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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Tue Dec 13, 2016 7:37 am

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Uninvited
Amiga, 1987, $49.95
Mindscape – ICOM Simulations - Illinois, USA
*Game best played in NTSC mode in a 4:3 aspect ratio

My Video Review Of Uninvited

How is it that this game is never mentioned in a top games on the Amiga video? While it originated on the Apple Macintosh it is arguably the best version and beyond that it’s simply a wonderful gaming experience. I often see another port and adventure game on the top of such Amiga lists with The Secret Of Monkey Island. A hidden gem? It was known at the time and it was well reviewed… At least in America. We have here another example of a game that seems to be fading into obscurity, at least on the Amiga. Gaming interests are not the same the world over, we are all so very different. If I may, let me guide you through one of enumerable American Amiga games that deserves its place in history.

Uninvited was the 2nd of 4 games in the “MacVenture” series, and was originally released in 1986 for the Macintosh. The MacVenture games are some of the most well known games to come from the black and white Macintosh and were ported to many computer systems of the era as well as the Nintendo Entertainment System. Uninvited is unrelated to the other 3 titles in the series besides sharing the same game engine.

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^Starting few screens along with excerpt from manual top left

But what a game engine it was! I honestly forgot how great this game was on the Amiga, having played it the last several times on the NES. In most versions of Uninvited the game’s interface borrows heavily from the operating system it’s on. The Mac uses its O/S, the Atari ST uses Geos, and the Amiga uses good old Workbench! While the graphics themselves are nearly identical between the Apple II GS, the Atari ST, and the Amiga, for me it’s Workbench that puts this version just a little bit above all the rest. A very pleasing font, nice windows, unbeatable inventory screen, and a large 1st person view of this fantastical world.

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^Various death scenes and an example of the excellent descriptions

Reading from either the manual or the game you are whisked into the story quite quickly. Driving down the road one day you are distracted by a ghostly figure, causing you to crash. You wake up to find your brother is missing and the smell of gasoline is pungent. The first thing I always do in this game is get myself burned to death by the explosion of my car, immediately starting over. I simply can’t get enough of the games death scenes. Save early, save often, as the death scenes offer you the most detailed pixel art in the game and feature the best text descriptions as well.

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^Learning some story

It’s an adventure game, but not quite like the others that were popular before or after. As with all adventure’s you’re there for the story and the puzzles, but unlike other graphical adventures this game takes you seriously. As much as I and many others love LucasArts or Sierra games there was never a truly serious game from either of those companies. Even series games featured plenty of moments that were meant to make you laugh, but may have also had you rolling your eyes. Not here. This game harks back to the adventures of old, the text based adventure.

I can’t help but feel sad and contemplative over what “might” have been had these games rocketed in popularity. When I play Uninvited I’m constantly reminded of the very fine details that were in Infocom games. To this day many still believe there were never any adventure games that bested those text based ones… Well… I’m not sure if those people played Uninvited, for it surely gives the best text adventures a ride for their money. Indeed it offers you the graphics; 1st person views provide for many detailed artistic impressions of your environment that the 3rd person adventure games could never give you deep into the 1990’s. But it also offers you the depth of spoken word you may have craved from those very early titles.

This feels like what adventure games “should” have become. At the very least I feel this type of game deserved to go head to head against Sierra and LucasArts. The only thing that stopped it from happening may have been the company. If Infocom had not had a holier than thou attitude when it came to their games compared to others, I feel this would have been the perfect compromise that may have changed the course of video game history. In my mind Uninvited is simply the best of both the text and graphical adventure worlds.

Everything can be clicked on, everything can be touched and many things can be moved or brought into your inventory. Even the smallest of things tend to get detailed descriptions. One British magazine noted this in a negative light as he believed that a table unimportant to the game should be described as “just a table” as most adventure games would do. You’re not getting that crap from this reviewer. It is those detailed descriptions of every last thing that keep you coming back for more, long after you’ve won the game. This is the kind of stuff that keeps a game in your rotation many years down the line. There’s always something new to discovery in Uninvited.

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^Upper left and right British magazines. Bottom; American magazine

The game was generally looked at in a positive way by European Amiga magazines, but like many other games originating from America, I feel they took many undeserved pot shots at the game. I sit stunned and amazed at how often I come across European reviews of American software with this exact same smart ass critic thinking where they spend most of the article remarking on how great it is but sneak in one or two sentences that make you question everything they just said. How can a game be so great and yet the price is the final factor in taking it from a great game into merely okay? Why did they never note the origin of the game coming from America, where different tastes and the cost of shipping brought many American Amiga games to cost levels Europeans were not often comfortable with. It’s okay to note these things but a great game is a great game, buy it if you can afford or don’t because you can’t. In America the price was not exactly cheap either, nearly $50 in 1987 money. Yet here the magazines loved it. They shared none of the critiques from their overseas counterparts and praised it as the excellent best of both worlds game that it is.

