The 7th Guest VR hands-on preview — A Virtual Reinvention of a Classic

The 7th Guest is a tentpole for the start of the CD-ROM era, giving players an interactive horror story that unfolds in a mansion full of ghosts. The player has suffered some sort of trauma and has lost their memory, waking up on the shore outside. The key to bringing back their memory might lie inside the mansion. They’ll have to check in with the other residents of this mansion where, you guessed it, they’ll be “the 7th guest”.

The CDROM era was a cheesy time.

To understand where The 7th Guest VR stands you need to understand where it came from.

Games like The 7th Guest were virtual slideshows, operating at roughly 15fps. The player would sit through a storybook exposition dump to tell you about the backstory of how the player ended up at the mansion. They would then head inside and be introduced to the entire cast of ghost characters. These ghosts in the original used a technique called Pepper’s Ghost (you might have seen it — they use it on the happy haunts in the Haunted Mansion at Disney theme parks) to bring them to life. The actors walk into view, say their piece of exposition for the player, and then the game goes into interactive mode. The player can then use their mouse cursor to hover over the various objects in the environment. The disembodied skeletal hand would indicate whether or not the player could act with motions like a “no”, “come here”, or “go here” motion. The camera then slides through the environment to the next area where the same exposition / mouseover work continues. Eventually you’ll reach a set piece like a bedroom, and it’s here that the game comes to life. You’ll have a whole host of interactive elements where you’ll put your point and click adventure skill to use. Once you’ve solved this room’s puzzles (albeit with the antagonist heckling you the entire time), you’ll head back out to the central corridor only to find the ghosts ready and willing to give you the next dose of exposition. It was a wonderfully simple gameplay system that was so far ahead of its time that even Bill Gates was compelled to call it the new standard in interactive entertainment. I wonder what old Bill would say about just how far this game has evolved from its humble roots.

PC Longplay [1085] The 7th Guest

(Credit to World of Longplays for this wonderful video!)

Developer Vertigo Games has taken the reins from developer Trilobyte with the intention of bringing back The 7th Guest, but upgrading it to today’s standards, taking it to a whole new dimension. I recently got to go hands-on with an exclusive look at The 7th Guest VR. Equal parts reinvention and homage to the past, this new version is everything my brain remembers the original to be, only now it’s real.

The demo for The 7th Guest VR starts the player off rowing the boat up to the mansion. The gates are secure, representing the first puzzle of the game. Walking through the foggy environment reveals that the massive gate is flanked by two gargoyles. Looking around I find various plants and a few barrels, but little else. Illuminating the environment with my lantern held aloft I see what appears to be children’s drawings, giving me clues on how to proceed. I backtrack to the gate’s guardians only to realize that one of the gem eyes is missing. Using my lantern on the ground I found a chunk of the other gargoyles’s face. Surprisingly, the lantern rewound time, placing the chunk back on the body and revealing the second gem. Moving that gem to the other head, it released the key in its mouth. We were now one step closer to solving the mystery of the mansion.

It turns out, we’ve all been invited by a man named Henry Stauf. Stauf killed a woman to steal her purse and began seeing visions of various toys shortly thereafter. He then carved these visions, transforming his horrific act into a very successful toy business. Successful enough to yield this mansion. Heading into the mansion, we were introduced to the other guests, or at least their ghosts. Edward and Elinor Knox, a dissatisfied middle-aged couple very eager to make a good impression, Martine Burden, a former singer on Broadway, Julia Heine, a bank worker obsessed with days gone by, Brian Dutton, a fellow shop owner, and Hamilton Temple, a stage magician. Rather than pulling the CD-ROM performances from the original, the team at Vertigo have brought in a whole new team of actors and actresses to bring the game to life. The cheesy performances are slightly less so while still maintaining the goofy charm of the original. Each of these characters are over the top and fun, as it should be. This demo would focus on the last guest – Hamilton Temple, the stage magician.

Temple isn’t just a magician, but is actually obsessed with magic. He wants to demonstrate that magic is real and spent his living days, and now his days beyond the grave, trying to prove it to anyone who will listen. After solving a few puzzles in the foyer we made our way up to his room.

Step Into The 7th Guest's Eerie Stauf Manor In This Hands-on Preview Of The New VR Game!

The original 7th Guest game was a point and click affair, but the translation to VR means revamping the puzzles in a way that maximizes interactivity. The room looks squared away and mundane, but flashing our lantern around reveals there’s far more than we can see with the naked eye.

On a nearby table lies a number of copper cups – part of a shell game magician’s set. Keeping a watchful eye on the cups as they move as is guided by a disembodied hand, we lift the cup and…nothing. Training our eye on the prize again…nothing. Pulling up the lantern reveals that one of the cups is actually marked, which is key to solving this mystery. Watching the marked cup, we lift it to reveal a coin with a bird on one side and a cage on the other. This is a coin version of the Thaumatrope optical spinning card bird cage trick, where the magician spins the card so quickly that the bird appears to be in the cage. We pocket the coin for now.

On the bed nearby there are two nightstands, each open with a key displayed prominently. Approaching the nightstand causes the rug underneath to light up, slamming the nightstand shut before we can grab the key. We’ll need a trick to somehow reach the key without being next to it. A nearby magic hat might help, or it might if it wasn’t locked in a cage.

On a table in the middle of the room lies another top hat. Picking it up lights up an orange glow inside. Glancing back to the caged hat, we see that a blue light has begun to emanate from the inside of it. Reaching my hand into the orange hat portal I see my hand emerge from the blue one! Reaching up, I release the latch, freeing the blue hat. We also now have a way to reach things remotely using this hat portal system. Placing the hat sideways on the nightstand I backed away letting the stand open up. I then reached through the hat, grabbing the key. Repeating it for the other side, I now had both keys. With the two of these keys I’d be able to start to solve the puzzles of the large trunk at the foot of the bed.

The 7th Guest VR | Announce Trailer [ESRB]

Popping the locks opens the lid, causing a smaller trunk inside to rise up inside. Two small sliders on the front of the case have pictures of rabbits, symbolizing the rabbit in the hat. Pulling out my trusty lantern and looking at the left and right side of the trunk reveals a pair of rabbits on each side. Both rabbits are different heights as they pop out of the hat, and aligning the sliders with the rabbit heights opened this second box, revealing a third inside like some sort of magician matryoshka dolls.

I don’t want to ruin the puzzles for the rest of this room, but The 7th Guest VR is already high on my list of fun interactive puzzlers that punch above their weight. The puzzles are engaging without being obtuse, and you feel like you’ve accomplished something cool when you finally see the solution. Each of the rooms will reveal more of the story of the six guests that have come to visit the Stauf mansion. It’s clear that Vertigo Games want to honor the past, but also want to update this classic title for new audiences, and if the 30 minutes I got to experience are any indication, they’ve succeeded in a huge way. Thankfully we won’t have to wait too long to solve the mystery of the mansion – The 7th Guest VR launches on PCVR, Meta Quest 2 and 3, and PlayStation VR2, later this year!

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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