Screenshots from www.flyingomelette.com

Junus: On this month's episode of James & Junus, we have the NES port of the classic PC game, Uninvited. While this game is not a sequel to Shadowgate, it was made by the same people and shares the exact same type of gameplay. It is a point-and-click adventure through a haunted mansion, in which the goal is to find and manipulate objects to solve the game's many puzzles. Other than story and atmosphere, there are two major differences between Uninvited and Shadowgate. First of all, Uninvited ditches the torch-lighting aspect of Shadowgate. In Shadowgate, you had limited time to complete the game, because eventually all your torches would burn out. Uninvited doesn't have this feature, so you have unlimited time to complete the game. The other major difference is the addition of a maze-like labyrinth in Uninvited where the walls all look similar and it's easy to get lost.

I personally like this game more than Deja Vu (the "other" Kemco-Seika text adventure for the NES), because I prefer the horror story with monsters, wizards, and magic to a boring ol' detective plot, but I'm not quite as fond of Uninvited as I am of Shadowgate, which is one of my Top 10 all-time favorite games. Uninvited is has more of the same great puzzle-solving and exploring action, but it doesn't quite recapture the mood and excitement of Shadowgate. The game moves a bit slower, the music can be kind of annoying, and my first trip through the game was dampened by that stupid gem you can pick up that keeps killing you after awhile.

James: That gem drove me nuts, too! I'm the kind of person who picks up every object I see in these kinds of games, in case it should have some use later on. So, naturally, I picked up the ruby, not knowing what it does (and the game's description of it doesn't even tell you), and I couldn't figure out why I kept dying every few rooms. I kept having to save every so often and redo a room now and then, until I found out somehow that the ruby was the problem and ditched it.

But aside from that little problem, I thought this game was pretty good. I actually liked the addition of the labyrinth maze. If you take the wrong passages, you can find humorous little quips written on tombstones that reference characters from Shadowgate and Deja Vu, so even getting lost has its rewards. I also liked how that little dancing monster follows you around the mansion.

Junus: Actually, that stupid dancing monster kind of annoyed me, too. It's funny the first time you see it, but each time he appears, you have to wait for him to dance across the room and disappear and re-read the text messages that go with him. They should have made him appear less frequently. But aside from him, I actually liked the monsters in this game. Lots of weird things like that big red face that looks like the moon, the screaming ghost outside the church, the giant spider, and the other creepy things.

James: The close-up shot of the zombie was frightening and downright disturbing. I liked that one, I liked the dancing monster, and the round red face, but I thought the other monsters weren't quite as menacing as the ones in Shadowgate.

Junus: Yeah, that white hairy monster that popped up out of the floor in Shadowgate scared the crap outta me, but I don't think anything in Uninvited had that effect. Unforunately, I had the "surprise" of the southern belle lady spoiled for me in a screenshot of Nintendo Power.

James: I think another problem with Uninvited is that it was released after Maniac Mansion. In my opinion, Maniac Mansion was a superior point-and-click game to the Shadowgate paradigm, mainly due to its replay value. Uninvited is yet another text adventure that's fun to play while you're solving it, but then has zero replay value.

Junus: Yes, and even though Shadowgate is one of my favorite games, I admit that's its one major flaw. But the experience while the game lasted was great enough for it to become one of my top favorites, even if it doesn't have much replay value. But Uninvited's gameplay wasn't quite as satisfying, and I'm trying to figure out why. I have a few suggestions. One is that it isn't quite as fun exploring a mansion, even if it is haunted, as it is to explore Castle Shadowgate. The atmosphere is somewhat lacking in Uninvited, though it still has a creepy quality. I think part of the reason for that is because Shadowgate gave you this dread feeling that you could die at any moment in any room. Plus, you had your torches always burning away, forcing you to think fast and making you nervous. Uninvited seems relatively tame by comparison. There is no real danger in most of the rooms and nothing to make you hurry up your decisions. While mazes are fun to explore, Uninvited's labyrinth is rather boring to look at. (I agree that the text messages are funny though, as they always are in Kemco's Shadowgate-style games.)

James: The labyrinth may look kind of dull, but the chance of running into zombies around every corner and the humurous dialogue is what made it fun for me. But I do kind of agree with you about the game as a whole. Another problem is that the game seemed much shorter than Shadowgate. That's probably because I solved the puzzles more quickly. Most of them were rather easy. If something wasn't obvious at first, it was just a matter of trial and error. Eventually, you'd find the right item or spell to use (though I still have no idea what the Cloudisi spell is for.)

Junus: I don't think the Cloudisi spell has a use. I don't know if I'd say the puzzle solutions were easy, but they were a bit less mysterious than Shadowgate's, except for one: the Servant Ghost puzzle. That took me forever to figure out.

James: Probably because the Servant Ghost is the most abstract puzzle in the game. Almost everyone who talks about this game always mentions that. I also have to admit that I didn't like the puzzle with the cat. I like cats, and I wouldn't say I'm am a fanatical cat lover, but I still thought that was tasteless and disturbing.

Junus: Yeah, that was kind of sick, and I'm actually surprised Nintendo allowed it back in the days of their heaviest censorship, but then again, they allowed Shadowgate, Deja Vu, and Uninvited to get away with a lot of stuff. (Though Uninvited's pentagrams were still censored into normal stars.) Well, what did you think of the graphics and music? I thought the visuals of the game were a little dull, except for the monsters and awesome "Game Over" screens. But I found the music really annoying.

James: The music isn't all that good, but I do like the main theme that plays when you first stand outside the mansion. The graphics are standard for this kind of game, although I do recall Shadowgate being more colorful all around.

Junus: Yeah, I agree with those statements entirely. If I have to sum it up, I'd say Uninvited is still a fun game in the vein Shadowgate and Maniac Mansion, but it's just not quite as good. I still think it offers at least a few hours worth of good puzzle-solving gameplay and the occasional scare. I personally prefer it to Deja Vu, and I'd definitely take it over the absolutely horrible Shadowgate 64 anyday. I'll give it 3 stars out of 5. Good, but not great.

James: I'm gonna go with 2 1/2 stars. I really liked the labyrinth and some of the humor, but I thought most of the puzzles were far too easy, and the game lacks the depth of replay value of Maniac Mansion. It was still fun for awhile, though, at least after I got rid of that damn ruby!

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