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 Seventh 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; because of this
, Stauf decides to build a remote mansion
and retire 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 get his or her dearest wishes granted. The puzzles themselves are more of a means to an end, though — they serve as 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 why he came to the mansion in the first place. While this character wanders the mansion and solves logic puzzles — some suspiciously illogical
logic puzzles — 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 Seventh Guest
made extensive use of CD-ROM technology, and as one of the first games to do so, it became known 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; computer manufacturers frequently used the game to show off the capabilities of a CD-ROM drive. Seventh 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
so the player 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 Seventh Guest
, The Eleventh 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. Eleventh 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 — seems to have vanished off the map
. A Gaiden Game
to the series, Uncle Henry's Playhouse
, compiles puzzles from The Seventh Guest
, The Eleventh Hour
, and Clandestiny
; developer Trilobyte only sold Playhouse
(its last game before shutting down) through mail-order, and even then, 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 both The Seventh Guest
and Eleventh Hour
to the Apple iOS.
In March 2013, Trilobyte co-founder Charlie McHenry announced that a new sequel is in development
, shooting for a release some time in 2014.
The Seventh Guest and its sequels provides examples of:
- AFGNCAAP: 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.
- 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... 11th Hour played it straighter as Carl was shown walking through hidden passages.
- Bowdlerise: The CD-i version of 7th Guest changed the spiders on the front door's puzzle into worms for no discernable reason.
- Chess Motifs: Several puzzles in both 7th Guest and 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.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Brian Dutton.
- Deal with the Devil: Definitely Stauf, and arguably Julia. Not so much for Martine, Edward and Brian, but not for lack of trying.
- Dead All Along: Arguably everyone, but especially Ego.
- Dead to Begin With: The entirety of 7th Guest takes place after the depicted events have already occurred.
- 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.
- Death Amnesia
- 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, concieved 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.
- 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.
- Femme Fatale: Martine Burden.
- Fifteen Puzzle
- 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 11th Hour when the evil ghosts decide to kill dumb, hapless Chuck sticks out.
Julia: "How about... a Chuck roast?"
Stauf: "A Chuck steak!"
Soup-Based Skull: "Chuck 'im into the soup!"
- Identity Amnesia: See Amnesiac Hero above.
- Infinite Flashlight: The one Carl carries around.
- Ironic Nursery Tune
- Kick the Dog: Brian, Edward and Julia.
- 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.
- Late to the Tragedy
- Locked Doors: The game is built entirely around solving puzzles in order to open them.
- Monster Clown: "Red ballooooooon!"
- 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?
- Nasty Party: This is how Stauf lured the six adult victims into his manor house in 7th Guest.
- Ontological Mystery
- Recurring Riff: "The Game"; could be called a Leitmotif if you consider it the Stauf Manor's theme song.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 be brute-forced with an anagram engine.
- The puzzle where the player is forced to play Reversi with Stauf's virus has an eerily good AI.
- It's nigh impossible for a human to beat now. That game allots itself a set amount of time to perform a search tree for its most optimal move, then cuts and picks the best one 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 Reversi AI can think several more moves ahead. Heaven forbid this game discovers CUDA or something.
- 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. It... doesn't, for some reason.
- Stage Magician: Hamilton Temple.
- Stock Puzzle
- The Plague: The fatal virus spread by Stauf's toys.
- Tomato Surprise
- 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.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Samantha.
- Woman in White: One shows up in 7th Guest from time to time.
- World of Ham: Everyone, but no one more than Stauf.
- Vaporware: The 3DO version of 11th Hour, as well as the second sequel, The Collector.
- You Wake Up in a Room: The first game starts out this way.
- Your Cheating Heart: Edward Knox
No one knows what happened next. There's no one left to say.
But if you should see Old Man Stauf, get on your knees and pray.