Monday, December 30, 2019

Adventure: Hugo's House of Horrors / Hugo's Horrific Adventure (1989)

I haven't had much time to sit down and dig into a proper adventure game in a long while,so I was pleased to run across an animated adventure game that only took a few hours to play -- David P. Gray's Hugo's Horrific Adventure (its in-game credit), a.k.a. Hugo's House of Horrors (in old shareware ads if memory serves.)  It was originally published in 1989 with a mouse-supporting update circa 1997.

The design was inspired by the Sierra/Lucasarts 3-D adventure games and the technology is similar, but it's also a bit of a throwback to the bedroom coder days of yore.  It appears Mr. Gray was a one-man team, designing, programming, composing the music and creating the art and animation, so it's a fairly small map and has a homemade feel about it, like an early text adventure with some audiovisuals added.  The game was originally released as a shareware demo, and users were encouraged to purchase the full game, if only to have the manual handy to help answer some questions near the end of the game in the pre-Internet days.

For this post, I'm playing the ScummVM-compatible release available at as the first part of The Hugo Trilogy.  Note that the ScummVM plugin for the Hugo series uses the host emulator's text boxes, rather than the Sierra-style popups used by the original game, so if you want a more authentic experience you may wish to track down the original release and run it in DOSBox.

As always, I'll recount my playing experience in detail here, so if you intend to play this one yourself, be aware that there are comprehensive...

   *** SPOILERS AHEAD! ***

Hugo's Horrific Adventure has no title screen -- we're dropped right into the first gameplay location, a haunted house with eyes peering out and an unCLIMBable fence.  We can't walk offscreen left or right, so clearly our first goal is to get inside the house.  Our hero, Hugo, is the gent in the very 1980s cyan shirt and magenta pants.

The keyboard controls are similar to the early Sierra AGI titles -- we walk Hugo around with the arrow keys, and type to issue commands, with a general requirement that our hero be close to any objects with which we want him to interact.  The animation engine is a little glitchy -- if we repeatedly hit the movement key, Hugo's walking animation resets on each keypress so that he glides across the background.  It looks better if we just tap the key to start and stop his motion.  The music is suitably creepy-slash-jaunty, with a fun shift in tone if we stay in one place for a while.

There's a suspicious-looking pumpkin on the ground by the front door -- we can TAKE PUMPKIN then OPEN PUMPKIN to reveal a key, which falls to the ground, allowing us to TAKE KEY and OPEN DOOR.

Upon entering the main hall, we see a white-haired gentleman in a lab coat walking to the right of the upper level and vanishing through a doorway.  But I'll check out the area a bit before trying to find out what he's up to.

We can TAKE CANDLE from a small round table on the lower level.  We can EXAMINE any of the several PAINTINGs but not MOVE PAINTING or TAKE PAINTING so it appears these are just for decoration.  EXAMINE DOORWAY near the small opening under the staircase is worthwhile, as it yields a penknife and a small silver whistle.  As before, the newfound objects end up on the floor, so we have to TAKE PENKNIFE and TAKE WHISTLE.  And we have 46 of the 200 points already?  Perhaps this will be a brief adventure!

I chose to explore the upstairs bedroom next -- we can LOOK UNDER BED to find nothing, but there's a chiffarobe/wardrobe/whatchamacallit present as well.  We can OPEN WARDROBE to find what looks like a severed HEAD, but is actually a MASK shaped like a monkey's head.  In the process of figuring out what the wardrobe was called, I discovered that if we specify EXAMINE [unrecognized object] we are given a room-level description.  EXAMINE WINDOW reveals the outline of a shed below, in amongst some trees, so we should try to find that at some point.

Next door is a bathroom:

We can't seem to USE TOILET or USE TUB or TAKE BATH or USE WATER CLOSET; EXAMINE WINDOW reveals the same shed seen from the bedroom.  EXAMINE SINK provides no useful information, though EXAMINE MIRROR confirms the 333 text written in lipstick that we can plainly see in the artwork, so we'll make note of that information.

Entering the Professor's room causes us to lose the monkey mask, so at first I thought solving this room might have to do with sneaking it in somehow -- actually, it appears to be a restriction imposed simply to avoid animation complications.  Upon entry, the Professor urges us to get in place to "begin the experiment!" by stepping into a large open box connected to some wires and an imposing control console.  There's another character here, a large green fellow who looks a bit like the Green Yamo from the old Datasoft Bruce Lee game but is actually Igor.  EXAMINE TABLE near the door indicates there's a useful rubber bung here, but we don't seem to be able to TAKE BUNG as the glass door of the experiment booth is blocking our access to the tabletop.

So we might as well step into the box as the Professor asks to see what happens -- Igor mistakenly presses the red button instead of the blue as the mad scientist directs, and our hero is shrunk to about half his usual height.  The Professor departs in frustration, and now that we're smaller we can walk behind the glass door and TAKE BUNG, at least, but now we're too short to reach the unusually high-placed doorknob to exit this room.  So we're going to have to work something out with Igor here.

