Pirates! review

Ahoy there mateys! Welcome back to Retro Freak Reviews. And before ye all send me down to Davy Jones’ locker for not posting a review during the entire summer, let me redeem my sinner soul by offering ye this fine review in this finest of International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I’m talking about Pirates! (the game, not in general…)

Pirates! (aka Sid Meier’s Pirates!) is an action-strategy game made by Microprose and originally released in 1987 for the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Commodore 64 and the PC Booter. It was re-released the following year for the Apple IIgs and the Macintosh. In 1989, it was again re-released for the Atari ST, PC-89 and the PC-98. In 1990, it was ported for the Amiga, in 1991, it was ported to the NES and in 1994, the PC Booter version was officially ported to DOS (earlier DOS versions were actually the PC Booter version modified and/or hacked to play on DOS).

Pirates! came to be when famous game designer Sid Meier along with fellow designer Arnold Hendrick wanted to make a roleplaying adventure game but Bill Stealey, Microprose’s co-founder, was skeptical because Microprose was only known back then by their vehicle simulations. Still, Meier and Hendrick were able to convince Stealey to take a chance at different genres and inspired by pirate novels, they created Pirates!

But as always, let’s first look at the covers:

19179-sid-meier-s-pirates-atari-st-front-coverFirst we have this cover which depicts a naval battle between a pirate ship and some other ship (probably some poor merchant’s). The artwork is good and action-packed but I’m not a big fan of the purple border, although I do like the title art.

531893-sid-meier-s-pirates-apple-ii-front-coverThen we have this cover which is one of my favourites, as it depicts a more swashbuckling action scene, reminiscent of an old Errol Flynn movie. It could perfectly be a pirate novel cover. It’s also the first game cover to include Sid Meier’s name, as Microprose thought his name would help increase sales.

309341-sid-meier-s-pirates-commodore-64-front-coverNow this cover isn’t that half-bad although it’s not as action-packed as the former covers  are but the background could be more colourful.

25319-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-front-coverNow I don’t oppose to the usage of photos (or realistic art) over traditional artwork, but I do wish this cover was, again, a bit more action-packed or the background more busy. Still it could be worse, I suppose.

33525-sid-meier-s-pirates-nes-front-coverThis is the NES cover and it’s another of my favourites as it showcases a lot of the stuff this game features. And it even has a pirate skull, years before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

But it’s time to boot this booty:

Later versions of the game feature a nice CGA title screen (although you can play the game with EGA graphics) and then after the settings menu, you go to another menu where it asks if you want to start a new game, load a previous game or command a famous historical expedition (later on this).

As you start a new game, you have the option to choose your nationality (between English, Spanish, Dutch and French, the nationalities that were more active in the Spanish Main between 1560-1700), the time period (if you don’t choose a specific time period, then the game takes you to the easiest one, The Buccaneer Heroes in 1660) and finally your last name (I suggest something from your chosen nationality or a famous pirate name). Then you choose the difficulty setting between 4 and a special ability between 5. This special ability will define your playthrough and can make it easier or harder depending in how you use it, so choose wisely.

10065-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-small-antilles

Exploring an island.

The game then gives you a backstory about how you traveled to the Spanish Main in the Caribbean in search of fortune but ended up as a slave working at a plantation, where you meet some sailors. The sailors ask you about either the Silver Train or the Treasure Fleet (which is the game’s copy protection). If you get it right, the sailors turn out to be pirates and then encourage you to challenge their captain in a sword duel for leadership.

This is your tutorial of sorts into sword duels, where you need to use either the keyboard or the joystick to control your character in attacking and parrying your opponent. If you answered wrongly the copy protection question, this duel will be very hard to win and if you lose, you’ll get a smaller crew and a pinnacle as a starting ship. But if you answered correctly, then the duel should be much easier and a victory will give you a bigger crew and a sloop as a starting ship. I like the fact that failing the copy protection question doesn’t automatically boot you out of the game but instead gives you a harder challenge.

169848-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-ship-ahoy

Ship ahoy!

