Let's rewind time back to 1993. You're sitting at your brand new (or Frankstein monster of upgraded components) DOS-based PC staring at this newfangled CD-ROM drive that you paid an insane premium for, wondering what in the world to do with it aside from listen to your DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince CD on repeat while marveling at just how cool your acid washed jeans were. One thing lead to another and eventually you found yourself staring at the shelf of CD-ROM PC games at the local Egghead Software trying to rationalize the $79.95 price tag. You haven't played a CD-ROM-based game before, and decide to give it a try.

After jumping through all the hoops that installing the game required, you find yourself knee-deep in one of the most impressive things you've ever seen your computer do: Display full motion video and offer a shockingly immersive atmosphere that your previous disk-based games couldn't even begin to touch. You then proceed to spend the rest of the day glued to your computer, endlessly attempting to figure out the puzzles the game contained within.

If you have similar memories of playing these classic CD-ROM based games of the early 90's, this is likely where you can stop reading this review. The 7th Guest [$2.99 / HD] offers the same awesome blast from the past as Myst [$4.99 / Free], and even hearing the music of the opening sequence will be more than worth the three bucks to you. If The 7th Guest was before your time, or you're not the kind of person to mash the download button for the sake of nostalgia, read on...

The 7th Guest is set in a mysterious mansion owned and operated by Henry Stauf, a drifter turned toy-maker, then puzzle maker, then creepy mansion builder thanks to a series of visions he experienced and acted on. I'm reluctant to get too involved in discussing the story of the game, because the way it is revealed through sets of ghostly cut scenes and puzzles is a huge part of the experience. You play as Ego, an amnesiac who finds himself at the mansion, traveling from room to room, solving various puzzles. These puzzles range from incredibly difficult word games, chess-based games, and other logic games.

What you will get out of The 7th Guest largely depends on just how much you rely on outside resources for solving the puzzles. Back in the glory days of CD-ROM gaming, you weren't instantly able to find the solution to any puzzle like you can now thanks to the wonders of Google. You were forced to utilize the in-game hint system, which amounted to a cryptic book found in the library that offers vague hints on how to complete puzzles. If you cheat to find (or remember) the solutions to these puzzles, you'll likely be able to complete the entire game before you know it. However, if you have the gumption to sit down and figure out the puzzles on your own, you'll be in for hours and hours of fun (or frustration).

The game is controlled via a curious conglomeration of the classic mouse pointer the game was originally designed for and the touch interface of iOS devices. When you touch the screen, the pointer appears near your finger. Dragging around and hovering the cursor over things reveals where you can go, where puzzles are, and where paranormal events you can trigger in the house are. "Clicking" is accomplished by lifting your finger off the screen. Whatever you had the pointer hovering over gets "clicked" which triggers everything from movement to selecting puzzle pieces inside of the puzzles.

The control scheme works, but feels far from ideal. The game was originally designed for the precision of a mouse pointer, so changing everything over to being touch sensitive without this workaround would likely require a complete redo of most of the game. In my play through, I didn't come across anything that was impossible to do with this control scheme, but many of the puzzles (especially the more intricate ones) can be downright irritating to complete. On the iPad, these controls work a little bit better thanks to the increased screen real estate, but they still aren't great. The good news is, even though the controls are annoying at times, the game runs substantially faster on the iPhone than it ever did on any other platform I've played it on.

One of the first puzzles you come across is a puzzle where you must divide up a cake evenly. I clearly remember that puzzle on my ancient computer taking forever to complete, because each clip came with its associated sound clip and animation that stuttered across the screen of my PC. On the iPhone, all of these animations are fast and silky smooth. Moving about the mansion is the same way, allowing you to practically run from one side to the other. If it wasn't for the crazy control scheme, this would be the best version of The 7th Guest yet.

As you play the game more, other issues rear their ugly heads. Like many retro ports that have made their way to the App Store, the best part about The 7th Guest is that it's such a faithful port. Consequently, this is also its biggest flaw as gaming has moved forward quite a bit since then, and the lack of any kind of modern gameplay conventions might turn off new players. For instance, the game lacks any kind of undo function in puzzles, forcing you to commit to every move you make, or reloading from your last save if you made a mistake.

