Game Name: Uninvited
Platforms: NES
Publisher(s): Kemko/Seika
Developer(s): ICOM Simulations
Genre(s): Adventure
Release Date: Jun, 1991

If the title reminds of you an old PC game made back in ’86 by ICOM… well that’s probably because this is the very same game. Uninvited is essentially a text-based adventure, polished up with some basic graphics and a point-and-click interface. If you don’t like such games, or reading, the door is over there. If you’re otherwise interested, read on, though with caution.

In Uninvited, you play a regular, average Joe, driving with your sister down a country road. You see a figure in the road, swerve to avoid it, and wrap your car around a tree and yourself around the steering wheel. When you come to, you’re outside a giant creepy mansion, and your sister is missing. To trap you and further the plot along, your car then dramatically explodes as you exit it for no reason at all. Must have been a Pinto. It’s now up to you to traverse the spooky mansion grounds like Shag and Scoob, hunting for clues to find your big sis.

Of course, searching for your sister/loved one has been done before, and not just in the game’s previous PC version. And naturally there’s something much more sinister going on in the house that you must also put a stop to. I’m going to just level with you ahead of time, the story’s cliché and lame. If this really is going to bother you, and you’re expecting something more than just an average “means to an end” style plot, then you shouldn’t bother with the game. It won’t satisfy you. If you’re more forgiving, well, there are still more problems that you must first agree to overcome.

First off, the game is short. There are a little over fifty rooms, at best. If you know exactly what you’re doing, you can burn through the game in about 45 minutes. The real challenge consists of making sense of the truly harebrained puzzles. As with most adventure games, Uninvited requires you to try everything you can think of in order to progress, except this game is much more conservative with its clues. There are a few ambiguous scrolls laying around that clue you in on the bigger plot puzzles, but there are other ones required to complete the game where you are given no help whatsoever. For example, in one sequence a ghost appears and blocks you from a vital item. If you use the “try everything” approach, the ghost kills you instantly with acid. There’s only one item that will allow you to pass, that you must go to uncommon lengths to get, without ANY previous clues that this item would be effective. You read about eight journal entries from this guy before you meet him, they could have dropped that little information tidbit in there somewhere. Regardless, it’s information that would have been damn nice to know, instead of consistently dying for about thirty minutes while trying to solve the little mystery.

Here’s a small spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you really want to play. But this puzzle is so stupid that I must share it. Randomly throughout the rooms you will encounter a grinning monster with a key in its maw, who dances across the screen to Japanese music like the Whammys from the old show Press Your Luck. You need the key. The solution? In one of the rooms there is a plate. You must place a cookie on the plate to distract the monster. Where’s the cookie? Why, inside a magically sealed jar, which in turn is LOCKED in a SAFE! You must get the combination by solving an elaborate chemical puzzle using the atomic weight numbers of elements. But wait, there’s more. You can’t simply open the jar, no, no, you must find an axe in one of the rooms and smash it open. And it must be this axe, as no other item will shatter the magic cookie jar. I should point out, of course, that nowhere in the game does it mention that the monster with the key likes cookies. I guess that’s just supposed to be common-fricking-knowledge.

Well! What a handy thing to have in a haunted house!

As previously mentioned, in battles with the evil monsters slumming around the house, you cannot simply try everything until something works. You only get one shot at using the correct item before the monsters kill you. This raises the difficulty, but without giving you proper clues it also raises the frustration. Then there are the multitude of items throughout the game. About half of them are useful. The rest are total junk. You’ll also learn about eight magic spells, and use four of them. I don’t know if the designers expect you to carry everything with you, or just use your sixth sense to decide whether the matches or the bag of flour is important. Really, half of the game is figuring out which items to take, and the other half is getting lucky and picking the right random and unrelated thing they need to be used on… well maybe two-thirds, since the game also throws an complex labyrinth at you that you must spend hours navigating without the assistance of a map or clues. It’s a pointless excuse to draw out the length of the game, just like the junk items. But then sometimes you get lucky – like the convenient bottle of “No Ghost” spray inside the closet.

There is also an item that will kill you slowly, without real warning, if you pick it up. If it’s in your inventory, you’ll make some progress and then just keel over, dead, in about three minutes. I had no clue what was going on at first, I suspected FOXDIE, and it took quite some time to weed out just what the deadly item was – far be it for me to deny you the pleasure yourself by telling you the item now. Tee hee. I can only assume this is thrown in there to muck up the “pick up everything that isn’t nailed down” standard of adventure gaming. But once again, it raises the frustration. Oh, and of course, there are certain rooms that kill you instantly if you enter them… probably meant to disrupt the “explore everything” standard of adventure games, which leads me to wonder how exactly the designers expected this game to be played.

ut she turned out to be okay. We had tea and cucumber sandwiches in the den.

Well the actual graphics aren’t too bad, which is a plus. This is supposed to be a horror game, so some of the art is supposed to be scary. It is good quality for the NES, but I doubt veteran gamers will be terrified by seeing a drawing of a halloween skeleton. But if you’re the kind of person who wets their pants while reading Stephen King, this might work for you. The controls are of the point and click variety, meaning you’ll move a cursor around with the direction keys and hit a button to click. Various commands are laid out in a menu, with your inventory in the upper right and a window showing the room you’re in. You’ll click on a a command to select it, and then click on an item within the view window to execute the command, such as “examine couch.” The view window is small, and the game likes you to be precise, so picking up small items like keys may take some unnecessary time to line up the pointer right on the correct pixel.

There are other little annoyances, like the fact that every door must be opened before you can move through it, but those are small complaints next to the stack of ones I’ve already laid out. Sound is pretty average. There are virtually no effects, only a few music themes. These are pretty sharp and can be a little annoying, but it’s a horror game so I guess that’s the idea.

Given everything I’ve said, you might think that I dislike adventure games. Not true. I just don’t like this one. It’s not a bad port to the NES, and the graphics and interface are actually pretty good. However it has some serious gameplay flaws, and often is just difficult and complicated for the sake of drawing the game out. And maybe that’s in its best interest since it would take under an hour to beat if all the crap wasn’t in the way. If you like text adventures then you might get some enjoyment out of this, especially if you really like odd challenges, though the bottom line is that it’s just average compared to other adventure games. My recommendation is not to invite it into your home.

The Good

Nice graphics for NES, good interface, one of few NES adventures.

The Bad

Uninspired, unforgiving, and generally unenjoyable.

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