Then you and your crew find yourselves in a random colony belonging to your chosen nationality, where you can visit the governor, who informs you who his country is at war or at peace with, can offer you a letter of marque (making you a corsair for that specific nationality), can also offer missions that can give you the opportunity to raise your rank and can present to you his daughter which opens up more options.

Still in the colonies, you can also visit taverns to chat to the owner but also to get news regarding other colonies, hire more people for your crew, buy treasure maps or get more inside knowledge of other colonies. You can also visit merchants to buy and sell stocks, food (which you’ll need to feed your crew), cannons and sell extra ships. After doing everything in a colony, it’s time to set sail and explore the Spanish Main.

After leaving a colony, you’re presented with an overhead map in which you control your ship. I suggest having your Spanish Main map at hand because Pirates! it’s a sandbox game and you have the complete freedom to go anywhere you want and do whatever you want. You can attack other boats, whether they are merchants or pirates of all nationalities, pillage or trade goods between the colonies (again, regardless of nationalities), go search for buried treasures or simply explore the Spanish Main. This makes Pirates! one of the earliest open-ended sandbox computer games.

169864-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-at-another-port

Docked at a port

It’s actually quite easy to control a ship once you get the hang of it, the secret is to use the wind in your favour (these are wind-propelled ships after all). Just look at the clouds at the overhead map and raise or lower your sails accordingly. And when you finally master the sailing, then you’re ready for some sea battles. When simply sailing near any colony, you’ll have random encounters with other ships, who can be merchants or other pirates. You have the option to attack (or they’ll attack you) or simply hail them for news.

The sea battles are also pretty simple: you basically steer your ship towards the other ship (or a fort, if attacking a colony), using the winds in your favour, all the while firing your cannons (which are situated on both sides of the ship, which will require some great steering and accuracy in order to hit the other ship). The objective is to ram the other ship, giving you and your crew the opportunity to board it. When that occurs, the enemy captain then singles you out for a sword duel.

Sword duels are how any battles are ultimately decided between the captains. But before the duel starts, you have to choose which sword to wield between a rapier (a long and weak sword), a longsword (a medium weapon) or a cutlass (a curved, short but powerful sword). Even if your crew is outnumbered by a larger enemy crew, you can still win the fight by defeating its captain (but don’t expected a single-digit crew to defeat another crew in the hundreds), regardless of your skill with a sword.

322635-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-defeated-a-ship-s

Winning a duel.

After defeating another crew, you’re able to plunder their ship for treasure and goods (and some of its crew might even want to join you) and also the choice to add the ship to your fleet or sink it. There are several types of ships you can capture and use as your own, beginning from small, faster ships like pinnacles and sloops to bigger but slower ships like galleons and frigates. I recommend getting a ship with a balance between speed and size.

You can also attack colonies either by sea (which will prompt a sea battle against forts armed with cannons) or a land battle featuring your crew against a colony’s guards. These types of battles are harder than the aforementioned sea battles but again it might end with another sword duel against the guards’ captain.

There’s also a sort of storyline where you search for your family members but it’s presented as another common side-mission. But just like all the other missions, is totally optional. However, you need to pay attention to the relations you maintain with all 4 nations, because it’s possible to become a wanted man by 1 or more nations and then they’ll send corsairs to hunt you down. Heck, even entering an enemy colony might be problematic because they can sink your ship (if said colony has forts, though). Luckily, you have the option to infiltrate colonies but if you’re spotted by a guard, you’ll have to fight him and run away.

322633-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-a-sea-battle-against

Firing your cannons.

After exploring and plundering the Spanish Main and dig up several treasures, your crew might grow restless and attempt to leave or worse, commit mutiny. In which case, I recommend sailing to a friendly colony and split up the treasure (as the captain, you’ll entitled to a bigger share). And after it, you have the option to either retire or hire a new crew. However, don’t think you can do this forever, as you age throughout the years and if you’re getting older (and less healthier), you might want to consider hanging up your booties and retire. And according to the wealth, lands and status you’ve accumulated throughout the years, you can end up your days from a common beggar all the way up as the King’s advisor.