We can step back into the box and say IGOR, PUSH RED BUTTON -- of course, he pushes the yellow one, and now we're normal size but so discombobulated we can't coordinate ourselves enough to open the door.  Asking IGOR, PUSH YELLOW BUTTON causes the green one to be pushed, creating a pixel-fragmented Hugo that is equally unable to open the door.  It appears Igor tends to push the button to the right of the one we we ask for, so IGOR, PUSH GREEN BUTTON causes him to push the blue button, restoring Hugo to his normal condition, and I decided not to ask for any more button presses.  I also stopped to TAKE MASK again after exiting the room.

Heading north on the lower level leads us into the house's kitchen, where we can try (but fail) to TAKE the BROOM leaning against the wall, which is magically held in place somehow.  There doesn't seem to be anything in the oven or the cupboards, but we hear a feast going on in the room to the right.  We'll go left for now, only to encounter an attack dog, so we'll make a hasty trip back to the kitchen.  Re-entering to try my luck again, I was attacked and (I presume partially) eaten by the dog and had to restore a saved game, but I was able to catch sight of a mousehole on the wall in the dog room that may bear re-examination if we can deal with the angry pooch.

Exiting out the back of the kitchen, we see the fabled backyard shed -- which isn't really camouflaged at all, and we can't leave the path that leads to it so we have no choice but to check it out.  It's locked with a combination lock, and 333 -- surprise? -- is the correct combination for entry.  EXAMINE SHED discloses that the structure is in severe disrepair, but we see an oilcan on a crumbling shelf -- and for a change Hugo automatically adds it to inventory, presumably to avoid having to depict the shed's interior at all.

Returning to the house, we can enter the Feast room, which is populated with the standard Halloween characters -- Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula -- as well as... Gwendolin, Hood, Pea Head and Slime, so no Universal lawyers will be knocking on Mr. Gray's door.

The butler asks, "Care for a chop, sir?" -- answering YES leads to Hugo's swift demise, as the butler chops the interloper's head off with a carving knife.  Answering NO leads to the same conclusion, so we'd best just avoid the butler as he patrols the upper side of the room.  But there doesn't seem to be much else to do here, and it turns out that if we WEAR MASK we can use the disguise to make off with a pork chop from the efficient but easily deceived butler.

Now let's try giving that to the dog... this takes a little coordination of text input versus the animation, because there isn't really enough time to type the whole command before the dog takes Hugo down.  This is the first of several situations in the linear last section of the game where it worked best for me to type the command, enter the next room, and hit ENTER to execute it.  My attempt to GIVE CHOP was unsuccessful despite my clever timing, but following the game's helpful post-death recommendation to THROW CHOP instead worked.  Now we can EXAMINE MOUSEHOLE to find... a pile of squishy mouse droppings.  Hooray!

Hugo refuses to take any, erm, droppings, and attempting to leave and return to the room puts the dog back on dangerous full alert despite the luscious-looking pork chop still lying on the floor.  So why are we here?  EXAMINE RUG suggests a corner near the door looks uneven; moving to that side of the carpet allows us to MOVE RUG and discover a trapdoor.  This feels significant but I hope we have everything we need, because I suspect there's no going back after this point.

Well, perhaps we don't have everything necessary, as the trapdoor is bolted shut.  I try to TAKE BOLTS and OIL BOLTS and OIL TRAPDOOR to no avail.  But OIL BOLT works (there's only one big, rusty bolt) -- but then we can't PULL BOLT or REMOVE BOLT or UNSCREW BOLT or OIL BOLT again?

Ah!  It turns out this is not the nut-and- but the sliding sort of bolt, and OPEN BOLT works, followed by OPEN TRAPDOOR.  Hugo discards the monkey mask automatically, yet again, and we find ourselves in the basement.  117 of 200 points so far!

LISTEN DOOR yields some muffled sobbing so perhaps we are close to rescuing Penelope!  (I only know this is what we're supposed to do because getting killed by the dog suggests that now we'll never accomplish this laudable goal.)  TALK PENELOPE establishes that this is in fact Penelope, but she's gagged so she can't suggest anything.  If we stand around too long, like we're taking blog notes or something, the game starts prompting the player to see if some help is desired, but I'm resisting for the moment.

We can see (by mousing around) that there's an EXIT underneath one of the rocks near the door, but we can't MOVE ROCK or PUSH ROCK successfully.  BLOW WHISTLE produces nothing interesting.  UNLOCK DOOR reveals there's no keyhole or bolts, so it's not clear how we can open it.  PUSH DOOR is not useful either.  And we can't get back upstairs, so it's truly a one-way trip after we pacify the dog.

What to try?  In Hugo's inventory, we currently have a penknife, a bung, a whistle, a candle, a key, and an oilcan.  We can't BURN OILCAN, although we can OIL DOOR, making it an oily door that still won't budge!

