Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Adventure of the Week: Uninvited (1987, Apple IIgs ver.)

I've somehow managed to miss playing any of the classic ICOM Simulations MacVenture adventure games of the late 1980s, so this week I'm going to take on the company's haunted mansion tale, Uninvited.  This series premiered on Apple's Macintosh, but the titles were ported to a number of systems including the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The 1986 Mac and 1987 Apple IIgs versions of Uninvited (along with the rest of this classic series) have recently been repackaged and returned to commercial availability at Steam, at very reasonable prices, thanks to the good folks at Zojoi.

I'll be playing the color "Apple IIgs" version for this post, though I should note that the re-release isn't a straight emulation -- this edition uses the audiovisual assets of the originals, but renders the interface in a more modern style, with proportional fonts and scalability of the Mac/IIgs "desktop" window within the user's desktop real estate.  I'm not sure the animation plays at the right speed, as much of it seems faster than it ought to be, but it's not a major issue.  I checked the Mac version out briefly, and found that its digitized sound effects are quite a bit better, if fewer, but I'll stick with the color imagery for the sake of visual interest.

The MacVenture interface was heavily influenced by Apple's interpretation of the Xerox graphical user interface vocabulary.  It has that early ain't-windows-nifty feel, with no fixed organization of the text, illustration, inventory, exit map and verb buttons, and lots of drag-and-drop required within the game itself.  The novelty of using the mouse to select verbs and objects from the illustrations wears thin after a while, and I found myself wishing for a keyboard for speed's sake, but as an early attempt to move the genre forward this works well enough.  I appreciate the continued attention paid to the text -- while there are some really nice audio and animation touches included, the classical design and well-written text keep this game firmly grounded.

As always, interested readers are encouraged to be Uninvited themselves before reading my comments below.  I'll be documenting my experience from beginning to end, and there are sure to be...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

As the story begins, we find ourselves summoned as the Uninvited, following a car crash that leaves us trapped in our vehicle, our younger brother apparently having gone for help, with the smell of gasoline leaking from the tank in the air.  We can see immediately that we have nothing in the Inventory window, and the Exits window indicates we can potentially travel to the west.  (I'm not sure the game was designed around a traditional compass rose -- the map doesn't seem to adhere to any fixed orientation, and the listed Exits might more accurately be thought of as forward/right/back/left.)  We can see the brick wall of a mansion through the cracked windshield.

I spend a few clicks trying to open the glove compartment or otherwise find something of value before leaving the car, but I dawdle too long and the car is engulfed in flames, ending my game very quickly.  On the retry, I manage to OPEN the car door and double-click on the exit, just as an explosion (with sound effects) signals the end of that vehicle's roadworthiness.

We find ourselves standing at the front porch of a foreboding Gothic mansion, with no stated objective beyond finding our brother and getting out of here.  Pounding thunder is depicted visually and audibly as I open the mailbox in the foreground to find an envelope addressed to a Master Crowley at 666 Blackwell Road, Loch Ness, Scotland, and drag it from the newly opened mailbox window over to my Inventory window.

Can I open the envelope?  Yes -- this opens yet another window, in which we find a heavy chain necklace with a gold amulet attached, and a note advising the recipient to wear it to ward off evil.  I'm not sure if this was incoming or outgoing mail, but wearing the amulet seems like a smart thing to do.

The statues flanking the mansion's entrance represent Adonis and a young Grecian man who seems out of place, according to the description.  The limited set of verbs here doesn't suggest we can move the statue, though, so I'll opt to OPEN the front door and enter.

We find ourselves standing in the mansion's Entrance Hall, with a pentagram rug on the floor, a prominent fireplace, and exits to the northwest, east, and south the way we came in.  The door can't be reopened, so the only way out is going to be through.  Paintings depict an eagle swooping down on its prey, a barren landscape under a night sky -- an amateur work possibly depicting this estate -- and a python wrapping itself around an egg.  We can interact with the firewood in the fireplace, but can't move it into inventory, so perhaps we'll need to start a fire here later.