And in case you’re looking for a bigger challenge, then I recommend selecting a harder difficulty setting, a different time period or even a historical expedition, where you take control of a famous captain of the past and have a determined objective (usually to go to a specific colony with your fleet intact) but it maintains the same open-ended sandbox style gameplay, which means you can do whatever you want.

I guess this covers almost all the main mechanics. There are more options and features in the game available, but I’ll let you find the rest. Now for the technical aspects: the sound and music are almost non-existent (except for the Tandy version). The little music themes aren’t bad but the wind noises in the overhead map can get a bit annoying. The graphics are colourful and well detailed (despite some small sprites) with some decent animation here and there. The controls are also good, although I recommend a joystick or a gamepad over the keyboard.

169863-sid-meier-s-pirates-pc-booter-screenshot-a-tough-looking-bunch

Recruiting more pirates.

As other versions go, the Macintosh version might have more detailed graphics (despite being in black and white with an ugly overhead map) but it has perhaps the best control scheme with a mouse. The NES version is also pretty good but with smaller sprites and perhaps with the best animation, but personally the best version out there might just be the Amiga version with beautiful graphics, sound and music, apart from great controls also.

Pirates! had such a great success among players and critics alike (especially due to its historical and geographical accuracy) that Microprose decided to do remake it years later as Pirates! Gold.

Pirates! Gold is an action/strategy game developed by MPS Labs and published by Microprose. It was originally released in 1993 for DOS and the Sega Megadrive/Genesis. It was re-released the following year for the Amiga CD32, Macintosh and Windows.

And of course, it came with its own covers:

123798-pirates-gold-dos-front-cover

In the vein of the original cover, this depicts another sea battle. But this time, without any ugly borders and with a cool title logo.

74731-pirates-gold-amiga-cd32-front-cover

This is the Amiga CD32 cover and as you can see, it’s a bit more action-packed than the previous cover. I simply wish it also was a bit more colourful. At least, it’s a lot better then the inside cover:

219027-pirates-gold-amiga-cd32-inside-cover

Yeah, I’m not a fan of this cover. And if you’re wondering if that’s a screenshot from the game, I think it was supposed to be part of the intro as it’s very reminiscent of, but I never saw it while playing.

116598-pirates-gold-genesis-front-cover

This is the Megadrive/Genesis cover and I also like it, especially the fact that the guy in the centre always reminds me of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

But enough covers and let’s boot this new booty:

As you can see, this remake has vastly improved graphics, resolution, music and sound. It’s basically the same game play-wise but with some new features, like new missions from the governors, new characters to interact with and new options to explore.

I particularly like all the visual aids this remake provides, like an in-game map (with all the colonies displayed) and the ships and captains’ status during seas battles and sword duels. Not to mention a turbo mode that can be used in the overhead map, making the sailing on open sea a lot faster (and less boring). And also due to these new features, the gameplay feels a lot easier in comparison with the original’s difficulty.

Pirates! Gold also has a particular art style that reminds me of Baroque paintings that complements the game perfectly, graphic-wise. And the music is also top-notch, although  a few of the sound effects here and there seem a bit out of place (like when getting hit during a sword duel).

573-pirates-gold-dos-screenshot-sailing

Sailing away.

But Pirates! Gold is far from a perfect remake.  The game’s controls use a mix of mouse and keyboard (even the manual recommends using the keyboard over the mouse in some sections). And although the mouse is perfect to navigate the menus, it’s not so easy to use it on the rest of the game. In fact, I recommend the keyboard for the sword duels because using the mouse feels clumsy and counter-intuitive (although in some instances it’s a bit better than the keyboard, like when sailing)

And also, you can only save the game when in a colony, in contrast with the original, where you could save anywhere. I personally don’t like this new direction. And when Pirates! Gold was originally released, it came with some game-breaking bugs that caused some crashes and although the game is currently patched, it still occasionally crashes here and there.

As far as other versions go, the Macintosh version is very similar to the PC version except for being even more buggy if that’s possible. The Genesis/Megadrive version however, has a cartoony artstyle depicting bigger sprites and a presentation closer to the original, as is the Amiga CD32 version, although the latter has CD quality music and digitised sound effects. In fact both these versions look more like remasters than proper remakes but they also have much better controls than the PC version.

