Old Man Stauf built a house, and filled it with his toys
Six guests were invited one night, their screams the only noise
Blood inside the library, blood right up the hall
Dripping down the attic stairs - hey guests, try not to fall
Nobody came out that night, not one was ever seen
But Old Man Stauf is waiting there - crazy, sick, AND MEAN!
~ Traditional children's rhyme
The story behind the 1993 horror-themed puzzle game The 7th Guest begins 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; after carving an identical doll the next day, Stauf offers it to a local barkeep in exchange for room and board. When his dolls become a high-demand item, Stauf creates more toys based on his visions and becomes a successful toy maker.Some time later, a mysterious illness kills many of the children who owned Stauf's toys. Following these deaths, Stauf builds a remote mansion and retires from society. Long after no one knows for sure if Stauf still lives, he invites six guests to a dinner party. Stauf promises that whoever solves all of the puzzles in the mansion will have their dearest wishes granted. The puzzles themselves serve as a means to an end, though — they become clues to what Stauf wants and what he wants the guests to do for him.The player controls an unremarkable amnesiac who wakes up in Stauf's mansion (the setting for the entire game) and tries to figure out how he ended up there. While this character wanders the mansion and solves logic puzzles (some of them suspiciouslyillogical) to advance the story, Stauf remains an ever-present menace by taunting the amnesiac with clues and expressing displeasure when a puzzle gets solved.The 7th Guest made extensive use of CD-ROM technology; as one of the first games to do so, it gained a reputation as a technical marvel in its day. Critics and fans considered the prerendered CGI graphics and Full Motion Video as state of the art for a videogame, and computer manufacturers frequently used the game to show off the capabilities of a CD-ROM drive. 7th Guest has a fairly complex plot sitting underneath all the technical wizardy and its non-linear gameplay, but without a FAQ of some kind that details how to trigger events in a logical progression, a player could conclude that the game doesn't have much of a plot at all. For players who need help or simply cannot solve a particular puzzle, the game offers a hint book in the library of the house. This book offers clues about how to solve the puzzle until used for a third time (when it completes the puzzle for the player so they can continue the game). While the game's manual says "consequences" could occur for using the hint book, a player can use it without penalty for all but the last puzzle.The sequel to 7th Guest, The 11th Hour (1995), takes place sixty years after the events of the first game: after reporter Carl Denning travels to Stauf Manor to look for his lost producer, he becomes yet another victim of Stauf's wicked schemes. 11th Hour plays practically the same as its predecessor: wander the mansion, solve puzzles, and watch scenes that advance the plot.Another planned sequel — The Collector, which would have featured Stauf as a museum curator — vanished off the map after developer Trilobyte went out of business. A Gaiden Game to the series, Uncle Henry's Playhouse, compiled puzzles from The 7th Guest, The 11th Hour, and Clandestiny. Trilobyte only sold Playhouse (its last game before its initial closure) through mail-order; it only sold twenty-seven copies in the US and 176 total copies worldwide.More than fifteen years after the original game's release, Trilobyte Games rose from the grave and ported 7th Guest and Rob Landeros' Interactive Movie meets Psychoanalysis Session Tender Loving Care to the Apple iOS. 11th Hour has not yet seen a release on the new platform, sadly. (See Technology Marches On below.)In March 2013, Trilobyte co-founder Charlie McHenry announced a new sequel, with plans for a release across multiple platforms in 2014. In an attempt to secure funding for the sequel (titled The 7th Guest 3: The Collector), Trilobye kicked off a Kickstarter project on Halloween 2013.
The 7th Guest and its sequels provides examples of:
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.
Beat Still, My Heart: The Heart Puzzle is based around this. Ironically though, the heart itself does not beat at all after you click on it.
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.
Book Ends: The 11th Hour opens with Carl watching a report talking about Robin's disappearance. If the player selects the Robin ending, another television report closes out the game, covering Carl's death following their recent marriage, leaving everything to Robin.
Again in the first game. It starts and ends with a book that Ego reads in the library.
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.
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.
Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: After Carl pays Stauf to see what's behind the final door and sees Robin, she talks about how glad she is to see him, and then says that she loves him in a very restrained fashion.
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.
How We Got Here: The cutscenes in 7th Guest gradually reveal what happened to the guests, while those in 11th Hour mainly revolve around showing Robin's investigation prior to Carl's arrival. Only a few cutscenes in the latter occur in the present time.
Killer App: Until Myst came along, this game often came bundled with CD-ROM drives.
Large Ham: Pretty much all of 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.
Multiple Endings: The 11th Hour has three, dictated by a single choice Carl makes in the finale — Who does he side with? Robin, Marie, or Samantha?
Ending #1 has him choose Marie, purely because she claims to be willing to do whatever he wants. The two end up in bed together before she reveals that surprise, she and Stauf are one and the same! Oh, and she/he's eating his ribs.
In Ending #2, he decides to go to Samantha. Touching the screen she's displayed on teleports him out of the Manor, and they watch it burn together.
Ending #3 involves saving Robin, just like he set out to do... only to wind up dead thanks to the deal she struck with Stauf. Robin watches a report on his death which mentions the two of them got married, making her sole head of the Stauf Network.
Nasty Party: This is how Stauf lured the six adult victims into his manor house in 7th Guest.
Once More with Clarity: Once you solve the final puzzle of a chapter of 11th Hour, all of your collected cutscenes play back-to-back and include new footage to provide additional context to what you already saw before.
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: There are two in The 7th Guest. One is a Sting that accentuates some of the scarier moments in the game (e.g. hitting a dead end in the labyrinth). The other is composed right into the background music of the labyrinth: near the end of the minimalist and unsettling track, a violin solo starts playing, only to be interrupted by what sounds like someone pounding random keys on a piano. Possibly jarring the first time hearing it, but not so much subsequently since you know when it occurs.
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.
More of a Retcon, but the toyroom puzzle in 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.
On top of that, in the first game you can clearly see trees through the windows in the kitchen, even though none are present on the cliff.
Solve the Soup Cans: Starting with the Trope Namer — the soup cans puzzle in the pantry — 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.
Arguably averted, though, because 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, and that's it.
The Plague: The fatal virus spread by Stauf's toys.
Technology Marches On: The reason why 11th Hour has not yet shown up on iOS, and why the Microscope puzzle was left out of the iOS version of 7th Guest.
The Microscope puzzle uses AI to play a game of Ataxx with the player, and you must beat it to proceed. Thanks to processing advances since the initial PC release, it's nigh impossible for a human to beat now. The game AI allots itself a set amount of time to perform a search tree for its most optimal move, then after a preset delay, picks the best move it's found by then. A really good processor back in 1993 ran about 40-60 MHz. They have since become 50 times faster with a single core, and as a result the Ataxx AI can think far, far, far more ahead in the same amount of delay. However, since it was only one game, in controlling only one (relatively minor) room of the house, excising it for the iOS release wasn't that big of a deal.
In fact, even if it is solved, there's no rewarding cutscene to watch, unlike many of the others.
The same unfortunately can't be said for Eleventh Hour, which had several puzzles where you were locked in a "duel with Stauf," including the final puzzle of the game, which was essentially playing a game of Pente with the AI. Because of that, the developers will need to find another way to limit the possible moves analyzed before the game can be released.
Truth In Televison: Those who were born before or in the '90s might notice that the Gamebook is actually a type of "pocket computer". They had very basic functions similar to what would become cell phones and PD As, but weren't as popular as those devices back then. In fact, some models even had wireless connectivity with computers, which at least partially explains how Samantha is able to broadcast information to the Gamebook.
Unwinnable by Mistake: The mirror puzzle in 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 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.