OH!  We can maneuver Hugo between the rocks by the door to the Exit to reach a cave, where Hugo immediately gets attacked by some vampire bats, fatally so.  But readying a BLOW WHISTLE for immediate execution confuses the bats' sonar so that we can explore the cave area we're in.

Unfortunately, the next room contains a murderous mummy, so it seems we need to prepare some kind of offense or defense here as well.  I couldn't burn the mummy's bandages or find any other way to attack him, but as he always just makes a beeline for Hugo it appears we can use the onscreen geography to get him trapped behind rocks and navigate past the room, being sure to TAKE TREASURE on the way.

Next, we find ourselves at an underground lake with a passage on the far side, near an old man with a fishing pole.  There's a small boat on the near side -- we can't USE BOAT or BOARD BOAT, but GET IN BOAT reveals a hole in the vessel's bottom, so we have to PLUG HOLE WITH BUNG before we can proceed.  Good thing we've been faithful adventurers, collecting every object along the way!

We can't move the boat yet as it's tied to a post -- we can't UNTIE ROPE (it's too knotted) but we can CUT ROPE with the penknife, then GET back IN the BOAT and PUSH OFF.  We drift over to the other side of the lake, but can't GET OUT because the old man is stubbornly in the way.  TALK MAN reveals that he wishes to help, but he vows to test our adventuring mettle by asking a series of questions, mostly related to popular fantasy literature.

I was able to answer BILBO as the first name of the hero of The Hobbit; NARNIA as the home of Aslan; and BRAM STOKER as the inventor of Count Dracula.  I successfully chose (c) Drink It concerning what one should do with a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.  The final question is a riddle: "What's the name of the only mammal that can't fly that can fly?"  I initially guessed PIG, incorrectly, and was doomed to float forever on the old man's lake, which seems a bit harsh when all he really has to do is move a foot or so.  Fortunately, we can just TALK MAN again to re-take the quiz; I tried SQUIRREL and FLYING SQUIRREL, also unsuccessfully, before successfully arriving at HUMAN -- we can't fly naturally, but we can fly with technology, which seems obvious in retrospect.  Two more questions remain -- "What was the name of Roy Rogers' dog?"  I knew Trigger was his horse, but I had to look up this bit of trivia - BULLET (the Wonder Dog) is the correct answer, and then of course I answered YES as to whether I really want to rescue Penelope.

We now have 179 of 200 points as we venture past the lake into a guard station where a more fleshy-looking version of Igor stands watch over the beloved Penelope's cell.  TALK GUARD yields no meaningful result, nor does BRIBE GUARD, but GIVE GOLD cause Hugo to wisely slip him just one gold coin from our recent looting of the mummy's treasure.  And now Hugo has all 200 points collected!

Once we enter Penelope's cell, therefore, the game wraps up rather hastily -- text informs us we have rescued her and exited the house somehow getting two people past the dog and all other obstacles, and apparently Hugo and Penelope live happily, if not ever after, at least until the second game in the trilogy, presumably.  (Apologies for the obscured screenshot, I wasn't able to grab an image without the wrap-up text overlaid on top!)

Hugo's Horrific Adventure/Hugo's House of Horrors was an entertaining little animated adventure -- it only took a few hours for me to play through it, including taking notes and gathering screenshots, and I appreciated its straightforward simplicity.  Haunted house rescues and escapes were a very common theme back in the text adventure era, and the heavy use of the parser here felt nicely old-fashioned.  I'll likely return to this series in the future.


  1. Got this game at a pharmacy for a few bucks and shared it with all my friends as a kid. We all spent the season meeting up to go skateboarding and discuss our latest progress. Was super proud of myself for beating it and still have a soft spot haha! Awesome.

  2. I've only just discovered this very enjoyable blog by chance - I've now got a lot of reading to do! I've seldom played any games for years, but still adore my old BBC Micro - text games on that platform and classic PC adventures have always been my favourite games.

    Either way, 'Hugo's House of Horrors' (as I seem to recall it being called) is a fun little game. Not quite a solid classic, but very good all the same. I remember discovering it on an Abandonware site (where it may not have belonged?) one rainy, empty work afternoon around 2000, and was instantly drawn to the classic Sierra-style gameplay, which by then had fallen out of favour and in many ways was obsolete.

    The game isn't perfect - there are some clear shortcuts taken by the writer in places - but has an old-school, basic charm which gives it definite appeal. There are a few glitches (I seem to recall my copy occasionally being buggy in the room with Igor, and the broom that can't be picked up... can occasionally be picked up!?) but nothing too severe, and to any old-school fans of the genre is indeed worth a look.

    I also have HHH 2, and the third final game (which I only got hold of in more recent years) and they're certainly worth a look too. :)

  3. Don't know why or how I started down this rabbit hole. But I had this game and worked through it over a period of months exchanging tips with friends while skateboarding behind the middle school. I have a real soft spot for it! And yes, I did dive into the sequels too haha