As I'm poking around, a small creature with a key in its hand appears to prance through the room, but it doesn't pause long enough for me to interact with it.  I try to sit in one of the old chairs, but it gives us a sharp pain in the derriere.  I still don't see anything unusual about it on further examination; we're allowed to try lying down on the sofa, but not to stay there.  So I'll just have to keep an eye out for that creature, we can't sit around here waiting for it to return.

I'll head east into the Library, well-stocked with books, a star map and a globe.  A book in the foreground bears a pentagram on its cover, clearly very old.  We can OPEN and EXAMINE it to read some definitions of pseudo-Latinate terms -- Instantum, Illuminaris, Projectum, Spearca, Specan, Heafod, Magisterium, and Abraxas (a magical word) -- that may come in handy at some point.

There's nowhere else to go here, so I'll head back through the entrance hall into a hallway to the north, with four doors (something this graphical interface approach handles quite well) and a stairwell leading up.  A photo on the wall resembles a still from the silent classic Nosferatu, and ICOM Simulations principal Dave Feldman is reportedly visible in the background.

To our immediate left/west is a door -- when we open it, a woman emerges, dressed like Scarlett O'Hara.  Trying to examine her attracts her attention, which is a bad thing as it turns out -- the last thing we see as she tears us to bloody shreds is her fleshless, grinning face.  I restore and try using the amulet on her, but whatever I try seems to end the same way, so I'll ignore that door for now.

The door to the east... produces the same result?  Maybe she's not coming out of the doors, maybe my timing is just bad... no, she appears if we open any one of the "new" doors in this room.  We can go back the way we came through the northeast door, and we can go upstairs without incident, so I suspect we need to find something to help us deal with Hell's belle.

Heading upstairs seems most likely to help us do that, given our limited options, and this brings us to another hallway with five doors to risk opening.  There's a fish trophy on the wall at the end of the hall; and while I'm unproductively fiddling around, the key-bearing creature runs through the frame again, with running commentary from the parser. 

The forward-left door (I think our perspective changes as we navigate, so I'm not really sure which way is north anymore) leads into a Master Bedroom.  An empty wheelchair is most prominent here, along with a heavy built-in cabinet, some photos on the wall, and a small table near the bed.  We spot a lab journal on the table -- it begins, "I have lost control of Dracan. My star student now fancies himself a Master," and ends by suggesting that the errant student's star is locked away in "my hingeless box."  The final statement is clearly a clue: "I've hidden the key, a chair knows where."

We can claim the candlestick on the table, dragging it into the inventory window, and take an antique cut-glass bottle containing a brown liquid, along with the lab journal.  The cabinet is locked, and while we can ride the wheelchair around the room for fun, it doesn't provide an immediate clue about the key, so we may be looking for a different chair.

There's a door at the back of this room which leads to a bathroom with a sink, tub, and zebra-patterned rug.  We can acquire a voodoo doll, a clay mask with large ears, an African ceremonial mask, and a Mayan mask with a cold, hard stare here, though I never found a real use for any of these items.  We can take the two fluffy towels here also.

I find that I can OPERATE the mask with the large ears, putting it on, but I can't quite figure out how to remove it.  Looking in the mirror with it on seems to protect us in some way, though it's not clear if we're just "fortunate" because we don't have to look at our own ugly mug.  We can turn the faucets on and off, filling the sink or the tub with water, but I don't have a reason to do that so I'll leave them off.

I'm messing around with the rug on the floor when I am informed that "the evil that dwells within the estate vies for control of your spirit" -- we had a flash of this earlier -- and learn that soon we won't have the strength of mind to fight it off.  This seems to be a timing-based mechanism, not a turn-based counter, so I'll probably be replaying after we succumb, unless I find some way to keep this force at bay.

Some bottles above the sink contain dark yellowish, yellowish, and red liquids; I'll take those too.  The inventory window is getting full, so I'll use the handy Special -> Clean Up menu command to neaten up the layout.  I also learn that I can swap one mask for another, though I can't directly take off the one we're wearing.

I think we've done what we can in the bathroom, so we'll work our way back out to the upstairs hallway and continue exploring.  I do take a brief detour to see if the painful chair downstairs contains the key, now that we suspect it should, but I am unable to confirm anything; I think we might need to cut the cushions.

