The 7th Guest was an innovative CD-ROM game that released all the way back in 1993 and tasked the player with exploring a mysterious mansion and solving a sequence of puzzles to uncover the truth about what had happened there. Lauded for its blend of live action cutscenes and head-scratching challenges it heralded the shift to disc-based media and helped shape the gaming landscape we’ve got to today. When we heard the game was being remade, and in VR, it felt like it would be a perfect fit for the newest gaming format. Is it possible that history will repeat itself and Vertigo Games have delivered a great reason to get invested in virtual reality tech?
The 7th Guest VR’s story is the same as the original release, though for those who’ve never experienced it you play as a being exploring the abandoned home of Henry Stauf – an acclaimed toymaker who disappeared under a cloud several years before. Not only did Stauf vanish, so did six other guests who were invited for a night at the spawling mansion, and by exploring the dusty rooms and corridors you try and uncover their fate. Not is all as it seems though, and progress from room to room is blocked by fiendish puzzles of Henry’s design. Can you wrap your brain around the clues and mechanisms and determine the fates of those that came before? Make it from the ground floor to the attic and you’ll be in with a shout of finding out what Stauf’s grand plan was, as well as experiencing the full majesty of the house.
You approach the mysteries through first person exploration of the Stauf mansion using the VR Sense Controllers as your left and right hands. Locomotion is either free movement of teleportation depending on your VR experience level, and as you’d expect there are a number of options to work with to bring about the most comfortable game possible. Setting those up are important as The 7th Guest VR is the type of title where you’ll lose track of time and spend hours poring over every little detail in a room in case it’s a clue. Equipped with a spectral lantern in your right hand that reveals the past and repairs broken objects; and a Ouija board map/guide in your left, there are 17 rooms to visit and solve, each with accompanying scenes that play out the events of the fateful night all those years ago. These are a joy to watch by the way, with real life actors getting into their roles and really selling the ghostly echoes vibe that’s being given off.
The central staircase in the mansion acts as a sort of hub between all the rooms, with each feeling a little like an escape room setup when you enter them… though without any jeopardy and the ability to leave at any time. The 7th Guest VR might seem like a horror game on the surface, and it is spooky at times, though is far from actually scary and doesn’t really push beyond a PG rating. In fact it’s hard to think of a single scenario in the game that prompts a fail state, although the very last challenge can be lost. Most times though it’s a case of entering a room, absorbing the information available from picking up objects and using a bit of logical thinking to understand what’s required. Usually there are 2 or 3 smaller puzzles that link to solving the main room one, and your spectral lamp will come in very handy to show up ghostly clues drawn on walls and other surfaces. If you get stuck you can refer to the Ouija for clues, and even spend collected coins to solve the riddle on your behalf if it’s truly baffling.
Getting the game to give you the solution isn’t needed though because the puzzles are well enough designed that you follow the breadcrumbs and visual indicators. If you look at a contraption and immediately say to yourself “aha! I know what to do“, but it doesn’t let you, then you probably have to solve another section first. Very rarely do you end up stuck, and even if you’ve not picked up on the visual info, reading a summary of the requirements from the Ouija will set you straight. That’s a point I think could have been made clearer in the early stages of The 7th Guest VR – telling you that the board will give you an overview of the different items in the room and a cryptic clue for each as a starting point. Successfully navigate what’s needed and the room will freshen up, becoming a well maintained version of the dusty, cobweb filled, rundown area you were in before. Once complete, time moves on in the house and opens up more rooms to tackle, and slightly more demanding riddles to decipher.
Visually The 7th Guest VR is one of the best virtual reality titles I think I’ve played. The sense of place and detail in the puzzles is excellent, and the fidelity of the PSVR2 really helps. Sure, it’s not a completely cluttered environment with accurate particle physics, but it does exactly what it needs to sell itself. From a distance the real life actors look genuinely part of the scene, though start to become angular if you get too up close and personal with them. The audio is good too with appropriate atmosphere generated without it being distracting. The only real issue I have is the differentiation between sitting and standing settings. For those who want to sit (or have no choice) you’ll find this very frustrating as the viewing height it sets the game at is too low, no matter how many times you recalibrate. It has the effect that you can’t see some of the puzzle surfaces, or struggle to pick up objects unless you stand up… defeating the purpose of a sitting option. There’s no point setting it to standing either to try and get around it, that just puts you low down too. It also crashed out just after viewing the last cutscene as well, which didn’t help things.
Regardless of minor technical hiccups, The 7th Guest VR is a delightful puzzle focused romp that does exactly what VR titles do best – put you front and centre in an environment you are meant to manipulate as much as observe. You feel a real part of the story and that integration spreads to others you might have watching in the same room. With hidden coins to find, pictures to discover and Henry’s backstory to unlock, there’s a decent amount of content to detract from the central conceit, and even with these it won’t outstay its welcome, clocking in at around 6 hours or so… depending on how fast your mind’s working when you play. It’s a very solid, highly immersive and lovely looking game, and one that I’d heartily recommend all VR owners take a tour of.
A PSVR2 review copy of The 7th Guest VR was provided by Vertigo Games PR team, and it’s out now on PC and PlayStation for around £30.
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