169871-pirates-gold-dos-screenshot-uh-oh-this-guy-looks-real-mad

Challenged to a duel.

So in conclusion, both Pirates! and Pirates! Gold have an extremely in-depth gameplay where it offers players absolute freedom to engage in it however they want. I must confess I slightly prefer the original over the remake: in one hand, the original Pirates! has great controls and more attention to detail in the text descriptions, despite the graphics, music and sound aging a bit. In the other hand, Pirates! Gold has a beautiful graphical and aural presentation, easier gameplay but the controls are inferior and there are still some bugs here and there.

Still, I heavily recommend both versions (the remake more towards new players and the original more towards veterans). You can buy both versions bundled here at GOG.com or here at Steam.

Like I mentioned before, Pirates! had an enormous success but its remake didn’t. This was due to the fact that Pirates! Gold was heavily bugged and that most people probably thought it was a sequel with very few new features instead of a remake. Still, the original game had such an impact on the industry that a second remake called Sid Meier’s Pirates!: Live the Life was released in 2004 with 3D graphics and even more new gameplay features and options.

169873-pirates-gold-dos-screenshot-meeting-the-governor-s-young-niece

Meeting the governor’s niece.

In fact, one can say that almost, if not all pirates games that came afterwards were influenced one way or the other by Pirates! You can even find such influence in modern titles like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Sea of Thieves. And now that Microprose announced a return, I’m hoping to see a new modern remake with new features, like character creation and customisation, among others.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this BIG review (to make up for my absence) and I wish you all a happy International Talk Like a Pirate day. I’m preparing another special review for Halloween but I’m going to try to squeeze another review until then. So, shiver my timbers and keep on playing or else I’ll send ye down to Davy Jones’ locker! AAARRRRRRR!

Manhunter: New York review

For those who had the privilege to experience videogames during the 80s and 90s (like yours truly), you probably noticed that the period between the late 80s and early 90s was probably the most prolific in terms of novelties. Basically, developers back then (but especially during that specific period) threw every idea they had at the wall to see what stuck and what not. In other words, developers and companies weren’t afraid to experiment with new ideas and concepts, and creativity was the most valuable asset when creating new games. And sometimes, they came up with some interesting games like the one we’re about to review. I’m talking about Manhunter: New York.

Manhunter: New York is an adventure game developed by Evrywere and published by Sierra. It was originally released in 1988 for the Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Apple IIgs and DOS. The following year, it was ported to the Macintosh by Fairfield Software.

The game was designed by Dave and Barry Murry and it was programmed using a modified AGI interpreter. It’s considered the first computer game by Sierra featuring a point-and-click interface.

But, as always, before we take a look at the game, let’s first look at the cover:

222972-manhunter-new-york-apple-ii-front-coverTalk about ominous covers! You can’t get much more ominous than this cover that depicts New York in shambles with some giant eyes above and a red background. Is somewhat reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. It gets you in the mood for the game’s dark and grim backstory, but not its animations as we’ll see next.

But it’s time to boot this sucker:

The game starts with an intro showing New York being invaded in 2002 by an alien race called the Orbs that are basically giant eyeballs (no, this is not a Doctor Who episode). Two years later, the inhabitants of New York (and presumably the rest of the human race) live enslaved by the Orbs and some of these humans are selected by the Orbs to become manhunters (basically police officers), whose functions are to solve crimes and apprehend criminals and anyone who oppose the Orbs.

Our nameless protagonist is a rookie manhunter who’s first case is to solve an apparent simple murder but its investigation will lead him to find the truth about the Orbs. To aid him in his task, he’s given a MAD (Manhunter Assignment Device) computer, where he can track the movements of any human (all the remaining humans carry a chip for localisation, cloaks and are forbidden to communicate with each other) and request any information from his targets.

The intro also features a nice music theme. When the game properly starts, the first thing you’ll notice is the lack of a text parser. Like I said before, the game uses a rudimentary point-and-click interface with some simple commands for various actions, like traveling or accessing your MAD computer, although using the mouse can be a bit troublesome as the cursor moves a bit slow and it can get stuck sometimes.