Working my way clockwise through the upstairs hallway, I next enter a bedroom on the left, sensing "a powerful presence."  We can open the nightstand here to find a sealed scroll, marked with the same self-consuming snake that adorns the mansion's doorway outside.  We can open the scroll in turn to read six words over two lines -- they translate, using the definitions we found in the library, to something like "Speak Head Abraxas" and "Instant Light Abraxas."  I try saying Instantum Illuminaris Abraxas to the candle (when we SPEAK, we are given a pop-up typing interface in which to elaborate), but it ignores me and remains resolutely unlit.

A book on the nightstand appears never to have been opened -- it seems to have been written by Dracan, complaining about his treatment and the loss of his star.  He swears vengeance on this technological society and sounds mighty power-hungry.  We can take a second candle here too, just in case, and steal the pillows, though I have a feeling the usual "collect everything just in case it's needed" rules aren't going to apply to this adventure.  The advent of drag-and-drop and the use of windows as containers gave ICOM's designers the freedom to throw in all kinds of useless junk to create a more naturalistic sense of the game world, but it's a design choice that did not survive much past this era.

What about the wardrobe in this room?  We can open it, but it doesn't appear to contain anything; maybe we can use it later to stash excess inventory.  This bedroom has its own bathroom, with a fishtank, a hamper, and no toilet, oddly enough.  The hamper contains another fluffy blue towel -- but this one is damp and moldy, stained by what looks like blood.  We'll grab a bar of soap here, and note that the overhead light can be turned on and off by grappling with its edges, an unusual design.  There are gold flecks in the fish tank that look a lot like goldfish to me, but I can't find a way to interact with them.

I see the key creature now and then, taunting me, but I have no new ideas about how to catch him yet, or find my btother as the reminders come in every now and then, so we'll keep mapping out the mansion's upper level.  Northeast of the upstairs hall is yet another bedroom, with an old fashioned radio, a bed and a dresser.  The dresser contains a small iron pentagram, and we can't move the big rug on the floor, so there's not much else to do here beyond examining three thin plywood shelves on the wall, all empty.

The upstairs hallway's mid-right-hand doorway takes us to a rickety spiral staircase heading up.  We can grab a huge battle axe here -- but it's awfully large and can't be carried unless we ditch some of our inventory, so I'll drop the note to Master Crowley and one of the several towels I've managed to pilfer from the estate so far to fit it in.  A weapon seems like a smart thing to carry around here.

The staircase leads up into an iron cage -- the door is stubborn but not locked, and after we open it, the phantasm of a decapitated peasant holding his own head materializes, telling us plaintively that there is "No escape!" before it fades away.  The key-bearer runs past again, and I should probably be getting the hint here: The way he runs around he must get very hungry.  This little devil must eat something that makes him awfully hyper.  Coffee beans? Sugar?  I'll keep an eye out for a pantry.

I make the mistake of passing through the cell door, which locks behind us -- for eternity, causing our eventual starvation.  After restoring, I visit the last room on the upper level -- it's a storage closet, full of all kinds of stuff I could carry around if I had good reason.  A hatbox on the upper shelf seems like a good place to start; it contains a derby hat.  The second shelf contains a spray apparently designed for stunning spiders, some NO GHOST ghost repellent, and an empty box that may once have contained a bottle.  On the third shelf we find a box of antique laundry detergent, an empty cardboard box, and some insecticide.  The fourth shelf features a silver spittoon and a glass ashtray, and on the floor we find a paint-stained tarp, a mop and a broom.

I get another intimation of impending mortality as time ticks away, and I didn't come up with any new ideas based on the closet's contents.  Can we use the battle axe against the antebellum apparition downstairs?  Nope.  Can I wear the African mask designed to ward off ill-willed spirits?  I can wear it, yes, but the bloodthirsty ghost lady ignores it.  The iron pentagram doesn't work as a weapon either, and I can't throw the paint-stained tarp over her or SPEAK to her to try out a spell.

