Mystery House (1980)   Leave a comment

Ad from SoftSide, December 1980 issue.

I’m not the first one to make the connection, but the very first game produced by Roberta Williams — Mystery House — is something of a predecessor to the one I just played, The Colonel’s Bequest. It’s very up-front that the plot will consist of an inital cast being slowly murdered, one-by-one:

The extra twist here is that you can be one of the victims. (The main character of Laura Bow was not part of the will of The Colonel’s Bequest and hence was never a target; the methods of dying in that game involved more mundane things like falling into water or getting kicked by an angry horse.)

In any case, Mystery House also holds the distinction of being one of the two candidates for First Graphical Adventure Ever. (I’ll get to the second candidate after I wrap up this one.) This allows for a distinct quality not seen in previous games: the text does not contain all the information you need to understand what’s going on.

For example, in this early scene, the text implies but not explicitly state there is a closed door. The only feedback to >OPEN DOOR was graphical, with no textual change at all. Entering the door gets this message…

THE DOOR HAS BEEN CLOSED AND LOCKED

…locking the player in with this strangely-drawn rendition of the cast.

>LOOK PEOPLE incidentally gets the message “the people were explained at the beginning of the game”. In particular the instructions list the cast, and for some reason their hair color (?)

The first body is only a few rooms away. Sam, the mechanic, has been hit by a blunt object.

Given Sam was just alive two rooms over, it appears the mysterious teleporting murderer is back in action.

I’m guessing (hoping, I suppose) this is shorter than some of the other works of the time due to the necessity of storing lots of pictures. Just for fun, here is the same scene with Sam rendered in a Japanese version of Mystery House (via Hardcore Gaming 101):

Posted August 26, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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