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The 7th Guest VR review – the virtual reality of interactive movies

The 7th Guest VR review – the virtual reality of interactive movies
The 7th Guest VR – VR is the new FMV (Picture: Vertigo Games)

GameCentral reviews the VR remake of 90s FMV classic The 7th Guest, showing just how much things have changed in the last 30 years.

Squint at a modern racing game, or a recent instalment of FIFA , and you’d find it hard to distinguish the onscreen action from footage of the real sport. Back in the 90s, when photorealism was still a pipe dream, there was no mistaking the pixellated appearance of video games . As a way to get around the graphical limitations of the era, developers experimented with full motion video, or FMV for short.

That meant filming real actors in scenes that were then recorded onto a CD-ROM – itself now an amusingly quaint anachronism – with player interactions often limited to selecting which scene to play next. FMV games were looked down on by many players, and there’s a lot of justification for that, with titles like the eye roll-inducing Night Trap featuring terrible acting and only ever being intermittently interactive.

The 7th Guest was also an FMV game, or interactive movie as they became known. Released in 1993, by the now long forgotten Virgin Interactive Entertainment, it placed players in a puzzle filled mansion, earning comparisons with fellow puzzle-based FMV title Myst, which was also recently remade in VR . While the problems you solved had relatively little to do with the plot, successful solutions would trigger a video cut scene, each of which drew you closer to understanding the mystery of eccentric millionaire Henry Stauf, whose house you were exploring.

The 7th Guest VR returns to Stauf’s mansion, and its familiar set of guests, but populates it with an entirely new set of challenges. The house is in a state of decay, your visit occurring many years after the events you’ll gradually relive, and at the start of the game you’re given a magic lantern that you can shine on anything to see what it looked like in its cobweb-free glory days.

The lantern is also useful for uncovering clues, some of which are scrawled on walls or the surfaces of Victorian-era puzzle boxes, helping you decipher what you’re meant to be doing with them. Like The Room VR: A Dark Matter, you’ll spend most of your time prodding at enigmatic wood and brass machines, opening drawers, and using keys and other props to access previously locked chests or cupboards.

Since this is VR, your hands appear skeletal, to underline the spookiness, their bones clearly visible as you grab objects or wield your lantern. Despite the refined appearance of your phalanges, a lot of the game’s interactions feel clumsy, your efforts to select specific pieces of a puzzle or grab objects from surfaces regularly hampered by the interface.

It still works out in the end, the puzzles proving reasonably easy to decode in most cases. If you do encounter problems, the map, which springs into your left hand with a pull of the trigger – in the same way the magic lantern springs into your right – also has tips for each puzzle. If you’re really stuck, you can spend a coin, one or two of which you can find in most rooms, to provide an automatic solution.

Once you’ve finished the puzzles in a room you get a brief cut scene before the room reverts to its pristine former self, its decades’ worth of filth suddenly dismissed, and the game’s permanent thunderstorm disappears in favour of bright sunshine. Each solution also opens up new rooms that you’re free to explore in any order you like.

The 7th Guest VR – the puzzles are mostly very good (Picture: Vertigo Games)

Performances are actorly rather than naturalistic, with dialogue that’s normally pretty on the nose, which is in keeping with the game’s 90s roots. It also sees the plot clip along at very fast pace, revelations as to the motivations of guests and your enigmatic (though emphatically evil) host coming thick and fast.

The guests are all broad caricatures – the arrogant industrialist, the manipulative starlet, the alcoholic spinster – and appear to conform strictly to expectations, as does Stauf himself. Not that any of that matters because you’re really turning up for the puzzles, which despite the mild wonkiness of the controls, and a frequent reliance on familiar tropes, are involving enough to feel as though you’re making a difference.

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VR is such a compelling medium, capable of transporting you somewhere you’re not, and in a far more affecting way than looking at a TV. It’s a pity so many VR games feel low budget, failing to fully exploit the sense of place, and settling for half-baked mechanics rather than anything that feels truly suited to their unique possibilities. It’s still early days though, and The 7th Guest is at the very least entertaining.

If you’ve got a VR headset you may well be wondering why you don’t use it more often, and this presents a good reason to dust it off and grab a few hours’ puzzling interspersed with lightly cheesy cut scenes. If you played the original, the extra pang of nostalgia may be worth the price of admission alone.




The 7th Guest VR review In Short: A succesful re-imagining of the classic 90s interactive movie, that retains the characters and setting but adds some fun new puzzles and VR wonderment.
Pros: Well judged difficulty level that never feels overwhelming. Strikes a good balance between comedy and light eeriness.
Cons: A number of puzzle mechanics feel overly familiar. Mildly clunky controls and there’s a blurriness to proceedings which is in keeping with its 90s roots but somewhat uninspiring.
Score: 7/10



Formats: PlayStation VR2 (reviewed), PC VR, and Meta Quest 2 and 3 Price: €29.99 – UK price TBC Publisher: Vertigo Games Developer: Vertigo Games Release Date: 19th October 2023 Age Rating: 16





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