29/11/2019

๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿš️๐ŸŒณThe 13th Doll | REVIEW | "Dare YOU Return To Stauf’s Mansion?" ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿš️๐ŸŒณ #GameDev #IndieGame #7thGuest

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A fan game based on The 7th Guest - the seminal PC adventure game released in 1993 – 13th Doll is a charming but flawed love letter to the original that has been in development for effectively over a decade and still feels like it could have used a few more months to iron out the more troubling issues.
If you are a fan of the original and yearn for more of the same then this could be a pleasant return to Stauf’s world but if you have no nostalgia for The 7th Guest, this probably isn’t the best place to start.

Taking place ten years after the events of the original game, whereby a young boy named Tad managed to stop the evil, child-killing and seemingly immortal Henry Stauf, The 13th Doll begins in a mental institution where a young doctor, Doctor Richmond, is taking over from his predecessor, Dr Thornfield. A bright young chap with more modern ideas in the field of therapy, Richmond takes an interest in a now-adult Tad’s story. He declares that the very next day, as part of Tad’s therapy, they will return to the origin point of his mental health issues….The Stauf Mansion, clearly this goes well.
The game allows you to choose between either Dr Richmond or Tad and their stories, as well as the puzzles that they encounter are very different depending on whom you choose to play through the game as.
"Thank You for removing this Nurse, it was causing quite a bit of pain at night"
It’s important to point out that the original The 7th Guest cost over $500,000 to make in 1993, which equates to almost $900,000 in 2019. With this in mind, the Kickstarter for The 13th Doll reached $60,000 and the developers and writers for the game are spread across the globe. This is a title made under a strict budget and out of love for the original lore, which is definitely to be much admired and illustrates the impact of the game’s legacy.
Fans of the original game will know exactly what to expect here, kooky music acting as the soundtrack to your character’s journey through the now empty (or is it?) mansion. The game sticks very closely to the designs, stylings and gameplay of the original and this can work to its detriment in some instances. 
Visually, the game looks quite similar to its 1993 counterpart, with the rooms in the house almost feeling surreal in their similarity. Icons such as the beckoning, skeletal hand and rotating blue/brown eyeballs make a welcome return with the main exception to the original being that you now have full 3D movement using the mouse and WASD keys, as opposed to the more fixed camera of the original. The ghostly, grainy FMV footage of the original is replaced here with HD green screen work which, whilst amateurish, does capture the spirit of its predecessor, which, in all fairness wasn’t particularly rife with Oscar-worthy performances in the first instance but had a very unique charm in its presentation.
"YOU ATE ALL OF MY NUTELLA!!!"
The soundtrack has riffed on George ‘Fatman’ Sanger’s original score (See the GF interview from back in April for more on George’s work in the industry ) but is mostly entirely new and fits the mood pretty well with some issues that I’ll touch upon later.
The heart of the game for a lot of people are the puzzles and this game features over thirty of them. Personally, my fondest memories of the original are related to the atmosphere and haunting melodies as I was too young to fully understand the more cerebral aspects. Here, the puzzles are reminiscent of the original and whilst I did enjoy some of them, quite a few seem trial-and-error based which did detract from their enjoyment, as did a few other things which I’ll mention below.
I don’t want to rag on the game too much as it is clearly made with love but there were some things that felt like they could have been cleaned up before release. The main one being issues with audio. The volume in the game seems all over the place, lines of dialogue, music, overlapping tracks, I was constantly adjusting the volume to deal with them. There is also a lot of repetition in the lines delivered, the taunts from Stauf and other ghosts that tease you as you solve the puzzles really grate after a while and seem incessant, if they were used more sparingly, they would have made more of an impact. 
As stated, a lot of the puzzles are trial and error and as you restart (which the game does, oddly, each time you pause or get a hint as well as each time you fail a puzzle), the repeated lines add to the general irritation of the more tedious puzzle sections. I also found some audio loops distracting, the ones that spring to mind include a dripping tap, looped whispers and a dog barking, these play as almost part of the soundtrack and I really wish the music had been more atmospheric and minimalist during these times as I did mute the game at certain points so that I could concentrate better.
Another gripe is in how clunkily the puzzles play, with the developers keeping the original games slow, methodical movement, a style which feels really dated now. I’d estimate that half of my time with the puzzles was spent watching the same animations over and over, it would be nice if there was an option to make each puzzle movement less cinematic to speed up the gameplay, especially after the first couple of attempts, again, this is how the original played and so may not be an issue to some.


Summary
In summary, I’d really only recommend this game if you enjoyed the original and wanted more of the same.
As a fan of The 7th Guest, I found this endearing and nostalgic but the audio issues, the slow pace of movement in the puzzles as well as the general lack of scares in the incidental icons and actions took away somewhat from the impact that The 13th Doll could have had.
It’s great to See Robert Hirschboek and even more importantly, to hear his sneering voice and laughter after all these years but this is unlikely to appeal to anyone outside of the fan base due to it sticking so closely to the template of The 7th Guest.
Whether or not this is a bad thing is reliant purely on your relationship with the series.
๐Ÿ’ง❄️ RATING: MELTING ❄️๐Ÿ’ง

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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