The 11th Hour
a game by Trilobyte
Ever watched a pornographic film? (Oh god, I hope you can justify such a tenuous link between pornography and games - Ed.) And no, I'm not talking about the '70s/German lederhosen/twanging guitar kind of porn, but the recent American offerings that are usually just send-ups of mainstream films (Forrest Hump, Jurassic Pork and The Beverly Thrillbillies, to name but three). The reason I ask is because it seems to me that the American games industry has reached the point where practically every game has to include at least 40 minutes of Full Motion Video by law, but some games companies don't seem able to afford the type of directors who are capable of the stunning levels of cinematic excellence on display in films like Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Leon or Fletch. Instead, the only directors to fit their budget are those who produce the kind of straight-to-video releases that even a store such as Blockbusters wouldn't dare to stock, or modern American porno flicks. And, unfortunately, nowhere is this more evident than in The 11th Hour, Trilobyte's long-awaited sequel to The 7th Guest.
Confessions of a games reviewer
I don't mean to be flippant or anything, it's just that the fmv segments in the game are really pretty awful - not in terms of quality, mind you; in fact these are some of the best looking pieces of video I've ever seen in a computer game. But from a dramatic point of view they have all the tension of a Rich Tea biscuit that's been sitting in a cup of hot water for the past 30 minutes. What they do contain in abundance is large-breasted women wearing unfeasibly tight cotton tops that serve to show off every silicon-implanted curve, as well as all the signs of a director who recently completed shooting When Harry Shagged Sally.
You know the score: when a film has little or no requirement for dramatic content but every need to maximise the viewer's anticipation for the dirty bits, it will be filled with all sorts of useless shots that are only there to show off the talent's bod. For instance, we have a shot of our leading lady getting out of a car and going into a restaurant. It takes about five minutes from the car pulling up to her being seated and asking for a menu, during which there's absolutely nothing to report other than the fact that your eyes are glued to her breasts (watch a porn film and pay attention to the 'story' bits and you'll soon see what I mean). Every segment in The 11th Hour feels something akin to a porn version of Twin Peaks (except that as this is a computer game there are no really 'dirty' bits, despite the 18 rating).
But the game's good, right?
Er, this is the sequel to The 7th Guest, remember? Anyway, I'll quickly inform you what's going on - partly because it's a little bit complicated and partly because the plot only reveals itself as you play the game, and nice, friendly reviewer that I am I wouldn't want to spoil it for you. But without giving too much away, you play a sort of American Roger Cook (only you've got a heroically proportioned body) whose producer and ex-lover (female, I hasten to add - the world still awaits the first homosexual computer character) has vanished while researching a story about the old Stauf mansion from The 7th Guest.
And then, while you're moping about your house watching a news report (why do they always seem to be watching a news report in these things?), a small PDA is delivered containing a cry for help from the missus and a pointer to the mansion. So off to the rescue you go (on your Harley Davidson, natch - replaying one of the most cliched pieces of motorcycle footage ever), off to the exceedingly strange world of Henry Stauf and his seemingly never-ending assortment of parlour games and brain-teasers.
Admittedly, this time round Trilobyte has spiced things up slightly with a sort of treasure hunt aspect. So apart from solving each of the room's puzzles, you have to fathom little riddles that point to an object somewhere in the house: get the right object and a piece of video tells you a bit of what happened to your beloved. The clever part is that not all the objects are accessible until you've solved a puzzle or two, so both sides of the game have to be played to win.
Kenneth Kendall meets The Crystal Maze
From a basic gameplay point of view, The 11th Hour isn't much different to The 7th Guest. The treasure hunt aspect adds somewhat to the challenge and the video sequences are nicely integrated into the overall game, lending a strange kind of atmosphere that's tacky yet somehow professional - but at the end of the day you'll find that while 90 per cent of your time is spent staring at the screen, only the remaining 10 per cent is enjoyable interaction. It's frustrating, and you can't help feeling that for the amount of effort that's been put into the game's presentation, there should be something more to do.
All the old gripes about The 7th Guest are present: interminable wandering around the old mansion, pre-rendered animations that wane after the first five viewings, a slight Americanism to some of the riddles that mean nothing to us limeys and plenty of potential hardware problems and memory conflicts (we had a bugger of a time getting it to run).
Who knows, though? This may well be your cup of tea (or 'damn fine coffee' if you prefer). You may enjoy the slower pace of brain-teasers and riddles and, to tell the truth, I'll admit to suffering from the old 'ooh, just one more go before I leave it' syndrome - there's definitely some kind of subconscious desire not to quit a puzzle until it's solved. Some of The 11th Hour screams, 'Awful!' - so why do I want to go back and play it? I guess tackiness rules.
2018-12-06 The 11th Hour game added.