I try to light the entrance hall's firewood by SPEAKing to the firewood and typing in Instantum Illuminaris Abraxas -- and am pleased to see that this provokes a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning, though it doesn't actually seem to start the fire.  Am I translating this right?  Ah -- Instantum means momentary, and Illuminaris specifically a bright, white light.  So maybe I should try Spearca Instantum Illuminaris instead, to create a flame?  Nope, that doesn't do anything, nor does Instantum Spearca or Spearca alone.  At least the lightning spell is repeatable, so we are free to experiment.

What about the other spell, the Speak Head one?  There's a bust of a sailor next to the fireplace, and Specan Heafod Abraxas provokes the response, "Help your brother!"  I'm trying to do just that, Midshipman Obvious!

Maybe we can consume one of these mysterious liquids to provide protection?  The brown liquid is weakening, with an aroma of... almonds... uh-oh.  Which poison is it that smells like almonds?  Cyanide?  Too late, anyway, we're dead.  The yellow liquid causes everything to glow, but then the effect fades without any lasting results.  The red liquid makes us feel great for a short while before fading, and the dark yellow liquid is just a perfume, non-toxic but not productive either.  It doesn't seem like any of these effects (other than the poison) last for more than a moment, so I'm probably on the wrong track sampling the medicine cabinet.

Can we talk to the fish trophy?  No.  Use the battle axe on the locked cabinet?  No.  We can damage the fish tank, causing the water and fish to leak out, to no apparent purpose.  Can we use the detergent to wash the bloody towel, maybe?  I don't get to find out, as now "The evil presence proves too much for you" and we find ourselves surprisingly at peace with eternal undeath as the game comes to an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Restoring before I start over from scratch, I determine that the ancient detergent simply dissolves in the house's hard water and does nothing to cleanse the towel.  It was worth a try, anyway.  I do learn that we can dampen the towel with running water, at least. 

Aha!  I wield the mighty battle axe against the literally pain-in-the-ass chair, and manage to rip it open, producing a skeleton key!

Now what might this open?  The obvious target works out -- the heavy cabinet in the master bedroom yields a sealed wooden box, probably containing Dracan's star; a glass vial containing a strangely solid black liquid; and two more scrolls.  One reads, "Gold, silver and mercury. Together they form a key," while the other reads, "The heart of the garden maze contains the Blothney gem.  There are certain places you cannot go, 'til you unlock the mystery."  Potentially useful clues, these.

Can we mix the mercury (which I now presume the solid blackish liquid to be) and the yellow liquid I drank earlier in the silver spittoon from the closet?  Doesn't seem like it -- and the yellow liquid is apparently cologne, not liquid gold or anything.

Maybe I can use the ghost repellent on the dangerous downstairs apparition?  YES!  She is 'fraid of NO GHOST, and dissolves away into nothingness.  Having learned that, maybe I should restart and repeat some of these early steps more efficiently.  But I'll do some mapping until the forces of evil win out again.

The left-hand downstairs door leads to the mansion's Rec Room, with a gramophone, a chess board, and another locked cabinet.  The gramophone is manually powered and features a Rudy Vallee recording of "Winchester Cathedral," actually playing a very brief excerpt if we OPERATE it, until its mainspring snaps.  There are two more doors here -- one leads to a large dining room, and one to a trophy room.

The Dining Room has four doors -- one leads back out to the downstairs hallway -- and we find the remnants of a party here, including a bouquet of flowers, a pewter bowl, a pepper mill, and a couple open bottles of Dom Perignon. One set of double doors leads to the Kitchen, with some knives and cookie jars -- including one stained with blood around the lid, though none of them contain anything.  I don't find anything that looks like creature bait, unfortunately.

There's a small bedroom attached to the kitchen, and I get overtaken by evil while trying to investigate it.  So it's time for me to restart and establish a new save baseline, getting the basics out of the way before returning here.  The dresser is empty, though there's an atomizer on the dresser that might prove useful later on, given all the liquids we seem to be running across. 