Also, the menu system persists from the PC game, forcing you to navigate it with the odd cursor system, even forcing you to type out the names of your game saves with the virtual mouse pointer instead of the native iOS keyboard. The game also seems to have issues with looping music too, leaving you to complete puzzles in silence (aside from voices) once the track that is playing completes.

None of these things stopped me from having fun playing through The 7th Guest, but I would exercise caution if you have no history with and/or no nostalgia for the game. The 7th Guest is a classic early 90's CD-ROM game that still plays exactly like an early 90's CD-ROM game. While I totally appreciate that this port exists, I just wish a little more care was put in to making it into a good iOS game that would appeal to a broader audience to get more people interested in series, instead of merely a good game that runs on the iOS platform that seems catered specifically to lovers of the original.

App Store Links:

TouchArcade Rating

  • Maikelg

    Oh, how I hated this cursed game for it's frustrating puzzles, yet it's sooo tempting to play it again!

    • http://twitter.com/drelbs Rob Wilson

      Feeling... lonely?

      • 7th Guest

        Forever Alone.

  • Geb

    You forgot the paragraph where you spend two hours beating your head against the monitor, trying to coax enough memory out of your computer by tweaking himem.sys - ah good times. It's a fantastic game though πŸ˜‰

    • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

      the 1st time i played it was on an oooold 386, with an awesooome 2x cd-rom drive.......
      and it looked fantastic back then.. and it still plays terrific nowadays... my original cd-rom is kept in a safe place, alongside my original 11th hour discs..

  • Ouisch

    While the controls don't sound absolutely ideal, I approve if it means they got to keep the skeleton hand pointer in the game.

  • Thaurin

    Soup's on! Haha, I so need to get this game. When will we see 11th Hour??

  • Idontlikethispostsystem

    7th guest is far to be the first CD ROM game, I think it's Cyan Cosmic Osmos or more probably The Manhole that's been the first CD-ROM game (both in 1989), a long time before 7th guest (1993) and first cd console a sega console (1993?).

    • Anonymous

      That would be a Sega Mega Drive (UK) or Sega CD (US) you are thinking of, and technically it was released in 91. Cant wait for Sega to port Sewer Shark, or Night Trap to the iOS. FMV for the win!

      I'm only half kidding actually, I'd love to see those again, not sure Night Trap would get past the Jobsian app store guidelines though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Seames/100000586085762 Joshua Seames

    Or adjusting your Autoexec.bat and config.sys files? πŸ˜‰ While I look back fondly at those days, I'm sooo glad it's much easier to just play the damn game now.

  • Sunrun

    Move speed is way too fast - it seems they haven't rate-limited how quickly the frames get drawn to the screen. Ruins the atmosphere of the original.

    • Ouisch

      Darn, that is true then.

      I'd heard rumblings about that from some people that picked it up when it released in AUS/NZ.

      I wouldn't honestly be surprised if it was a design decision, ie, they thought the slow movement from the original would seem like it was crawling to gamers today. However, I totally agree that it would ruin the atmosphere and hope it can be fixed in a patch.

      • Sunrun

        Yeah, I'm in Australia so I've had a chance to give it a proper play already.

        It really messes up the pacing of the game. Some transitions are so quick that it feels very unnatural and other transitions or animations which are linked to sound end within a second and the sound keeps going for 5 seconds afterwards. In fact they happen so quickly that you don't even get to see what really happened. Two examples which I immediately ran into were the hands pushing through the painting at the top of the main stairs, and the warping as you enter the first bedroom.

        They really need to fix this, it kills the pace and feel of the game. Instead of feeling like you're actually there creeping around a scary house, you're darting from one side to another at a speed impossible for a human.

        If it was intentional, it was a shockingly bad decision.

        They need to add an option in the iPod/iPad/iPhone Settings area to allow you to switch between original speed and this hyper speed (and the default setting should be on the original game speed!). That way people will experience the game how it was intended to be with the proper pacing and atmosphere, while people will have the option to switch to the fast speed if they want to.

