The 11th Hour

Review by Orb

Do any of you remember the Vincent Price classic The House on Haunted Hill? The 7th Guest's environment always reminded me a bit of walking through that house. Now what do gamemakers, dealing with the exact same environment, do to vary it and make it look fresh? Give it to a motorcycle club as an open house for the weekend. And that's exactly the condition you find the Stauf mansion in this sequel to The 7th Guest, and believe me, it works just fine.

You are Carl Denning, an investigative reporter for the television series "Cases Unsolved," and you have gone to the Stauf mansion to find your missing TV producer, Robin Morales, a woman you've been previously involved with. The story opens with news reports of her disappearance, occurring while she was investigating a series of bizarre murders and disappearances, and Carl receives a mysterious package containing a PDA that, when opened, shows a frightened Robin trapped in the Stauf mansion. Carl, of course, goes to the mansion to get to the bottom of the mystery, embroiling himself as well, and once the mansion is entered, the game becomes first-person, with you playing as Carl. Plot, usually a weak point in adventure gaming (especially in a straight puzzle-solving environment such as Jewels of the Oracle) is pretty darned good.

The 11th Hour has great FMV sequences, and the actors are definitely working professionals this time around. There were a few tracking problems with sound and video, but these were very minor. As I said above, the designers have very cleverly changed the look of the house itself, keeping the gameplay very fresh and really giving the game its own legs—you never once get the feeling of a rerun. There's a nice turn-around feature, time saving for backtracking, and a repeat of my favorite game cursor in the whole world, the beckoning skeletal hand. The PDA, called a "GameBook" here, serves up the FMV in little morsels as a reward for moving the action along, with (!) five full chapters after full portions are completed.

Now about the music. The first thing I want to know is where is my @#$%&@* music CD? The music to The 11th Hour is every bit as good, if not better than, The 7th Guest's. So what, no companion audio CD? Okay, okay, maybe you couldn't package it as it was already top-heavy, weighing in at four CDs (are we all looking forward to DVD or what?). The music was again created by "The Fat Man," and it's another fabulously spooky job. Sound and music both quite properly capture the feeling of being in a very creaky old house.

The game contains some fiendish AI puzzles, which cleverly outwit walkthrough writers everywhere, which may have been part of the plan. In other words, the player is forced to play the game and beat the program in most instances to get bits of plot, which works exceptionally well as the story is good enough that you actually care what happens next. It is well-designed, and it could just not have been done any other way. Stauf makes wry comments as you fumble around, but only if you miss the boat in what you click on or fail to solve a puzzle and it gets reset, so if he's laughing at you, you deserve it.

The weakest point of the game is a series of anagram puzzles, which force one to take out pencil and paper and get smart to figure it out (for all of those Pamela Anderson Lee types out there, that's the end without the eraser you need to be using there, honey). The game includes clues but no solves, a big change from The 7th Guest, but I felt the puzzles were much more original and entertaining so didn't mind one bit. I love AI but hate anagrams—if I wanted to do those, I'd just get a Games magazine subscription.

This is a much more sophisticated game in story and design, from the much improved acting to the oh-please-no-walkthrough-just-grow-up AI puzzles and no game solves feature.

(By the way, it looks like the bikers got in via the kitchen window—maybe someone should look into bolt locks for that.) The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Trilobyte
Publisher: Virgin
Release Date: 1995

Available for: DOS Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

PC:
486 66 MHz or faster
8 MB RAM
Local bus video
CD-ROM drive with minimum 300k per second transfer rate
Sound card with PCM sound
4 MB free HD space
MSCDEX 2.2 or higher
DOS 5.0 or higher or Win 95
Mouse

Mac:
Power Mac 80 MHz or faster
12 MB free RAM
Thousands of colors
4X ROM Drive
6 MB free HD space
System 7.5.3 or higher

Where to Find It

Playing Games 19.95
Gogamer 7.90



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