When The 7th Guest released on CD-ROM platforms more than thirty years ago, it was widely touted as the future of interactive entertainment thanks to its then cutting edge blend of pre-rendered environments and full-motion video actors as the player went from room to room in a haunted mansion solving puzzles and embroiling themselves in the miseries of the titular guests. However, as players got hold of the game and were able to look beneath its fancy pants veneer, The 7th Guest fell apart thanks to a mixture of shoddy puzzles, poor acting and an emaciated content offering.
Somehow The 7th Guest has returned in 2023 on not just modern day platforms, but also on contemporary virtual reality platforms to boot. Even more inexplicable (and surprising) is that fact that The 7th Guest VR is actually really quite good indeed and not only successfully erases the memory of its dull FMV adventure origins, but also delivers an appropriately spooky, though not especially scary, puzzle filled adventure into the bargain that PS VR2 owners will enjoy.
The 7th Guest VR PS VR2 Review
A Surprisingly Polished And Enjoyable Remake Of A Spooky Cult Classic
As a mysterious spectre that has been summoned to a haunted mansion in order to discover the fate of its six guests – not to mention the titular seventh guest, The 7th Guest VR has you rooting around said mansion, solving puzzles, uncovering mysteries and finding secrets. To be clear, while the marketing for The 7th Guest VR touts it as being ‘terrifying’, it really isn’t – or at least it didn’t seem that way to me. Instead, the whole experience felt mildly creepy or spooky rather than anything really visceral. Gore and jump scare fiends then may need to get their fix elsewhere, certainly.
What The 7th Guest VR does do well however, is it roundly succeeds in creating the sort of atmosphere that is so thick you could cut a slice off from the air and serve it with a cup of coffee. With cobwebbed arches, a low hanging mist that pervades across the floor of every room in the house and a general air of discord that is bolstered in turn by some beautifully engineered 3D audio, The 7th Guest VR is a lot more immersive than many other PS VR2 efforts of a similar stripe.
Like any decent VR effort worth its salt, The 7th Guest VR lets players choose from smooth motion, teleportation or a mixture of the two when it comes to dictating how traversal is achieved around its world. Much like other VR efforts which offer such choices, it should go without saying that unless you have your VR legs secured firmly beneath you, teleportation movement is a good first choice for newcomers or those who haven’t been playing in VR for a good while.
As alluded to at the top of this review, The 7th Guest VR is all about exploring a big spooky mansion and solving puzzles. In both respects this new take on its old school origins not only effortlessly surpasses the original 1993 release (as it should), but both of these aspects happen to be well implemented too. Not only does the exploration feel responsive and dare I say it, comfortable, on account of the smooth motion and accommodating traversal methods, but so too do interactions with the environment feel believably palpable too. Whether you’re pulling on a door handle, plucking some cutlery from a table, or manipulating tiled symbols for a puzzle, reaching out and touching the world that has been created in The 7th Guest VR rarely feels anything less than precise and satisfying.
Of course there’s a ghostly slant to the exploration in The 7th Guest and this comes in the form of the handy spirit lantern that you collect at the start of the game and before you enter the mansion. Far from an ordinary illumination, this spirit lantern uses some arcane magic to reconstitute broken items and reveal hidden items from the past. Shining it on a broken bridge for example will reform it entirely so that you can cross, while in another instance, shining it on a smashed plate will reform that plate and allow you to interact with it. Furthermore, the spirit lantern can also be used to reveal clues and messages adorning the walls that might otherwise be missed, lending players a real feeling of exploring and investigating the mansion as a result while also forming an integral part of the puzzle solving that arguably acts as the backbone for The 7th Guest VR.
Brilliantly, the spirit lantern is also used to help supplement the atmosphere of the whole affair, because when you shine the spirit lantern on certain objects, each takes on an alternate form. Shining the spirit lantern on hanging works of art for instance, will make the picture completely change the visages within (often to creepy effect), while shining the light on rotten food, dead plants and so on will restore such objects to their former glory – though only fleeting for as long as they enjoy the glare of the spirit lantern. It’s a great little bit of visual flair to say the least that really adds to the wonderfully eerie atmosphere that the developers have crafted.
Speaking of visual flair, The 7th Guest VR is certainly right up there with some of the sharpest and most accomplished titles on PS VR2. The entire mansion and its surrounding areas are all generously decked out in some great lighting, high definition textures, with eye-popping detail emerging from just about every aspect of the environment that stands up to even the closest of scrutiny, should you bring yourself to examine your surroundings closer. Quite simply, the screenshots attached to this review do not do The 7th Guest VR justice. Where The 7th Guest VR perhaps truly exceeds itself however, is in how it portrays the other guests that inhabit/haunt the mansion that you find yourself anchored to.
You see, as you progress through the mansion, you’ll get to see and hear echoes of the past from where the guests make their entry and subsequent movements around the building. Luckily, if you happen to miss out on one of these echoes, you can simply replay them by walking towards the clock symbol on the ground and shining your spirit lantern to trigger the echo once more. What is chiefly surprising about these echoes however, is the way in which they are rendered. Rather than attempting to render a character model which is then stylised to look like a real person, developer Vertigo Games has gone the extra mile and actually imported full motion video performances that are in turn mapped onto a 3D polygonal model. The effect is astounding and underscore the gleefully dramatic performances very well.
Not only do these echoes look nothing like anything I have ever seen before, not least because this does seem like the first time full-motion video has been mapped onto a fully three-dimensional model that can be moved around and interacted with in this wat, but it also stands as a thoroughly charming tribute to the full motion video stylings of the original 1993 CD-ROM release. I would love to see this technology used extensively in other games – just because the effect is so uncanny as to almost be unsettling. For now though, bravo Vertigo Games, bravo.
When you’re not exploring the various halls and rooms of the mansion, you’ll be solving the multitude of puzzles that can be found throughout and thankfully as it turns out the conundrums within The 7th Guest VR are thoroughly enjoyable to solve, too. Most often manifesting as visual and positional puzzles that require you to match symbols, guide a pin through a maze and other such pursuits, the brain teasers in The 7th Guest do get a fair chunk more challenging as you progress through the game. Though many of the puzzles are seemingly ensconced within a single room, they very often reward you with items and clues that can only be used in other rooms in the mansion, making the conundrums of The 7th Guest VR feel a lot more broad than they might initially seem.
For folks who do struggle with some of the puzzles in The 7th Guest VR, help thankfully is at hand. In addition to your super useful spirit lantern, you also gain access to a spirit board early on in the game that not only provides a useful map of the mansion, but can also provide hints and solutions if they are required. My only gripe with the puzzles in The 7th Guest VR is that while I personally find the difficulty to be largely well judged, you do get a narrator dropping hints constantly if you fail and that can sometimes get a bit grating.
Another issue with The 7th Guest VR is that it just doesn’t last quite as long as I would like. Though it’s a far cry from the overly breezy completion time of the 1993 original and there are additional collectible photographs and music boxes that when picked up shed some further light on the events of the narrative, the nine chapters that the game packs into its runtime all fly by a little too quickly and it was a shame to see the end credits manifest as swiftly as they did. Likewise, I also experienced a couple of crashes during my time playing The 7th Guest VR, though thanks to a handy autosave system, no progress was lost. Even so, one would hope this is the sort of thing that would get resolved in a (near)future update.
Ultimately, The 7th Guest VR is the best sort of surprise. A great mix of entertaining puzzles, compelling exploration and some unexpectedly cutting edge visual design, for this Halloween there’s probably no better reason to get out your PS VR2 headset than this.
The 7th Guest VR is out now on PSVR 2.
Review code kindly provided by PR.