Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The 7th Guest vs. The 11th Hour

I have been a fan of Trilobyte's computer games The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour for many years now.  A number of times, I have tried to decide which game I like more.  Basically, I like each game for its own reasons, but I think I will tend to lean a little more toward The 7th Guest overall.  Still, there are things I enjoy in The 11th Hour as well.  I will highlight what I like and dislike about each game.

The 7th Guest
The biggest reason I like this game more than The 11th Hour is that it's simply a lot scarier.  The music gives a creepier vibe, whereas in the other game, it's not so scary.  Also, in The 7th Guest, you actually see random, spooky animations throughout the house - including ghosts.  In The 11th Hour, nearly all video is viewed inside the Game Book, so you don't see any ghosts in the house environment.  About the only "ghostly" movements you see within the house itself is when objects come to life (like the razor and toothpaste in the bathroom).  I have to tell you, there were times I was terrified of playing The 7th Guest.  One of the most frightening things I saw was when I saw Stauf's face trying to stretch out of his portrait after I finished solving that puzzle.  What was even scarier than that was that I once went to the library to "auto-solve" the puzzle in the bathroom, and I saw the scene with Stauf's portrait when I clicked the hint book...without any warning!  For a while, I was afraid to even wander the halls for the fear that I would suddenly find myself in the portrait gallery.

I don't have any major problems with The 7th Guest except for the lack of a clear storyline.  When I started playing this game, I didn't really connect any of the ghostly scenes as being part of any story - just random events that happened.  It wasn't until I started researching the game online in mid-2001 that I got a better understanding of the story - and that the guests actually had names!

The 11th Hour
Many people have had a negative reaction to The 11th Hour, but I actually think it's a pretty good game.  Granted, I think some of the dislike of The 11th Hour comes from people who played the game back in the '90s and didn't have readily available access to walkthroughs and such - and had to figure the riddles and puzzles out for themselves.  But that aside, I don't think it's really that bad of a game.  By adding a "scavenger hunt," The 11th Hour increased interactivity compared to The 7th Guest, which only featured puzzles.  Also, many people criticized the game for its use of more AI puzzles compared to The 7th Guest, but I think this is actually a good thing.  Most of the puzzles in The 7th Guest have at least one set solution, so all you have to do is memorize it or write it down.  To me, that doesn't give the game much replay value.  But with the AI games of The 11th Hour, there's no definite solution, so it's more interactive and fun.  Admittedly, though, I hate most of the AI games except for the one in the chapel.  Another thing I like about the game is the clearer storyline and the use of the Game Book, which gives you more convenient access to help.  Then again, that could also be a bad thing.  I also like the use of shortcuts in the game.  For instance, clicking the bottom of the screen will give you a quick, 180 degree turnaround.  You can also left-click if you don't want to hear one of Stauf's taunts or watch a video sequence.  With The 7th Guest, you couldn't really bypass anything and had to sit and wait for it to be over.  And probably one of the biggest things of all is that The 11th Hour had superb graphics (even nowadays, and almost certainly back in 1995).  Everything was so detailed and beautifully-rendered.  Even today on a Windows XP computer in full screen mode, the graphics don't look pixelated, unlike The 7th Guest.  Even though The 11th Hour wasn't that scary, the dilapidated look of the house made it seem like a haunted house.  I also like how you can click on many objects - and how Stauf has a wide variety of taunts, whereas in The 7th Guest, you only heard a few select lines from Stauf while solving a puzzle.

Now, the only real problem I have with The 11th Hour is that unlike The 7th Guest, it just wasn't scary.  I didn't feel spooked while wandering the house.  If they had put some random ghosts in the halls, it would have scared me more.  And some of the music, as mentioned earlier, just wasn't scary.  Another obvious problem, while not a big deal with the Windows patch, is that the game simply won't play in DOS mode on modern computers.  I have, however, been able to get it to run in DOSBox, though it's a little buggy there.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Packard Bell Legend 230

A few days ago, I went to America's Thrift Store.  At first, I didn't see anything, but I happened to look behind a radio and found...a Packard Bell computer!  I was really excited - not only was this the first Packard Bell I'd seen in that store in over six months, but it was also a model from around 1994.  It appeared to be one of the first ones to use a case style that resembled mid-'90s Packard Bell case styles - around the time they first changed to their "Face of Technology" logo.  I thought that such models might be harder to find these days, and I didn't currently have one in my collection, so it was a must-buy!

The specs of the Legend 230 are as follows:

Processor: 33 MHz i486SX
HDD: 340 MB Conner CFA340A
Operating System: MS-DOS 6.20 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11

I'm a little uncertain why this computer only has 4 MB of RAM - and the hard drive has a 340 MB storage capacity.  There isn't very much documentation on this computer on the internet, but from what I've found, it apparently is supposed to have 8 MB of RAM and a 212 MB hard drive.  Also, this computer lacks a sound card and CD-ROM drive.  So I'm not sure why mine is a little different.  Who knows?  Maybe someone modified it.  As far as the hard drive is concerned, though, it seems to have the standard Packard Bell software installed, so maybe it is the stock drive (unless someone reinstalled the software on a different dive).

Anyway, when I first brought the computer home, I tried it out, and it apparently didn't boot from the hard drive.  I got the following error messages:

"Diskette drive B failure

Time-of-day not set – run SETUP program
Invalid configuration information – please run SETUP program
Press the F1 key to continue, F2 to run the setup utility"

I tried using a Windows 98 boot disk, and it worked just fine.  Later on, I went into setup and found that although I was getting an error message about the Diskette B drive, it wasn't selected.  Also, the hard drive was apparently auto-detected.  I did change the date in setup to the present time, saved the changes, and restarted the computer.  And interestingly enough, after that, I haven't had any problems booting from the hard drive.

I was pleased to learn that this computer still had Packard Bell Navigator installed (not sure what version, but either 1.2 or 2.x) - as well as a Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and DOS setup.  A true piece of classic machinery, this is.  A rather historical model in my opinion since it was one of the first to use the "Face of Technology" logo.  I should also note that this is the only 486 I've obtained so far that appears to be in full working order.  Two of the other 486es I have will boot from the floppy drive but won't recognize the hard drive - and one of them won't even boot from a floppy.  So I am definitely glad to have this computer.