Another game using the graphical adventure interface found in DTja Vu and Shadowgate, Uninvited comes with a "horror" theme.
While driving on a lonely road at night, a strange figure blocks your vision causing you to swerve and crash your car. When you regain consciousness, you find that your brother is missing (in the NES-Version it's your sister who is missing). The only place he could have gone is a creepy old mansion which looms in front of you. With nowhere else to go, you enter the mansion in search of your brother. It turns out the mansion once belonged to an old wizard and his apprentice, and somehow it has become infested with the Undead.
As I mentioned in the DOS review of Uninvited, the Windows remake was bound to get a separate entry. Five years separate the two releases, making it easy to spot the changes. While the 1991 NES conversion featured visible alterations to the story and puzzles, this version leaves them untouched, completely enhancing, on the other hand, the graphics, the sound and the interface. The result is probably the best Uninvited yet.
Having the same premise as the original, this version didn't change your main goal, as on the NES, where you had to save your sister. After a car accident, you find yourself in front of a creepy Victorian mansion, overlooking a deserted rural landscape. You immediately notice your brother's absence, and assume he went inside to look for help. Our experience with horror games and movies tells us that's probably not the case, and while searching for him, you'll uncover a dark, mysterious past buried within this mansion's confines.
It's probably not too helpful to tell you that the interface is the remnant of ICOM's old first-person adventure engine, behind such games as Shadowgate and Deja Vu - A Nightmare Comes True, because now we're offered a much more flexible experience, as often seen in Windows games. Yes, we see the same division of the screen into inventory, description box, location box, the main graphics and the action menus, but with a grand advantage: You can organise your screen in any way you wish. You can move the graphics window below the text box, or the inventory from left to right; you can expand the inventory or the description across the entire screen, and many other combinations. You can see some examples of screen customisation in the 1st, 4th and 8th screen. The ability to display the text in different fonts and sizes is also neat. You can find hundreds of such options in the Special>Font menu. In my opinion, switching to a creepier font amplifies the atmosphere's effect on the player.
In terms of graphics and sound, Uninvited enjoyed great improvements. The stills were totally redrawn, sometimes taking weird angles. For example, in the entrance hall, you can't see the left wall any more, and the picture of an eagle that was hung on it was moved to the front wall. The objects and the details were stylised, replacing the lifeless and blocky feel of the DOS version. Now, the game is worth playing just for the colourful images. However, there's no overuse of the palette, the developers chosing instead to exploit it in moderation, in order to catch the right feeling that the sinister rooms of a decrepit house should have.
The game difficulty is challenging enough for you to consider reading a walkthrough often. Everyone can grab all the items they find along the way, without thinking, but keep in mind that more than half of them are unusable, and your inventory space is limited. Most of the puzzles require at least one of them, and it's up to you to decide which, either using the rare clues Uninvited supplies, or through reasoning. The latter is hard to do, mostly because some of the problems you're going to face do not belong to our reality, and are inserted there just to hinder your progress. The only honest way to solve these ridiculous puzzles is through a long series of trial and error, which might lead you to a quick game over, due to the game's time limit. So if you're an honorable gamer, that rejects all forms of outside help, you should arm yourself with a pen and paper, and start noting down your actions. This will also be useful later in the game, when you'll be alone against the vastness of the "Labyrinth". Indeed, it decided to torment us once more, after trapping Theseus together with his "dear friend", the minotaur, nearly 4000 years ago, surviving the Middle Ages as grass mazes, and ending by torturing gamers non-stop since the eighties. This time it comes with a nice selection of zombies, one-eyed monsters, and rabid animals. Besides the locations I already mentioned, you can also explore an observatory, a chapel and some underground caverns.
For the second half of the 1980s, Uninvited was revolutionary, featuring drag-and-dropping, direct interaction with the graphics and almost no typing. But by 1993, its concept became outdated, especially considering the storyline. It's a nice touch that you can learn interesting facts about almost every object in the house, a feature that many adventures lack even today, but the overall experience is not satisfying enough. The game is designed in such a way that it assumes you're going to fail multiple times in the wrong areas. That way it will take a while until you reveal new pieces from the plot. But if you play it correctly, you'll find out there isn't actually a secret surrounding this place. You probably knew what was happening from the short description on another web site, and if you didn't, you'll understand the entire situation from just one journal entry. Uninvited is part of what I like to call naive adventures, games that don't excel in epic storylines and breathtaking turns of events, aiming instead to provide fun for both the gamers and the developers. This type was still popular in the early nineties, but by 1993, strong players, like Alone in the Dark and Gabriel Knight, were released onto the market. The genre would grow up in the following years, until the first Broken Sword, which in my opinion served as a model for most of the later third-person adventures. Compared to these classics, Uninvited doesn't stand a chance.
Still, I'm willing to judge the game based on its connection with the past; it's a remake, after all, and a very good one. It preserves all the successful features the original Uninvited had, including using objects in different ways, with various outcomes. It has better graphics, sound and a flexible interface, but at the same time it inherits the obscure puzzles. I had to increase the score to guide players to the better version of the two, but contextually, it's an outdated game.
You can save as many times as you like. To do that, just use the "File" menu at the top and "Save As". "Save" will overwrite the previous slot. There are other options you should take note of, such as the "Special" menu, where you can customize your screen.
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Uninvited, Trick or Treat, Transylvania 2: The Crimson Crown, Wayne's World, Shadowgate, Twilight Zone, Udoiana Raunes 3: In Search for Indiana Jones IV, Udoiana Raunes
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