      • http://twitter.com/jfricker John Fricker

        Hi - I'm the lead dev.

        That speed thing doesn't sound right at all. I wish I could see what you are seeing. I sure tried to keep this as true to the original as possible.

      • Ouisch

        Hi John,

        Yeah, in my opinion it almost seems like a debug flag that was left on or something (to make testing go a bit quicker).

        Basically all of the transition/puzzle/cursor animations play at double (or greater) speed, while all of the FMV plays perfectly normally. As Sunrun brought up above, it almost looks like it could be intentional until you get to some of the environmental effects like the hands pushing through the painting. These whip by while the environmental sound effect plays at normal speed, so after seeing < 1 sec of the hands coming out of the painting, you're forced to stare at the blank wall and listen to 10 seconds of the music for that event. The movement of the cursor (beckoning/eyeball rolling/etc) is also at least at double speed compared to the old game.

        I'm running the game on iOS 4.2.1 on a stock iPhone 3GS if it helps.

      • CDS85

        Mentioned this Trilobyte on their FB page and they have said the movement speed issue is a bug and will be fixed in a few weeks....

    • Scrooge

      Sorry, but I like the speed. And I did play the original.

      • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

        i remember the game running slooooooow as heck back then, but that's cause i used to play it on a 386, then the 11th on a pentium 100, which was a bit faster.
        playing it on my mac, they both run speedy, possibly cause the game is almost 20yo. as much as i enjoy the pace and atmosphere of the original, i also like the speed since it plays faster (i also remember skipping every move cut-scene to make a super fast move around the house, like in myst or some other abrupt 1st person puzzler)

  • http://twitter.com/sonofalink Dave L

    I agree with comments about the speed. Some of the animations just don't look right. Like the telescope animation looks more like a beating heart than what it was suppose to look like. Although on the other hand it's amazing to see it at that speed... I remember when I first got the game you could see it draw every picture until I upgraded my graphics card to one with more frame memory.

    The only other complaint I have is the lack of the opening title sequence with the thunder and the really nice string section!

    Other than that, I'm looking forward to beating this game for the 500 millionth time. The game was ahead of its time when it was released and I still love it to this day!

    • http://twitter.com/sonofalink Dave L

      Glad to see the speed issue is being worked on. Kudos to the developers, both old and new, on an awesome game! I wonder if the devs got to look at the old code, or if they just went head first into the port? Must have been fun!

  • chris

    wow, this brings back memories.. i bought this for my first real computer. at the time was consider high end.. oo you know P166 32megs of ram, 8meg video card 2 2 gig hard drives and i do not remember the cdrom speed i think 4 or 8x. i know the first cd burner i bought was 2x and i spent 800.00 on it. haha.. the one thing i remember about my first real computer the 166. i had to downgrade teh video card to a 2meg trident to get X windows to work in linux.. ooo yeah this was when you needed a 6 pack of beer to install linux. laughs.. times and computers have gotten much simpler to use. rock on. chris.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mboblett Matt Boblett

    I got this on launch day when it first came out, and I still have the second CD. The soundtrack has held up really well, and the songs from Team Fat are a lot of fun πŸ™‚

  • http://www.facebook.com/mboblett Matt Boblett

    The speed is definitely off, and I'm playing the iPhone version on 3GS. Here are the bugs I've encountered:
    - Page flips in the opening cinema are too fast; the music is actually getting clipped off early.
    - The opening cinema will actually allow my iPhone scree to fade and my phone to go to sleep. Um, pretty big boo-boo.
    - Movement is entirely too fast. The camera seems to zoom around and up the stairs. The hands in the picture are over in just a second; the audio at the end is definitely clipped off.
    - Ego's voice at the beginning is also too fast; "How did I get here? I remember...nothing." should have a longer pause between "remember" and "nothing".

  • Blades

    Kick freaking ass!!!

    This game had moments that scared the crap out of me when I was younger...lol. And the CD-Rom game is a pain to get running on modern computers. So I am really happy with this. And when the fix is issued, it will be perfect. The only thing better would be the Soundtrack "7th Guest Song" that was an Audio soundtrack on the original CD.