A loving reimagining of a PC classic, “The 7th Guest VR” is a creepy and captivating horror puzzler promising hours of immersive gameplay.
I recently received an Oculus Quest VR headset for my birthday. I’ve been like a kid in a candy store, exploring all the immersive and visually arresting content now available to me. When I discovered the groundbreaking, cult classic puzzle adventure game, The 7th Guest (initially released for the PC in 1993), had been reimagined for the VR and was being released just in time for Halloween, I was giddy with anticipation.
For those unfamiliar, the original The 7th Guest blew minds upon its release thanks to its jaw-dropping, fully modeled 3D location and its innovative use of FMV actors.
It’s fitting that a game that provided an early glimpse into the future of technology would receive a bold reimagining for VR, a platform that itself is revolutionizing what’s possible in experiential gaming.
The 2023 release of the game serves as a loving tribute to the original, with enough familiarity and nods to the classic to make older gamers giddy with nostalgic fondness. Yet, it feels entirely modern and beautifully tailored to appeal to a more sophisticated and demanding generation of gamers — with breathtaking production values and innovative gameplay mechanics.
A game whose original premise involved exploring a creepy mansion and solving intriguing puzzles is ripe for a VR remake, a platform that allows those key ingredients to come alive in a way that was unimaginable when the game first debuted.
A stellar introduction to the world of VR gaming, The 7th Guest VR enchanted me from the moment I pushed play.
It opens, of course, on a dark and stormy night. I find myself in a rowboat, picking up two oars to journey across a moonlit lake. Up ahead, lightning illuminates a foreboding mansion on a hill. As I dock my boat, the voice of a young ghostly boy begins to guide me, his spirit visually manifested as a dragonfly.
I make my way through the gate and up the stairs toward the mansion as the boy begins to tell the story of the fateful night when six guests were invited to the home of wealthy and reclusive toymaker Henry Stauf. I’m encouraged to use the clues all around me to piece together the mystery of what happened to the doomed guests.
Soon, ghostly visions begin to appear as I experience the recreation of the guests arriving at the Stauf mansion.
Here, we get our first glimpse of the game’s most impressive feature: live actors shot using volumetric video capture, presented in enveloping 3D, allowing you to walk around the characters and experience them from all sides. In a nod to the original, the acting is theatrical in nature, even a bit campy, but it works magnificently well, giving the game a nice balance of cheesy fun and truly haunting chills.
Ever the elusive host, Stauf remains out of sight throughout the game, communicating with his guests only through recorded messages.
After we meet the six players in Stauf’s sinister game, we get right into the exploration of the mansion, moving from room to room while picking up clues and solving puzzles.
The game is essentially a series of escape rooms, with each room consisting of two to three contained, mostly logic-based puzzles.
Once you finish completing the puzzles in a room, you are treated to a brief cut scene where you learn more about one of the characters. You soon discover that each has a dark past and a specific reason for letting Stauf lure them there.
A cleared room also gets restored to its original glory, returning it to how it looked the night of Stauf’s party.
The attention to detail is unbelievable, and it’s quite a marvel moving through the three-dimensional, true-to-scale mansion with its exquisite décor and haunted atmosphere.
There’s also a wickedly cool gameplay feature that significantly enhanced my enjoyment during the game. Players are equipped with a special spirit lantern that reveals secret messages and provides clues for solving puzzles. The lantern also offers a glimpse into the mansion’s past — restoring anything it touches to its former glory before it fell into derelict and disrepair.
Now, here’s the real treat. There are numerous paintings throughout the mansion. Shining a lantern on any one of them will reveal a sinister alter image. It’s unnerving in the best possible way.
The way this feature allows you to shift seamlessly between the real world and the ghostly plane, between past and present, between the unseen and unseen, is mesmerizing and akin to the chilling shifting of worlds in Silent Hill.
If you are a puzzle enthusiast, you’ll likely eat up every second of The 7th Guest VR.
The puzzles are plentiful and challenging enough to keep things interesting without being so maddening that you’ll want to give up in frustration.
There’s also a handy hint feature and even the option to skip a puzzle if it threatens to thwart your progress. You’ll have to find coins hidden throughout the mansion to pay for these benefits, but that’s not difficult to do and adds to the fun, exploratory nature of the game.
In full transparency, I’m not a puzzle girl. I get too impatient and prefer more action and adventure.
Further, the nature of the VR controls made some of the puzzles more challenging and some of the item manipulation awkward enough to be troublesome during puzzles that required precise movements. None of it’s a dealbreaker, but I did sometimes grow a little wearisome, especially towards the end.
With that said, I loved the way the puzzles required you to interact with the surroundings, and it was impressive how each one felt creatively aligned with each room’s theme and with the characters they were connected to.
Every puzzle, except, sadly, the final one, is smartly crafted, creative, and engaging. Even as someone who doesn’t typically enjoy puzzle games, I felt tremendous satisfaction when I completed a real brainteaser.
Horror fans should know that the game is never really scary, nor is it trying to be.
There is no gore, truly disturbing imagery, or jump scares. Instead, we have oodles of atmosphere and a haunting, creepy vibe befitting of a murder mystery.
It delivers plenty of old horror tropes and a campy supernatural vibe, making it an enticing genre throwback. So, even though it’s not explicitly horrific, it’s got plenty to keep horror fans on the hook.
If you happened to play the game thirty years ago and still remember it fondly, you’d be happy to know that this remake offers enough narrative surprises to make it feel fresh and keep you on your toes, even if you think you know all the story beats.
THE 7TH GUEST VR beautifully recreates the original’s magic, maintaining all the charm and creativity that made that game such a standout while upgrading and enhancing the game in every way to take full advantage of just how far we’ve come technologically.
As for gameplay specifics, The 7th Guest VR can be played standing up or sitting down. You do not need much play space or room movement, so it’s perfect for those who don’t have the luxury of a roomy play environment.
Expect about five to eight hours of gameplay, depending on how skilled you are with puzzles and whether or not you opt for any hints or freebies or patiently persevere through some of the more challenging ones. I was tempted to play the game in one sitting, but the lack of battery life in the Oculus Quest 2 headset made that impossible, which was like a blessing in disguise.
Still, this is a hard game to put down, and I was eager to discover how the twisty story would unfold.
The one downside to The 7th Guest VR is the lack of replayability, given the extensive focus on puzzle-solving.
Once you’ve solved the puzzles and revealed the story’s key mystery, there’s nothing new to discover on a replay.
You can’t get any different outcomes, and there are no side quests or additional bonuses to unlock. While the visuals are outstanding, once you’ve explored the entire house, you likely won’t be very compelled to retrace your steps.
This means the game is really a one-and-done type of experience.
With that said, it’s well worth the investment for the several hours of immersive storytelling, brilliant puzzle-solving, and spectacular production values.
The 7th Guest VR version is now available on all the major VR platforms: PSVR 2, Quest 2, Quest 3, and PCVR.