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08/11/2023

The 7th Guest VR Meta Quest 2 Review 9.5/10 "Feeling…looooonely?" 🏚️🩸 @the7thguestvr #IndieGame #GameDev #MetaQuest2 #VRhorror

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This is probably one of only a handful of reviews that I’ll ever write with my current mindset, due to my personal history with the game in question. The 7th Guest was - and is - a constant presence in my life.

I initially played the game on the Philips CD-i back in the mid-90s (with a friend called Brett, nonetheless) and I was completely mesmerised by what was - to me at the time- absolutely the future of gaming, in that it felt like a movie that you could control yourself! Between this and Burn Cycle, my young mind was blown wide open, and although I didn’t complete the game at the time, when I managed to get hold of a PC version a while later and play it through - with headphones - The 7th Guest made me feel like no other game had before.

I was completely pulled into its atmosphere and world, full of wonder and terror at what it offered both visually and sonically.

Over the years - thanks to Games Freezer - I’ve been in the position to interview George Sanger (the esoteric and wonderful composer of the music featured in the original game) as well as cover fan versions of The 7th Guest. In fact, I’m currently waiting on the release of an industrial rock vinyl of the soundtrack, as well as (hopefully, eventually) a hinted-at vinyl release of the amazing 7/11 album by Team Fat.

The 7th Guest soundtrack still often haunts the halls of my home, and I firmly believe it to be one of the most evocative and singular soundtracks ever laid down - so, what I’m trying to get at here, is ‘I like The 7th Guest’.

It was only a few months ago that I caught wind of this VR version, and I purposefully looked into the release absolutely no further. I had no idea of the developers, composer, publisher etc. I simply requested a code for coverage and intended to dive in as objectively as I could, without salivating and getting hyped up over the months of build-up towards the eventual release. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the end result - which is very possibly one of the most memorable and effective gaming experiences of the year.

The 7th Guest VR begins with your character approaching the towering silhouette of Stauf mansion on a dinky rowboat in dark waters, softly rowing your way towards a dilapidated boathouse, the game mechanics are explained to you through a ghostly narrative before you even get to of the hallway of the house. It’s an intuitive system, and very well built into the introductory moments. Meaning that within a few minutes, the player has a full grasp of the mechanics, and is able to begin  comfortably exploring Stauf’s creepy home. 

For those of us who have played the original, there are few games that beckon you into the game quite so intensely as The 7th Guest. The leap in gaming from 2D to 3D, and then to first-person was overwhelming enough at the time, but to walk around these hallowed halls and interact with the puzzles, characters, and mansion itself – which feels like another character in the play, so vividly is it drawn - it was an experience that I didn’t think possible in my lifetime. Especially with a game such as this, often half-remembered as an ‘of its time’ experience that plays slowly clunkily (and the original very much is!) to modern audiences, with a barrage of sub-par sequels and spin-offs that dwindled ever further in popularity

Of course, this isn’t a remaster, but the cast and crew so eerily capture the vibes of the original, updating them and moulding the puzzles and rooms to this new version of Stauf’s tale that I was so lost in pure enjoyment of the scenes and narrative that I forgot that this was something entirely new, it felt almost a continuation of that eerie tale I’d begun almost thirty years prior.

I spent so much time simply admiring the rooms, and the ‘ghost light’ mechanic of the lantern (it returns whatever it is shone upon to its glorious former self), that I never tired of absorbing the atmosphere of the surroundings, especially in casting the light upon the myriad paintings, flowers, and furniture, briefly showing the house and its contents as it once was, before crumbling in the bony, crooked hands of time.

Each time a narrative event transpired, I walked around, enjoying the melodramatic characters performances, and the ghostly flickering of the figures encountered, ever so slightly unreal – as if they were crackling memories played through a gramophone. I’d then just explore the nooks and crannies of each location, drinking in the ambience and design of this mysterious mansion, switching things from their current, cobwebbed, and rotting state to the bright and shining versions of old.

The puzzles themselves call back to those of the original in style, but also heavily feature new twists and rooms, and wisely so – as they better fit this more interactive VR medium. There’s also a lightness in design that makes the game playable for all skill levels, and it’s tied into a coin-collecting sub-game that again adds further reasons to explore Stauf’s creaking home – as if any more were needed. Combine this with various nods to George Sanger’s incredible original soundtrack (alongside a soundtrack from Jonathan van den Wiljngaarden that expertly carries on from the haunted melodies left by George), and what you have is a VR haunted house experience that almost feels ASMR-like in how it massages my soul with bony hands until I fall helplessly into a warm grave.

SUMMARY

I will NEVER uninstall this game, and after (a pretty dodgy) thirty year history of poor sequels, flawed remakes and revisits to Stauf’s original story, the fact that so many people will get reintroduced to this most classic of video game ghost stories in such high-quality fashion really does warm my cockles.

The only thing I could hope for to make this release even better? An accompanying vinyl soundtrack!

The 7th Guest has Cooooooooome baaaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!

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