I also check out the kitchen pantry, full of more random stuff we might or might not be able to use.  Some matches are worth taking, I assume.  And there are some cooking basics here -- flour, rice, iodized salt... and sugar!  Maybe we can use it with one of the platters here to catch that creature?  I put a platter on the kitchen floor, put some sugar on it (though the OPERATE verb isn't working, I'm just placing it visually in the room) -- and watch as the creature runs by, ignoring it.

Returning to the dining room, we find that the other set of double doors leads into the Study.  A desk here opens to reveal a number of notecards -- these helpfully describe mercury, and many other chemical elements organized by atomic number, but since the Hg card is on top I think it's meant to help solidify our chemistry lesson for making that other key.  Another door here is locked.

I'll return to the trophy room now and examine the taxidermist's works on display.  There are some guns, locked in a gun rack, and a small, portable cage.  Ah, maybe this will help us out!  I put some sugar in the cage, though I'm clearly still missing something as nothing happens by to take the bait and leave, say, a key.  A door leads outside -- we are apparently not prevented from leaving the mansion, though we're still on the grounds -- to display a fanciful landscpae with three outbuildings.

The Magisterium (translating to "mystery," according to our magic dictionary) on the left is locked, but two suspicious metal orbs framing the doorway look like a possible target for a magical lightning bolt... or not.  There's a diamond-shaped niche above the door that probably has something to do with this puzzle.

The second building, in the center, is a greenhouse -- maybe this leads to the garden maze and the gem mentioned before?  There are no other exits, just a lot of dead plants, but I'll steal a watering can sitting here, just in case.

Finally, we investigate the chapel -- where two menacing dogs block our path and salivate at the sight of living flesh!  At last I find a use for that lightning spell, sending them scampering off in fear.  The chapel has long been abandoned, but there's another stone head here that I hope will have something more to say... and he obliges, calling upon his Master to open a door at the side of the sanctuary so that we may no longer walk in darkness.  I try to take the small cross on the altar -- and when I move it, the altar slides aside, revealing a passage beneath!

The game warns me that the chapel's basement is inhabited by a huge spider, so I go back to the house to fetch the Spider Cider from the upstairs closet.  Inventory is getting crowded -- there seems to be an item count limit, on top of the visual space constraints -- so I leave the bulky cage in the upstairs hallway.  As it turns out, the spider downstairs is really big, and I don't have a chance to use the Spider Cider spray on it before it kills us.

Okay -- another restore is in order.  What's through this other chapel door?  I step through it, and a horrifying apparition swoops down and peels the skin from my skull!  Ah, I'm not wearing the necklace from the mailbox, I missed that after my restart... and I can't get back there now, can I?  Another reset is required!  Unfortunately, having the necklace with me isn't sufficient protection.  Neither is carrying a crucifix along.  So I may be here prematurely.

I still haven't checked out the room at the lower right-hand side of the downstairs hallway back at the mansion, so I'll do that now.  Here, we find a neatly appointed Parlor, though it's fallen into disrepair over time.  A back door leads out onto the Veranda, where a spider scampers by.  I thought we might have to try to intercept it -- which wouldn't be easy, I fear, as the animation seems to play faster in this modern version that it would have on the Apple IIgs -- but we can simply spray the railing, leaving a film there.  I have to leave the room and return, and this time when the spider runs by, it gets stuck... it's not dead, but paralyzed.

I can't SPEAK to the spider, so I put it in inventory for now and close the veranda door, as I'm hearing a dog barking in the distance and I'm not sure that's a good thing here.  OPERATEing the spider on the chapel cellar doesn't do anything, and visiting the giant spider downstairs still proves fatal.  Hmm.

What else?  Maybe the skeleton key can work on the other locked cabinet in the Rec Room?  Yes -- and the key stays available in inventory for further use, I hadn't noticed that earlier.  There's a doll in the cabinet -- a gypsy fortuneteller doll -- and the speakin' spell suggests we "Talk to my pious brother..." who "... can open doors in high places," which we already know about.  Ah, well.

I retrieve the sealed box from the upstairs cabinet, and try to open it, but it's sealed shut with no visible means of entry.  Can I use the big kitchen knife on it?  Not to any visible effect.

