“The 7th Guest VR is haunted by clumsy motion controls, but satisfying puzzle design keeps this 90s PC remake alive.”
- Fun, campy story
- Classic mansion is well reimagined
- Varied, tactile puzzles
- Clumsy controls
- Frustrating late game puzzles
How do you preserve a game like The 7th Guest? The PC classic was a groundbreaking release in 1993, offering an uncharacteristically dark game for the time with some impressive prerendered 3D graphics. Play it today, though, and that fact will be hard to glean. By today’s standards, it’s easy to mistake it for a boilerplate puzzle adventure of the era full of cheesy acting. There’s only so much a simple remaster can do to preserve the oohs and aahs of a release that old.
Perhaps sensing that tension, Vertigo Games takes a very different remake approach with The 7th Guest VR. Rather than dropping a polished version of the original into a headset, the new release is a ground-up reimagining. It features the same spooky mansion, now built as a fully explorable 3D space, but that’s about all it has in common. A more fleshed-out murder mystery and an almost entirely original set of puzzles aim to imagine what The 7th Guest might have looked like were it made with today’s technical advancements.
It’s a creative remake approach that finds mixed results. The 7th Guest VR works best as a campy haunted house adventure filled with intuitive escape room puzzles. That tactile fun gets complicated by the quirks of virtual reality, as fiddly motion controls offer its biggest scare of all.
While The 7th Guest VR is a fairly radical reimagining of its predecessor, it shares a lot of foundational DNA. Players are called to a spooky mansion on a dark and stormy night where they encounter a haunted house full of ghosts, puzzles, and creepy puppets. The VR remake has a lot of fun expanding the 1993 game’s story, blowing it up into a full-on murder mystery as players learn what happened to a handful of guests who were mysteriously invited to the house. It’s full of old horror tropes and supernatural camp, which makes for a fun genre throwback.
Story was an important aspect of the original 7th Guest thanks to its heavy use of pre-rendered 3D video. That put real actors into the PC game — a remarkable feat for 1993. The VR version looks to recapture that wow factor with a magic trick of its own: volumetric video. That brings its cast of ghostly actors to life, as players can fully walk around them in 3D. It’s not as groundbreaking a technical feat, but it does help pump up its cinematic charm by putting players in the center of an interactive horror movie.
The immersive nature of VR does the original game’s spooky tone justice, as the old mansion gets a suitable 3D makeover here. Each room is a Halloween delight, filled with thick cobwebs, scratched-up portraits, and dusty furniture. All of these artistic additions are where The 7th Guest VR functions best as a remake. In 2023, it’s hard to communicate how an old PC game with a goofy MIDI soundtrack and corny visuals felt genuinely unnerving at the time of release. The VR version does a great job of modernizing the ghost story, balancing light horror and playful camp. It’s more Disney’s Haunted Mansion than Phasmophobia, but that tone is a perfect match for the original.
While its campy horror aesthetics make for fun set dressing, The 7th Guest VR is more of a mixed experience when it comes to puzzles. The core gameplay loop is easy enough: Each room of the mansion is its own mini escape room filled with interconnecting puzzles. Some of those find a great balance by mixing in some cerebral brain-teasers with tactile solutions that make great use of VR. In a gross bathroom, I’m guiding cockroaches across a spider-infested wall by shooing the insects off and blocking holes in the wall with my hands. In another, I’m sticking my hand through a magician’s hat to snag items I can’t reach otherwise.
There are tons of creative interactions here, with no two puzzle rooms feeling the same. A few even pay tribute to the more board game-like nature of the original’s puzzles. A familiar logic conundrum has me placing down a handful of queens on a chess board, taking care not to put them in one another’s crosshairs. In the kitchen, a piece of frozen meat turns into a jigsaw puzzle as I reconstruct it for a witch’s brew. Puzzles like that call back to the old age of PC puzzlers while still utilizing the more modern tactile feel of VR to their advantage.
The 7th Guest VR does feel behind the tech’s potential at times.
The tech is often The 7th Guest’s greatest hindrance, though. Through my playthrough, I experienced a number of finicky motion-controlled moments that left me pulling out my hair underneath my PSVR2. One room has me placing dolls in a guillotine, reattaching the heads to other dolls, and placing them in the right seats at a tea party. It’s a great logic puzzle in theory, but it’s an absolute pain to get the dolls into their proper positions.
In some ways, I feel like I’m critiquing VR platforms more than the game itself, but The 7th Guest VR doesn’t always design around the tech quirks. Several late-game puzzles require precision as I press piano keys or carefully tap tiny rings in a jewelry box. Those aren’t exactly easy tasks when using fat-fingered motion controls. The back half is full of annoying interactions like that, which eventually had me spending coins to auto-solve puzzles. They weren’t hard to figure out; I just was tired of wasting time with execution.
Perhaps those technical hiccups make for a more faithful experience in the end. After all, PCs had their own frustrating limitations in 1993; maybe it’s only right that a VR remake comes with the early warts of a new gaming era too. I can appreciate that on a high-concept level, but The 7th Guest VR does feel behind the tech’s potential at times. It’s a noticeably messier experience than something like The Room VR: A Dark Matter, an excellent horror puzzler from 2020 that nailed clean, motion-controlled escape room gameplay.
While I was eager to escape the mansion by the time I reached a frustrating string of final challenges, I still admire The 7th Guest VR as a left-field remake. It’s a thoughtfully considered reimagining that does a commendable job of capturing a PC classic’s haunted house energy, while still delivering an experience that’s entirely its own. If nothing else, it’s a fine way for shut-ins to spend a Halloween while hiding from trick-or-treaters.
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