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Hi-Res Adventure #1: Mystery House (Apple II)

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2.4
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Written by  :  *Katakis* (37741)
Written on  :  Jan 01, 2005
Platform  :  Apple II
Rating  :  1.25 Stars1.25 Stars1.25 Stars1.25 Stars1.25 Stars

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Summary

The first graphic adventure ever

The Good

Mystery House is the first graphic adventure game ever created. Made in 1980 by Sierra On-Line, it was the work of Ken Williams, and his wife, Roberta. The idea got started when Roberta discovered a game called Colossal Cave on Ken's TRS-80 computer that he brought home from work. She enjoyed Colossal that she tried getting some more adventures like it, only to find none. Soon after, the two of them went out for dinner and discussed plans for their first adventure. And so Mystery House was born.

The game has a "whodunit" theme, any anyone that has watched those old detective movies would know what this theme involves. The player stands outside an abandoned Victorian house. Once they enter the house, they are greeted by seven people. Why they are there, I have no idea. I can only guess that they are having a party. Anyway, the occupants are murdered one by one. During the game, you have to explore the house's many rooms, find out why they are being murdered and track down the killer before he/she targets their next victim.

At the start of the game, you are told who the characters are, what their occupation is, and - although irrelevant to this game what color their hair is. While you are exploring the house, you will find clues about the killer scattered around through notes that lie on the floor.

As I just said, the house has many rooms. Nearly half of them are spread on the upper floor, and a few of them are discovered inside secret passages. It's easy to get lost in this game so a bit of map-making is absolutely necessary.

The game was designed to run on Apple ][ computers, which are considered mediocre compared to today's beasts. The game features black-and-white graphics, which were common on Apple ]['s. To me, the graphics look like they were done on paper first, then drawn on computer screen. After that, it was up to Ken to program the scenes. There seems to be a problem with the graphics. You see, since Roberta had to draw each scene by hand, she could not properly draw the south exits, so she had to put a half-door near the edge, then put the word "DOORWAY" to let players know that they could enter through that doorway.

The Bad

Mystery House has no sound, so don't expect the game to welcome you with some theme music, or award you with beeps and tweets every time that you perform certain actions. Sound was not introduced in much earlier adventure games, anyway.

The game has the option of allowing you to switch to text-only mode on par with other text-only adventure games at the time. However, this mode becomes a problem when a new scene loads as the game resets to its normal state.

As an earlier adventure game, Mystery House features a text-parser which is very basic. Only two words (a verb-noun sequence) are allowed, and it doesn't recognize some commands such as USE or PRESS. As a result, it is likely that you'll get a "I don't know how to [command] something" error. I had a hard time filling up something with water due to this simplistic parser.

The Bottom Line

Although Mystery House is a pretty basic adventure game, that was how games were made at the time. But one feature that makes the title strikes out are the graphics. If you like Sierra games and don't care how old a game is, then you should play this game and see what they were capable of back then.