Oh, hey!  It looks like the electricity is back on -- that's what the pious head must have meant when it talked about making sure we're no longer walking in darkness.  I'm allowed to turn on the lamp in the bedroom next to the kitchen -- and the picture on the wall (which I was not allowed to manually move out of the way earlier) slides aside.  Unfortunately, I can't see what's in there, as an unhappy ghost in chains materializes, indignant about our invasion of his private quarters.  And I'm all out of ghost repellent!

I try to use the skeleton key to unlock his chains, but that doesn't work.  The cross, the necklace, and the empty NO GHOST bottle also fail.  But applying the spider scares the ghost away with an unearthly shriek -- apparently the neatness of the ghost's former quarters suggests a certain phobia of insects.  Now we can open the journal stashed behind the picture to read the servant's diary, telling of how he hid Dracan's star in the Master's special box.  He also says that "Dracan's star never discerns.  In fire it freezes.  In ice it burns."

Does that mean we can burn the special box and still retrieve the star intact?    I try to operate the matchbox on the firewood, which of course doesn't work -- I have to open the matchbox and use a match on the firewood... oh, no, that doesn't work either.  I try to strike the match on the matchbox.  Nope.  Ah!  We have to close box before striking, of course.  Clever!  It took me a few tries to figure out how to apply the now-burning match to the firewood -- it finally worked best to drag it into the room display, then click OPERATE, the firewood, and the match to get the fire going.  Time is of the essence, as the match will burn out after a few seconds, though there are enough matches in the matchbox to allow for a little trial and error.

I thought I'd have to do something similar with the box, but simply dragging it over to the fire does the trick, turning it to ash and allowing us to retrieve a heavy, brass pentagram labeled "Fire and Ice."

Will this let me get past the ghost at the chapel?  Nope, I'm still prevented from reaching the garden maze.  Hmmmm... I see that, unlike most of the furniture in this place, we can actually take the candelabra from the chapel with us.  Is that useful?  With the candles lit, I step outside and... YES!  The ghost flits in and then flees at the sight of it.

Now we can enter the garden maze, outlined in brick walls with fog obscuring the distance.  The Exits map makes this a little bit easier to navigate than would otherwise be the case, but the maze is quite large and it takes some time to explore.  I run into a zombie along the way, and while trying to figure out what I might use on him, I'm dead again.  After a few retries, I figure out that the pentagram doesn't do anything to the zombie, but the necklace frightens it away.

I wander around the maze some more, eventually coming upon a dead end where a stone slab marks someone's passing.  I don't have a shovel and haven't seen one.  Maybe I should have brought those flowers from the dining room?  Dropping the bouquet at the grave produces a response praising our kindness, but I don't see anything happening as a result.  Are there other graves in this maze?  Yes -- and additional zombies, too.  I drop the flowers at another grave with no real results, but I finally find a gravestone placed suspiciously at the side of the screen instead of face-on, and using the flowers on it causes it so slide aside, revealing a crawlable tunnel.

We now face a puzzle involving a keyhole and three cages with doors.  The skeleton key works to open up the three cages -- and three hungry animals jump out!  I am still trying to identify them when the crow, viper and wildcat attack and tear me to pieces.  Drat!

Can I somehow connect the cage from the Trophy Room to these three cages to contain their dangerous contents?  I have to give up the candelabra to make room for the cage, and am glad to see that the attacking ghost stays gone after our initial encounter. Trying the cages again, the animals don't seem eager to go into my cage.  I try to drag the bird into it, but it jumps out of my hands.  The snake and cat do the same thing, making a meal of me before I can try many alternatives.  It isn't until I try to OPERATE the cage on the animals that I make progress -- of course, I mis-click the first time and confirm only that "The maze can't be caged," but I succeed in caging the viper, allowing the cat to satisfy itself with the bird and leave me alone.  Oddly, the snake appears to have disappeared from the cage when I open it again (the animals tend to wander off when they can, I realize later.)  And I don't find anything in the other cages to suggest why I might have wanted to empty them in the first place.