163-manhunter-new-york-dos-screenshot-an-eyeball-wakes-you-up

How would you feel being woken every morning by a giant eyeball?

Another thing you’ll notice is a very distinct lack of text. Since humans aren’t allowed to communicate with each other, there isn’t any dialogue whatsoever and very little text and almost no exposition. Due to this, Manhunter is a very visual game, with all the hints and story being told purely in visual form (which makes the puzzles incredibly hard). And apart from the puzzles, you’ll also have arcade sequences throughout the game (which I personally think are a little easier than the puzzles) that get increasingly harder as you play along.

But at least, the game doesn’t have a proper game-over screen. Everytime you die, the Murrys pop in, dressed in cloaks, to give you a hint to bypass the part where you died and the game restarts right before you died. And the key to solve the harder arcade sequences is basically patience and luck, because you’re going to die and restart a lot! The game it’s usually in first-person perspective except in some cutscenes and the arcades sequences. And although the story is dark and grim, the animations in the cutscenes can be somewhat funny (and sometimes also weird), which creates a mood whiplash when compared with the backstory.

165-manhunter-new-york-dos-screenshot-tracking-a-miscreant

Tracking a suspect.

The game is divided in four acts (or days, as is depicted) and you need to accomplish certain actions (or solve certain puzzles) in order to “finish” a day. When a day comes to its end, you’re contacted by the Orbs through your MAD computer, requesting the name of the suspect of your investigations. Then the protagonist simply returns home and in the next morning, he’s contacted again to solve another seemingly unrelated crime.

The game features quite good graphics for the limited AGI engine it was made in and the animations might be a bit weird but at least they’re quite fluid. The game might not have a lot of music in it but what little there is, it’s good along with several musical cues everytime your cursor passes over something it can be clicked on (which reduces the pixel-hunting) but the sound effects are a bit poor. And like I said before, the point-and-click interface is very cumbersome with a very slow cursor on screen and the keyboard controls during the arcade sequences could have been more responsive.

168-manhunter-new-york-dos-screenshot-the-development-team-taunts

The Murrys taunting the player after dying.

In conclusion, Manhunter: New York is a very ambitious game that is very limited by its game engine because you can see the concepts the Murrys wanted to bring to the table (like when trying to transverse the park). So personally, I’m kind of torn in this one; in one hand, we have a very interesting game with intriguing concepts and backstory, but on the other hand, those concepts are badly executed due to the limited engine. So, if you like games that go beyond the norm, you might want to give it a shot, but if you have little patience for hard games with limited mechanics and design, then I can’t really recommend it.

The Commodore Amiga version looks and plays just like the DOS version and the Apple IIgs version might be the superior version due to better sound and music (just like all AGI titles).

588689-manhunter-new-york-dos-screenshot-in-the-park

In the park.

Manhunter: New York had some critical acclaim although it didn’t had a great commercial success, but it had enough for a sequel (which we’ll also review at a later date). With its concepts and backstory, I think this game it’s just ripe for a proper remake (although I think Activision has the rights for it). And if you want to experience it for yourself, then click here to play it in your own browser.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the review. I’d like to give a special shoutout to Florin9895, who recommended this game to me. Tell me what you think of the game by commenting below or on our social media. Next week we have a very special date which will prompt a special occasion: our 2nd year anniversary! And we’ve prepared a very special review depicting one of the best computer games ever made! So come and join us next week and until then keep on hunting and playing.

The 11th Hour review

Well, it’s Halloween! So, ghosts, goblins and other things that go bump in the night, today we’re going to take a look at the sequel of my very first horror-themed review, The 7th Guest. I’m talking about The 11th Hour.

The 11th Hour is an adventure game developed by Trilobyte and published by Virgin. It was originally released in 1995 for DOS. It was ported to Macintosh in 1997 and re-released by Night Dive Studios in 2013 for Macintosh and Windows.

Graeme Devine, the main designer and programmer, created a new video compression  program called Wavelet and updated the Groovie engine used in The 7th Guest specifically for this game (which would later be used in subsequent Trilobyte titles).

But, as always, before we take a look at the game, let’s first look at the covers:

17406-the-11th-hour-dos-front-coverThis is the US cover and apart from the title, which looks cool, it’s a bit of a mess with several clocks, wires and remains of a baby doll. I see where Trilobyte was going for with this, but I find it very confusing.

Luckily, the European version is a bit better:

93203-the-11th-hour-dos-front-coverNow, this one I like better. Yes, I understand if some people find it too simplistic, but the use of the baby doll’s head along with the strings and the colour red in a black background, makes it look more ominous, fitting for a horror-themed game.

And now, as always, let’s boot this child of the night:

The game starts with a long intro cutscene introducing our main characters: Carl Denning, the host of the TV show “Cases Unsolved” and its producer; Robin Morales. The intro starts with Carl watching the news about Robin’s disappearance and the series of unsolved murders she was investigating before disappearing. Carl then receives the GameBook (a PDA-like laptop) by mail with a video in it of Robin asking for help and an image of Stauf’s mansion. Carl then goes to Harley-on-the-Hudson, where Robin was last seen while remembering their last interaction. Carl arrives at Stauf’s mansion and after solving a riddle via the GameBook to open the mansion’s door, the game properly starts.

The 11th Hour, just like its predecessor, uses logical puzzles to advance the story, but with an added element to the gameplay: first you receive a riddle by Stauf in the GameBook referring to any object in the mansion, then you have to find and interact with said object to solve the riddle, but every time you enter a new room, you can’t interact with any object whatsoever until you solve the puzzle located in said room in order to “unlock” the objects and the rest of the room. And there’s also a lot of “red herring” objects you can interact with.

50218-the-11th-hour-dos-screenshot-part-of-the-opening-movie

The beginning of the intro featuring our hero, Carl Denning, played by Douglas O’Keeffe.

And every time you solve a riddle, you’re awarded a short cutscene, usually depicting Robin’s investigation before her disappearance (later in the game, they also show Carl’s adventure in the mansion). The game’s story is divided in acts (represented by each passing hour), in which at the end of each act, a longer cutscene plays (including the smaller cutscenes you’ve “collected”) that advances the story along.

To help you, you have the aforementioned GameBook, which substitutes the Ouija board from the last game as the in-game menu. In it, you can save and load and you’ll also have access to a map (and although the mansion’s layout is still the same, it’s good to know which rooms are accessible and which puzzles remain unsolved or not) and a help button that substitutes the library book from the last game. The first two times you click in it, it gives you hints to the puzzle or riddle you’re solving and the third time, it solves the puzzle or riddle for you (although you still have to search for and interact with the objects to solve the riddles). But this time, however, there’s no penalty whatsoever in using the help feature to solve the puzzles and riddles. But you can’t use it to solve the last puzzle (which we’ll talk about later on).

50219-the-11th-hour-dos-screenshot-in-the-foyer-of-the-house

Looks familiar?

The riddles usually use anagrams and if you’re bad with anagrams (like I am) then it’s a good thing there’s the GameBook. And the new puzzles are even harder than in the previous game. Remember the dreaded microscope puzzle in The 7th Guest? Guess what. It’s back with a vengeance! AND IT’S NOT EVEN THE HARDEST PUZZLE IN THE GAME NOW! Maybe that’s why there’s no penalty in using the help feature to bypass the puzzles. And, as always, Stauf taunts you throughout the game, especially if you fail a puzzle or riddle. And again as always, his taunts get old fast due to repetition.

The cutscenes are now longer (sometimes a bit too long) and of a much better quality than The 7th Guest. Robert Hirshboeck (Henry Stauf), Julia Tucker (Julia Heine), Larry Roher (Ed Knox) and the late Debra Ritz Mason (Martine Burden) are back to reprise their roles and Hirshboeck again turns the ham all the up to eleven while playing Stauf, whether it’s live-action or just voiceover. The new actors, however, aren’t as memorable. Although some of them are renowned TV actors, their performance ranges from bad to acceptable, with some good moments here and there.

50225-the-11th-hour-dos-screenshot-the-game-book-has-stauf-s-riddles

The GameBook with one of the riddles displayed.

