Sometimes rereleased games are like old houses – they have a tendency to creak and wobble and may bring up great feelings of nostalgia, but leave one feeling happier to have something new. On the other hand, sometimes, rereleased games are, also just like old houses, spectacularly wonderful – perhaps quaint but thoroughly enjoyable.
Recently released to Steam for both PC and Mac is The 11th Hour, the sequel to The 7th Guest. The former has been on Steam for a while, and now with the release of the second Stauf title, they can both be had for one low price.
While The 7th Guest remains nearly as wonderful now as it did then (our iOS review of it as a standalone is still available), The 11th Hour, which wasn’t as good a game in the first place, leaves something to be desired. Itshould also be noted that the game has something of a tortuous history (completely Google-able elsewhere).
When it was first released, The 11th Hour didn’t play all that well on my computer. I didn’t have a high-powered machine then and suffered through some moments which felt as though they ought to run slightly more quickly because I thought I was at fault (I experienced the same frustration with Wing Commander and its sequels). Some of these moments (most notably the look of the opening menus and walking around the house) still seem just as slow and awkward today. What has gotten more awkward about the game are the full motion video sequences which feel incredibly dated (as The 7th Guest doesn’t cut away from the in-house action to show other scenes it doesn’t suffer from this issue).
Another problem with the game is its incredible reliance on anagrams. Multiple puzzles within The 11th Hour are anagrams, requiring you to decode the word/phrase and then find the appropriate object and click. Puzzle games can always have a puzzle here or there that some may dislike, but by repeatedly using anagrams, The 11th Hour is an instant turnoff in its entirety for anyone who is not a fan of that particular breed of puzzle. In general, the puzzles here are more difficult than in its predecessor, but repeatedly using the same type of puzzle wears thin.
Let us, however, take a step back. These two games tell us (part of) the story of Henry Stauf, a Faustian toymaker who murders/causes others to murder more than once. The games are, as stated, puzzle titles, but not straight up puzzles games. These two are horror-based puzzle games which, even if they aren’t new releases, are still not for the younger set. I will not be spoiling any of the story here, part of the fun of playing them both is having that narrative unfold.
In the original game you play as some nameless, formless, entity, while in the second you play as a specific human character whom Stauf repeatedly taunts. That is fine (even if the taunts get repetitive). What doesn’t work is whenthe human character, in order to traverse secret passageways, magically starts to float through the air – either he is corporeal or he isn’t.
I really do not wish to harp on all the faults of The 11th Hour, it is just that The 7th Guest is a great game, and remains a great game all these years later, The 11th Hour was never as good a game and shows its age far more than its predecessor. It is unquestionably worth it, however, to pick up the combined Steam package as opposed to avoiding The 11th Hour altogether.
Recently, the reformed Trilobyte announced a Kickstarter campaign to (finally) make the long-rumored, oft-discussed, much wished-for The 7th Guest 3: The Collector. As of this writing, they are nearing $56,000 on a goal of $435,000.
Even with all the creaking that takes place in The 11th Hour, I sincerely hope that Trilobyte gets to their goal for the Kickstarter as I very much want to see what happens with Henry Stauf and what the folks behind it could do with the tale today.
Together, The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour represent a type of game we don’t really see all that much (particularly today) and a genre which deserves to be more fully explored. The player may not have very much choice about what takes place here in terms of plot, but both games do a brilliant job at putting the player in the midst of the action. There is a cleverness to them that is all too often lacking in games, and even when things don’t work, there is a clear amount of effort and thought and care that went into making them and that does shine through.
The 7th Guest is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Realistic Violence.
The 11th Hour is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Realistic Violence, Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes.