzzle is based around this.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Stauf shows each of the six guests visions of what they wished for. Of course, being Stauf, he can't help showing how these wishes could go awry. Curiously, this doesn't seem to faze four of the guests, who decide that the risks are worth it, and that the ends justify the means. The one guest who actually does complete Stauf's requirements asks for her wish (to be young again)... and gets melted by a puddle of acid that Stauf spits instead. Not exactly wish fulfillment there.
- Bookcase Passage: Or, rather, a plant passage, a bathtub drain passage, a weird warp-through-a-floor-panel-and-Stauf's-head passage... The 11th Hour played it straighter as Carl was shown walking through hidden passages.
- Bowdlerise: The CD-i version of The 7th Guest changed the spiders on the front door's puzzle into worms for no discernible reason.
- Chess Motifs: Several puzzles in both The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour utilize chess pieces, usually requiring the player to swap the white and black pieces' positions.
- Claustrophobia: The basement labyrinth. If you've got a fear of small enclosed places, it borders on horror. Bonus terror comes from Stauf's commentary whenever you hit a dead end.
Stauf: Feeling... lonely?
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Brian Dutton.
- Dead All Along: Arguably everyone, but especially Ego.
- Dead to Begin With: The entirety of The 7th Guest takes place after the depicted events have already occurred.
- Deal with the Devil:
- Definitely Stauf, and arguably Julia. Not so much for Martine, Edward and Brian, but not for lack of trying.
- Robin in The 11th Hour.
- Death Amnesia
- The Ditz: Elinor Knox.
- Door to Before: The clue book in the library can teleport you back to the last puzzle that you visited after giving you a hint on how to solve it.
- The Dragon: Julia becomes one to Stauf.
- Dull Surprise: Carl in The 11th Hour, most of the time
- Enfant Terrible: Marie in The 11th Hour, conceived from the rape of Eileen by the Genius Loci.
- Fan Disservice: Both games contain rather squicky sexual encounters: Martine and Edward in The 7th Guest, and Carl and Marie/Stauf in The 11th Hour. Carl and Robin can count too, depending on how you feel about either character. The hint book for The 11th Hour included the complete script for the cut-scenes, including a love scene between two characters that didn't make it into the game.
- Fan Sequel: A project to make a third game titled The 13th Doll is apparently still ongoing, even though it has been more than fifteen years since the release of the first game. This is a link to their site.
- Dedicated bunch!
- Fate Worse Than Death: While fun is different for everyone, being trapped in the strange mansion forever and having his soul occasionally chewed on by Stauf is probably not particularly fun for Tad/Ego.
- Featureless Protagonist: Averted: while the player doesn't know anything about Ego until the very end, this is because of Ego's own amnesia. We learn that he's actually Tad as soon as he does.
- Femme Fatale: Martine Burden.
- Fifteen Puzzle: The infamous bedroom mirror. The grate puzzle in the first game also counts, but that one is significantly easier.
- Full Motion Video
- Genius Loci: Stauf Manor itself. Say it with me now: "There are clues throughout this house as to what must be done. The house... is alive with clues."
- Ghost Amnesia
- Gotta Catch Them All: It's possible that the whole reason for Stauf's game was that he needed one more soul in order to level up to something even worse.
- The Great Depression: The whole reason Stauf makes a Deal with the Devil is because he's fallen on such hard times.
- Guide Dang It
- Guilt Based Gaming: COME BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!
- Heroic Sacrifice: Hamilton Temple, although it turned out to be somewhat senseless.
- Hide Your Children:
- Inverted; Tad is in several cut scenes in the game, and he's eventually killed and eaten by Stauf.
- Stauf makes toys that carry some kind of fatal virus, which in turn allows him to eat the souls of the infected children.
- Hint System: The library book in the first game, Carl's GameBook in the sequel.
- Hurricane of Puns: Stauf is all about this, but a moment in The 11th Hour when the evil ghosts decide to kill dumb, hapless Chuck sticks out.
Julia: "How about... a Chuck roast?"
- Identity Amnesia: See Amnesiac Hero above.
- Infinite Flashlight: The one Carl carries around.
- Ironic Nursery Tune
- Kick the Dog: Brian, Edward and Julia.
- Large Ham: Pretty much all of the The 7th Guest cast seem to have made a bet to see who could overact the most. Classically trained actor Robert Hirschbeck, as Stauf, most likely won that bet. He looks and sounds like he's having the time of his life with every single line.
- Late to the Party
- Locked Doors: The game is built entirely around solving puzzles in order to open them.
- Monster Clown: "Red ballooooooon!"
