Format reviewed: Apple II
Publisher: Sierra On-Line
Developer: Ken and Roberta Williams
Submitted by: Glenn Petrie
Almost every PC gamer knows Sierra is famous for its cutting-edge adventure games from the Eighties and Nineties. Not everybody realizes that Sierra's roots actually began on the Apple II with their seven high-res adventures. After founders Ken and Roberta Williams discovered a game called Colossal Cave Adventure, they discussed plans for their first "whodunit" adventure, Mystery House.
The game has a "whodunit" theme. The player stands outside an abandoned Victorian house. Once they enter, they are greeted by seven people. Now before the game begins, you are told who the characters are, what their occupation is, and – although irrelevant to this game what color their hair is. These occupants are murdered one by one, and it is your job to find the killer before you become the next victim.
During the game, you have to explore the house's many rooms, find out why they are being murdered and track down the killer before he/she targets their next victim. The house has many rooms, and nearly half of them are spread on the upper floor, and a few of them are discovered inside secret passages. It's easy to get lost in this game so a bit of map-making is absolutely necessary.
Progress is made through the game simply by typing a two-word command, usually a verb-noun combination; and directions can be abbreviated when going from one room to the next. The parser here is sensitive, and any command not recognized by the game results in a "I don't know how to … something" message.
In a time where adventures were text only, Mystery House was the first game to feature text and graphics simultaneously, setting the standard for many adventures to come. The graphics are black-and-white, and the people are represented as stick figures.
For those people who played The Colonel's Bequest, another of Sierra's games already will probably think of this game as its precursor. Since Colonel wasn't released on the Apple II, those who still have the machine and wants a decent whodunit game should check out this game.