Last time I checked, none of the top games in the App Store’s adventure section were actually adventure games. (The Talking Justin Bieber Game? Really?) Believe it or not, a healthy selection of adventure games do continue to release for iOS on a regular basis—you just have to know what to look for. So here’s another Eye on iOS to give you a head start! In this installment we’re bringing you the scoop on a few high-nostalgia ports along with some newer indie offerings, so get those tapping fingers ready…
The 7th Guest
Trilobyte’s The 7th Guest, which originally released in 1993, was one of the first games to ship on CD and feature FMV sequences. It was also a precursor to what we’d now consider a “puzzle game,” with standalone puzzles ever so loosely integrated into the framing story. This format makes it especially suited to a handheld gaming system, since it should appeal not only to adventure gamers, but also to fans of modern puzzle games like Professor Layton.
The 7th Guest has an And Then There Were None-like premise: six strangers have been invited to the mansion of Henry Stauf, an eccentric toymaker whose one-of-a-kind creations were linked to a series of suspicious deaths several years before. The guests have been promised a reward if they stay the night. You—the seventh guest—can’t remember who you are or how you got there, but by the end of the night your own identity and the fate of all involved will become clear.
The fact that Stauf is a toymaker is really just an excuse to have puzzles scattered around his creepy house. When you first arrive at the mansion, only a few rooms are accessible, each containing a puzzle. As you solve these, additional rooms open up and live-action cutscenes illuminate the plot. The environments and puzzles are presented with prerendered 3D graphics that look pretty slick considering the vintage, and FMV characters are superimposed on top of the rendered backgrounds during cinematics. The technology was jaw-dropping in the game’s heyday and still gets the job done, with both the 3D and the FMV sequences holding up well in the iOS version.
The game’s menu, set up like a Ouija board, is navigated by dragging a cursor and releasing to “click.” As in many PC-to-mobile ports, getting the cursor in just the right place can be tricky. There are ten save slots but using them is a chore. You’re required to first select a number for your saved game and then enter a name. But you can only load saves by number, with the name never displaying and the interface providing no clues as to which slots even contain a saved game.
Luckily the mansion itself is simpler to navigate. Travel is node-based; tap at the edge of the screen to turn left or right and in the middle of the screen to move forward. A skeletal hand beckons in directions you can travel and wags a finger when you try to go somewhere you can’t. If you’re not sure what to do in a room, you can sweep your finger across the screen to look for hotspots—a skull with a bulging brain signifies a puzzle, a drama mask signals a cutscene, and chattering teeth represent other interactions such as entering a hidden passage. By stretching two fingers on the touch screen, you can fast-forward a video or voice line spoken by the main character or Stauf (who is watching you, invisibly, at all times).
The puzzles’ controls vary depending on what you need to do, and in several cases the hotspots are very small and precise. A few puzzles involve letters that are hard to read; fortunately you can magnify an area by double tapping. Tapping off to the side of the puzzle sometimes causes it to reset, which annoyed me in a few cases where the required hotspots were near the edge of the screen. All in all, though, the puzzles are playable and the developers have done an admirable job making the game work on a smaller platform. They removed a couple of puzzles out of necessity, which may cause confusion for the seasoned 7th Guest player but shouldn’t be noticeable to a newbie.
Though the puzzles are fairly easy, if you need help a book in the library provides hints to the puzzle you most recently tried to solve. After you’ve consulted the book you’re magically transported to the location of the most recent puzzle—helpful during the puzzle-solving process, not so much when the puzzle has already been completed. You can get two hints per puzzle; the third time you consult the book on a given puzzle, it’s solved for you automatically.
The live actors, who are obviously working against a green screen, give universally cheesy performances. This overacting injects The 7th Guest with an amusingly campy B-movie feel that feeds into the nostalgia of replaying a 1990s classic. The soundtrack—also somewhat campy, with catchy samba beats mixed into the spooky mood music—sounds just like I remember it. Screams, shrieks, and guttural growls are among the sound effects contributing to the mansion’s creepy atmosphere.
As far as ports of old computer games go, this one is pretty darn good. It both stays true to the original and plays well on the new technology. Whether or not you visited Stauf’s mansion back in the day, if you like puzzle games then The 7th Guest is a worthy addition to your iOS library. It sells for http://itunes.apple.com/app/the-7th-guest/id407707744">$2.99 for iPhone/iPod Touch or $5.99 on iPad, and a comprehensive solution guide entitled The 7th Guest: Book of Secrets can be downloaded for free.
Hamlet is also a puzzle game, but it’s very different from The 7th Guest… and most likely anything else you’ve ever played. Created by indie developer mif2000 and ported by Alawar, the game casts you as an explorer from the future who has arrived on the scene of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, just as the bloodbath is about to start. Your goal: solve a series of logic puzzles in order to save Ophelia, vanquish King Claudius, and generally set things right again.
In most respects, this game translates well to iOS. The cartoon graphics look great and the audio enhances the ambience without becoming annoying (most screens simply have sound effects, as opposed to looping music). The story, which is pretty bare bones considering the source material, is told via on-screen text between levels and in the occasional character thought bubble during play; no voice acting is used (or necessary). The game’s menu is also nice and simple, offering only volume controls and the ability to switch between player profiles. Progress is saved automatically. If you quit mid-puzzle the conditions will reset upon your return, but since each puzzle has only a few steps this isn’t a major hardship.
Hamlet’s gameplay is generally a good fit for the touch screen. You progress through the game screen by screen, each one containing an obstacle that must be overcome before you can move on. Figuring out how to bypass this obstacle involves tapping around to find interactive areas, then working out how they can be used in concert to achieve your goal. Hotspots are not labeled, so you have to tap anything that seems like it might do something (luckily there are only a few obvious choices per screen, so this doesn’t become too tedious). If you’re stuck, a hint icon provides a pictogram of the puzzle solution, but this icon doesn’t become available until about two minutes into the level.
The game’s one-tap interface is quite intuitive—when it works. I had accuracy problems with small hotspots, such as closely spaced buttons on a control panel. Some sequences require timing a tap just right, which proved especially tricky when the hotspot I was going for was much smaller than my finger. At points the game seemed unresponsive to my taps, but without hotspot indicators it’s impossible to know if I was tapping in the wrong place, or tapping in the right place with no effect.
Hotspot issues aside, the iOS version of Hamlet is very similar to its PC counterpart and worth checking out if the outside-the-box puzzle gameplay intrigues you. A free lite version is available in the App Store, so you can test your patience with the controls before plunking down $2.99 for either the iPhone/iPod Touch edition or the iPad HD version.Continued on the next page...