The story is now darker with some gore and one or two adult scenes here and there; and for the most part; it isn’t that bad. But halfway through, Trilobyte throws at us some poorly plot points added only for shock value. And the production value, although better than in The 7th Guest, is equal to a 90s suspense TV series. Honestly, I had more fun with the puzzles than I had watching the cutscenes. And also, all the dark zany humour present in the previous game is now mostly gone, with a few moments here and there with Stauf.

The new 16-bit graphics are definitely an improvement, with much better detail. But since the game now occurs in the 90s, the mansion is rundown and debilitated, which means that although the graphical quality is better, the game isn’t prettier which ruins the atmosphere in my opinion. If the intent was to make the game more visually scary, then it failed that purpose, even if you play it in “spooky mode” (just the game in faded black and white). And also, there’s a lot of visual references to The 7th Guest (in case we forget we’re playing a sequel to it) and even one small reference to another famous FMV adventure game of the time.

50223-the-11th-hour-dos-screenshot-another-of-the-mysterious-puzzles

One of the several puzzles for you to solve.

Which leads us to the animation. The animation, again, is better in terms of graphical quality but now with some top-quality special effects (well, top quality for the time, that is). There’s no longer weird auras around the actors (which prompted The 7th Guest becoming a ghost-story in the first place), but there’s still some pretty obvious green screen effects (it was kind of new at the time). I have to say that the animation is actually one of the best parts in the game.

Now in terms of music, George “The Fatman” Sanger is back as the main composer and not only does he brings remixes of the previous game’s musical score but also some new themes, which in their majority aren’t as good. With the exception of “Mr. Death”, the main menu theme, which is quite catchy. Also, instead of taking advantage of the new technologies to improve the music quality to CD audio, Trilobyte released the music in MIDI format, which was kind of outdated by 1995’s CD-ROM standards.

Which brings us, finally,  to the end of the game and before discussing it, here’s your spoiler alert:

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Without revealing too much, the game now has three endings to choose from, ranging from good, to bad, to worst. However, there’s a small detail: you can only save the game right before the final riddle and the final puzzle. And after choosing one of the endings, if you reload your save file in order to see the other endings, you obviously need to solve the final puzzle again. But here’s the catch: the final puzzle gets harder the more endings you unlock and the previous solution to it no longer works. So you might want to get the best ending first.

Ok, spoilers over!

So, in conclusion, The 11th Hour is technically bigger and better in comparison with its predecessor, but it fails to provide a proper scary atmosphere and therefore, it lacks  the previous game’s charm. And due to the order of the riddles and fact that the game is divided in acts, it’s also a bit more linear than the previous game. If you’re a The 7th Guest fan or simply enjoy logic puzzles and riddles, then you might want to give it a shot. But for traditional adventure games fans, I can’t really recommend it. If you want to play it though, you can buy it here on Steam.

50234-the-11th-hour-dos-screenshot-the-library-in-spooky-mode

The library in spooky mode.

Before wrapping up the review, here’s a few curious tidbits: The 11th Hour is definitely a mature game, but did you know it was supposed to be even more adult? R-rated sex scenes were planned, which prompt the rumour of an uncut and uncensored version of the game, but said scenes were never filmed. However, the script for the R-rated version can be found on the official strategy guide (and in the digital versions).

And like its predecessor, The 11th Hour had a great commercial success, selling around 300,000 copies in the US alone, despite the mixed reviews it received. Trilobyte would later make a compilation of some of the puzzles found in both games (along with some from another title, Clandestiny) in Uncle Henry’s Playhouse.

Also, there have been several attempts to crowdfund either a third game in the series or a remake of The 7th Guest, but all have failed until now. There’s a successful Kickstarter project called The 13th Doll, which is planned for release between late 2018 and early 2019. And from what I gathered, it’s more of a reboot/remake of The 7th Guest than an actual sequel, so who knows if it’ll even reference The 11th Hour.

Ufff! I thought that would never end! So, ghosts, goblins and other things that go bump in the night, I hope you all enjoyed the review. And wish you all a happy and scary Halloween, WHATEVER YOU ARE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!