- Nasty Party: This is how Stauf lured the six adult victims into his manor house in The 7th Guest.
- Ontological Mystery
- Painting the Medium: Lots of The 7th Guest boxes show up throughout The 11th Hour, and a The 7th Guest disc is even the solution to a Fetch Quest. Samantha also uses footage from the game as security footage of Stauf Manor.
- The Plague: The fatal virus spread by Stauf's toys.
- Recurring Riff: "The Game"; could be called a Leitmotif if you consider it the Stauf Manor's theme song. Oh, and you just lost. Sorry.
- Red Herring: You really think that's Stauf's skeleton hanging out in the upstairs bathroom?
- Revenue Enhancing Devices: Averted: complimentary to the iOS port, Trilobyte have also released an interactive Book of Secrets app to help players through the trickier puzzles; however, it's free.
- The Microscope puzzle, however, didn't make it into the port, and is instead being offered as a stand-alone app designed specifically for iOS, for additional charge.
- Scare Chord
- Schmuck Bait: Marie being a choice at the end of The 11th Hour.
- Sealed Evil in a Duel: Inverted: Ego is freed from his circumstances only when the player beats the game properly.
- Series Continuity Error: All involving Stauf Manor. The first game clearly placed it by itself at the edge of a precipice; The 11th Hour manages to screw this up twice: the house is situated in a large field of grass up from a gated fence with some trees nearby in live action footage, while it's out in the middle of nowhere on a large dirt plain during the CG cutscenes. Perhaps the "house on a precipice" is meant to be metaphor that the developers liked better as box art, but it was also included in CG cutscenes in The 11th Hour for some reason.
- In The 7th Guest, all of the backgrounds and shots of the house were pre-rendered CGI, with the actors performing in front of a green screen. This allowed them to make the outside of the house look however they wanted. In The 11th Hour though, because they filmed all the cutscenes movie-style, they used the actual Nunan House (the manor house that Stauf's mansion is based on) for the exterior shots.
- More of a Retcon, but the toyroom puzzle in The 7th Guest implies that the house itself is already a ruin by the time of the first game. In the sequel, it's obviously intact.
- Set Piece Puzzle: Every room in the house has one.
- Significant Anagram: "Stauf" for "Faust", which is the solution to the train puzzle in the second game. Also, the Toy Block Puzzle, as well as most of the Fetch Quest clues in The 11th Hour.
- Solve the Soup Cans: Starting with the Trope Namer (the soup cans puzzle in the pantry), The 7th Guest sets up the fact that the puzzles are going to be anywhere from difficult to mind-numbingly frustrating as early as possible. It lives up to this promise with several puzzles throughout the game, although which puzzles may be subjective. Thankfully, the eponymous puzzle can now be brute-forced with an anagram engine. Although every puzzle every puzzle but one can be skipped with no ill consequences, the game wants you to think overusing the hint-book could mess up the game. But the only consequence is being unable to see the cutscene that plays after the puzzle you're on.
- Songs in the Key of Lock
- Sounding It Out: Ego will frequently comment on the status of any given puzzle, as a means of providing the player with a clue regarding the solution. For example:
Two skulls and two stones... The rest is just icing.
- Stage Magician: Hamilton Temple.
- Stock Puzzle:
- Tomato Surprise:
- Tomato in the Mirror, in fact.
- Unwinnable By Mistake: The mirror puzzle in The 11th Hour can (and will) start out unwinnable 50% of the time. The fact that it's a slider puzzle is already irritating enough to begin with.
- Similarly, the Stauf Mansion picture puzzle on the second floor in The 7th Guest can also start off unwinnable, and the only way to know for certain is to try and get all 9 pieces to be identical. Its tendency to crash the game either during the puzzle or shortly afterwards when playing on windows 95 or newer didn't help matters, either.
- On more modern systems (i.e. anything clocked faster than 66MHz or so), the microscope puzzle is impossible in the original game. This is because the computer's turn is calculated based on clockspeed. The faster your machine is, the more time it gets to pick out an ideal move. It will only make the best possible moves on faster systems as a result. Half of the AI games, including the Honeycomb game, which is a clone, also suffer from this in the second game. Fortunately this particular bug was addressed in the seperate handheld app.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Samantha.
- Woman in White: One shows up in The 7th Guest from time to time.
- World of Ham: Everyone, but no one more than Stauf.
- You Wake Up in a Room: The first game starts out this way.
- Your Cheating Heart: Edward Knox cheats on his wife Eleanor with Martine.
No one knows what happened next. There's no one left to say.