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Hi-Res Adventure #1: Mystery House

aka: Hi-Res Adventure #1: "Mystery House", Mystery House
Moby ID: 9312
Apple II Specs

Description official description

Mystery House is a monochrome interactive fiction adventure game that places the player in a Victorian mansion with seven other people. As the player explores the mansion, he discovers that there is a killer murdering each guest one by one. The objective of the game is to figure out who the murderer is before the murderer finds the hero. Players explore and manipulate objects by typing in one or two-word phrases such as "north" or "get knife".

Spellings

  • ミステリー ハウス - Japanese spelling

Groups +

Screenshots

Promos

Credits (Apple II version)

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 57% (based on 3 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.4 out of 5 (based on 24 ratings with 1 reviews)

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.

Apple II · by Katakis | カタキス (43087) · 2011

Discussion

Subject By Date
Early On-Line Systems ad page in MICRO: The 6502 Journal, May '80, including Mystery House Andrew Fisher (697) May 5, 2023
Spoiler Alert...big time! Edwin Drost (9676) Feb 26, 2020

Trivia

Distribution

The game was available in only 4 stores in the L.A county. Ken Williams and Roberta Williams transferred the software personally.

Source: Sierra On-line Fansite

Freeware release

To commemorate Sierra's seventh year in operation (1987), the game was donated as freeware in the public domain. See below for transcript of the 'official notice' which appeared in this re-released game:

FROM A GREAT MOMENT IN HISTORY: MYSTERY HOUSE THE FIRST GRAPHIC ADVENTURE, WAS CREATED IN 1980 BY SIERRA ON-LINE FOUNDERS KEN AND ROBERTA WILLIAMS AND RELEASED INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN IN 1987 TO CELEBRATE SIERRA'S 7TH ANNIVERSARY.

WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO COPY THIS GAME FOR YOURSELF OR TO SHARE. IF YOU HAVE ENJOYED IT YOU MAY SEND A $5 DONATION TO KEN AND ROBERTA'S FAVORITE CHARITY, SIERRA HISTORIC SITES ASSOCIATION, P.O. BOX 451, OAKHURST, CA 93644.

NOTE: BECAUSE IT IS NOW FREE SIERRA'S GIFT TO YOU WE CAN NO LONGER TAKE CALLS ON THIS GAME. IF YOU NEED HELP, WE SUGGEST YOU CONTACT YOUR LOCAL APPLE USERS GROUP TO TALK WITH OTHERS WHO MAY HAVE PLAYED IT.

Innovations

Mystery House was the first graphic adventure game.

Inspiration

According to an interview with Roberta Williams in Computer Gaming World issue #54 (December 1988), the game was inspired by the Agatha Christie novel Ten Little Indians (also known as Ten Little Niggers and And Then There Were None) and the board game Clue.

Mystery House Taken Over

In 2004, New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., (aka Ether-Ore) commissioned the Mystery House Taken Over project for turbulence.org. Noted Interactive Fiction authors created variations of Mystery House which can be downloaded or played online. The variations include an Asian-themed adventure, a Gothic mystery, and a Spanish game set in Casa Tomada.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #4 Most Innovative Computer Game

Information also contributed by Garcia, Indra was here and Terrence Bosky

Analytics

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Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 9312
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Contribute

Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by POMAH.

PC-98, PC-88, FM-7 added by Terok Nor. iPhone added by Scaryfun.

Additional contributors: Droog, MAT, Terrence Bosky, Sciere, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto.

Game added August 14, 2003. Last modified May 24, 2024.