The 11th Hour

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

The 11th Hour was the sequel to The 7th Guest, a highly popular puzzle game (in my opinion, popular only because there weren't very many other games at the time with digitized video or high-resolution graphics). The plots of the two games are nearly identical: in each, the player moves through a haunted house and must solve puzzles in many rooms before he or she can continue through them. Both games also reward the successful completion of puzzles with video clips.

The idea of using video clips as "eye candy" is contrary to the "new digerati" idea of computer-as-just-another-tool; such use is designed to appeal to the newcomer who will enjoy the novelty of the clips instead of actually thinking about them (the video clips in The 11th Hour are too absurd to be believed; they include a ray-traced insect emerging from a toothpaste tube and a woman who claims with melodramatic earnest that she was raped by a house.) Few modern games' plots would be able to support themselves without dazzling graphics and sound; just imagine them as text adventures and you'll see what I mean.

The 11th Hour makes a few changes from The 7th Guest: for instance, it includes a "scavenger hunt" through the house as well as the conventional puzzles. Unfortunately, the effect of this "scavenger hunt" is simply to make the game more linear. The player gets a clue, finds an item, gets a video clip, gets another clue, finds another item, gets another video clip, and repeats until bored.

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