Heading out of this area, I encounter a weird bouncing tomato creature (for lack of a better description) -- it doesn't seem dangerous, but I can't get past it.  There's a horde of zombies lurking west of the puzzle room, so that's not a good way to go either, and the only other passageway takes me back out into the maze.  Where's that gem supposed to be?  Ah!  I see it hiding behind the bouncing monster, briefly, when he's in the air.  So we'll have to deal with him.

Can I get the cat to attack?  No, it's no longer hungry, and I can't drag the snake or cat onto the monster directly.  What if I backtrack and cage the bird instead?  The cat and snake attack each other, and now when I open the cage the bird escapes and the creature is distracted, taking off after it.  Talk about getting just the right permutation in place!

I grab the Bothney gem (or so I assume it to be), and since this room is a dead end I work my way back out of the maze.  Now that I have the gem, let's see if we can get into the Magisterium... yes, using it on the gem-shaped compartment opens the door!  Inside, we find a strange blue creature floating in the middle of the room, and it proves immune to the talisman and the pentagram.  It blocks access to the center door, though it appears we can freely access the rooms to our right and left.

To the east/right we discover an Observatory, a huge telescope trained on the heavens, and an indecipherable text lying open on a table.  The door to the left is locked, and the skeleton key won't open it.  The demon (for such this creature proves to be) won't let us do much, but it doesn't directly attack and we are free to come and go.

What about the greenhouse?  Inspecting the dead plants, I find one pot that has nothing growing in it, and when I try to operate the watering can on it, the potted soil eagerly sucks up the moisture.  Can this help us with the demon somehow?  I try to OPERATE the plant on the demon, with no luck, but when I put it on the ground, the demon flies down to check it out, but then returns to his post disappointed.

Some time has passed, and there's a small green shoot poking out of the pot now.  It probably needs more water, but before I get to one of the mansion's bathrooms, I see the plant has grown some more.  The demon still isn't interested, though, until the plant starts to bear fruit, at which point it takes and eats some, then disappears.

Now we can go through the central door -- the one with a pentagram on it, of course -- to access the Laboratory.  There's a safe here that requires a combination to open, and I have no clue what that might be... oh, wait, maybe I do!  There are a bunch of beakers here, calling that earlier note to mind.  Gold, silver, mercury -- that would be Au, Si, Hg -- atomic numbers 79, 14, 80... no, wait, silver isn't Si, that's Silicon.  Ag is silver, #47, and yes, 79 47 80 opens the safe!

The safe contains a cookie jar -- examination suggests it contains one big solid object, but it's sealed very tightly.  Can I open it with that little jar of black stuff?  No -- I can splash it all over the jar, but it still won't open.  I go back to the house and try the battle axe on it -- and yes, that works just fine, revealing a large cookie.

Um... so now what?  Oh, that little critter with the key is still running around.  Let's see if we can tempt him with the cookie!  I drop it on the kitchen floor, and he obliges me by nibbling on the cookie and leaving the key behind.

Now what can we use this key on?  There's that last door in the Magisterium... but no, it doesn't unlock that.  Nor does it unlock the door in the study.  Are there any other locked locks on the map?

I finally needed a walkthrough to find something I'd missed here -- a trap door in the floor of the laboratory that I visually took to be a simple bit of circular shading.  We don't even need the key for this, it can just be opened, leading down into a dark cave.

Heading north on this lower level, I encounter that huge spider we met earlier underneath the chapel.  But it doesn't immediately attack?  Well, it only waits a little bit -- I have enough time to try the Spider Cider on it, but he's much too big to be vulnerable to an over-the-counter insect paralysis spray.

Trying my luck to the southwest instead, I meet a man who forms himself out of the mist of these frozen tunnels -- "You've come.  I've been waiting for you... for you!" he says before vanishing.  The pentagram of Fire and Ice proves effective on the ice, melting it away by summoning a fiery creature.  We then see a human figure, or perhaps a corpse, apparently released from the ice, just before it gets washed downstream, to the north.

The robed figure reappears -- I guess he's meant to be the Master, trying to help us defeat Dracan.  He tells us to hurry, so we'll try.  Heading north, we find a strange stone altar with a pit in its center.  The figure we saw washed away is also here -- and thawing out rapidly, as a growing sense of foreboding fills the room.  So I try dragging him into the pit -- and this seems to work, as the pit sounds quite bottomless and his screams (what a rude awakening!) fade away.

We don't want to go down the pit ourselves -- though we can take that fatal route if we choose -- so we'll head north again, to find a stairway leading up to a locked door.


Maybe this is what that black key is for!  Yes -- though we're not at the endgame quite yet.  This door brings us back into the mansion's study, where we can now hear our brother's pained voice and screams from upstairs before he is suddenly cut off.  Uh-oh.

I rush upstairs -- I guess about which way to go and luck out, finding myself in the second bathroom where it sounds like his screams are right on top of us (the audio is especially effective here, given the limited technology of the time.)  Maybe this is where that weird light fixture comes into play -- can we remove it to access an upper level?  We can't reach the light, even though we can clearly turn it on and off?  Hmmmm.  Can we fill the tub and then freeze the water with the pentagram?  I don't have the pentagram anymore, so we may never know.

But I've got the right idea here -- the tub is now overflowing, and the water is rising in this tiny bathroom.  After a while (not a moment too soon, it feels like!) I can open the fixture.  I go up through the hole to the attic, and yes, here's our little brother, complete with a standard-issue 1980s haircut!  We can't SPEAK to him, but EXAMINE reveals that he seems to be possessed.  I try to use the cross on him, but am advised that this isn't a movie.

So close!  What am I missing here?  Can I wake him out of his trance somehow?  HIT actually works -- we haven't really used it anywhere else, come to think of it.  The demon is knocked out of his host, and our brother voluntarily crashes through the window to (we hope) safety.  The cross is much more effective on the exposed demon, who recoils and fades into nothingness.

There seems little left to do now but go out the window after our brother.  And victory is ours!

As an unusual final touch, we're given the opportunity to type in our name and print out an official Certificate of Completion, but I'm all for the paperless society so I'll be content with this blog post as my official record.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing Uninvited -- the plot is traditional haunted mansion adventure game stuff, and some of the puzzles seem arbitrary, but the innovative interface design and top-notch execution make for a memorable experience.  Now that the MacVenture games are back in circulation, I will have to tackle Deja Vu, Deja Vu II and Shadowgate at some point.  Watch this space!


  1. and no toilet, oddly enough

    This is an adventure game design conundrum plaguing us to the present day: if we implement a house, need we implement all parts of it? If there is a house, there should be a bathroom. If there is a bathroom, there should be a toilet. If there is a toilet, it should flush, and flushing should be able to carry away objects -- even game-critical ones. Et voila, you've just spent three days implementing something that doesn't actually play a role in your game, except to put it into an unwinnable state. Sometimes it's easier to just omit the toilet.

    1. I think in this case there's actually some logic behind the absence of a toilet, though it doesn't become apparent until the end of the game. The room description actually calls attention to the fact that there isn't one! But I agree with your larger point -- modeling reality too closely rarely serves a game well.

  2. You may be the only person on the Internet to review/play Uninvited without including a screenshot of the "woman's" face. The NES box and cartridge art even put her square in the middle of both, making it seem like the woman is the main antagonist.

    I've never played Uninvited myself, but your playthrough here makes it seem like she's a one-off "trap" to kill the player, making the art direction for the Nintendo port even weirder.

    1. She's the earliest supernatural danger in the game, and she's the first obstacle that has to be cleared to provide access to more of the map. And the player almost HAS to have died at her hands a number of times to get the timing down for having the bottle open and at the ready. It's certainly a striking image, I can see why it was a bit overused at the time, but yeah, I didn't want to repeat it here.

  3. No mention of the black hole in the star map? And the easter egg "art room" reached by going through the black hole? And what happens there? Perhaps this is only in the Mac version. Otherwise a very interesting report on an excellent old game!

    1. I suspect it's there in the IIgs version as well -- I just never poked at the star map enough to notice it! I thought maybe there would be some puzzle between the Observatory and the star map, but never had a reason to explore it more. Thanks for the info!