The puzzles are rarely “walkthrough” worthy; meaning I believe a lot of people can figure them out. I would not call them easy by any means, but the simple act of progression and reading the (very detailed) text will help you along your way. No items need be combined like in other games and you can actually see what you’re possessing. If you can’t figure it out you’ll probably laugh over the clues you “should” have got. Unlike so many adventure games from both the text and graphical age, there are few puzzles designed to sell hint books where you think nobody would have ever thought of that. In the one case where I could understand scratching your head (a certain plant being used on a monster) I can also sort of see how it’s possible to run into that solution through trial and error much more than other adventure games.

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^The maze, most noteworthy events could have been contained in a much smaller area

Not all of the game is sunshine in my eyes. The game features a very unnecessary maze section. I’m sure it was designed to fatten up the game a little but it’s really the one area that holds me back from playing it a little more often. While mazes were a part of many text adventures, I don’t believe they were ever liked no matter how they were presented. I do actually like old school mazes… In an RPG. I am an advocate for continuing to hand map certain games because that’s half the gameplay right there, that’s half your enjoyment… You take away so much when you cheat by looking at maps in those situations. An RPG is about the slow build up, the grinding, seeing every last corner because there may be something important you missed… An RPG is about the journey, an adventure game is about the destination. You’re here for the story and the puzzles, and a maze is not a puzzle, it’s a repetitive task and it features the same exact text every couple screens along the way. You’re here for those detailed descriptions but all you get is “it’s a maze”. The eventual destination in the maze I like, the puzzle on how to get in is great… But it didn’t need an RPG style maze to get me there when I could have been presented with a simple graveyard. Once you’ve gotten what you came for? All the way back and there are monsters where a wrong turn means you’re dead.

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^Shortcut/easter egg area with some “true art”.

How unneeded is that maze? So much that I believe the designers themselves implemented a little “shortcut” for themselves. In what many would now consider an easter egg there are a few very precise steps you can take in order to get to a very “special” area… As well as get yourself inside the building that required a key from that maze. I can’t believe anyone would have stumbled across this one, no, I’m betting someone involved with the game leaked it. This very annoying act to accomplish was better than dealing with the maze for them… Speaks a lot about the maze for me.


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^Nearing the end

The crux of the story is that the evil of this house has pulled you and your brother in. The original master was good but his student was…not so good… Along with his evil many other evil elements roam the grounds. Eventually you’ll find the master and his student, and finally a demon in possession of your bother. Trial and error along with research from old horror movies will help figure out how to get past them, reuniting you with your brother in a very satisfying end.

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^A fitting end to the game, a fitting start to my 3rd year on YouTube.

I did have experience with this game in the past… Somehow I forgot how great it was… It’s great. Don’t let the Amiga version die even if your tastes do not include adventure games. Try it out, see how you like it, most of all “know” it exists and remember to include it in conversations with others. Now, I know you want to find out exactly how you do that little easter egg, right? It's in the video. :P

- A Note On Hard Drive Installation

One last thing to mention is in regards to disk loading times. Uninvited is on just one floppy but man can the loading times get fairly annoying with our modern lack of patience. No magazine at the time seemed to note this issue but it nearly got me riled up. I wouldn’t normally offer a hard drive installation tutorial but in the interest of keeping this game alive I felt I should. There is no hard drive installation program on disk itself. The “original” disk also features copy protection in the form of a hidden “file” that cannot be copied to other media. So there is no way to get the original disk on your hard drive without a little bit of “hacking”. If you have a cracked version like I imagine most would, it’s not difficult at all to copy the game to your hard drive.

If you don’t want annoying crack screens popping up I suggest getting a non cracked version and using a utility like Disk Master to copy the picture files from the original to the cracked disk, thus keeping those annoying names out of your face. Then, using the previously mentioned Disk Master or even the Shell copy the entire contents of the disk to any area of the hard drive you wish. In my case I copied it to DH1:Uninvited – Besides this you will also want to go into the font directory of the Uninvited disk and copy those fonts to your hard drives font directory, in my case DH0:Fonts

Using the word processor editor of your choice open up your startup-sequence file, located in DH0:S – Find an area in the middle or with similar commands and type the following; altering for your specific directory of choice.

ASSIGN UNINVITED: DH1:UNINVITED/

Save the file in ASCII format and restart your Amiga. Go to the Uninvited directory on your hard drive and click on the icon to play the game in a very fast and enjoyable way. No excuse for emulator users or real Amiga users with hard drives to not go through this effort. Alternatively if you don’t want to mess with your startup sequence you can simply type the assign command into a shell every time you wish to play the game from a fresh computer restart.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:52 am

This is exactly the kind of game I think I could sink my teeth into - thanks for introducing it! I'll put it on my "original disk" radar, as I'm curious what box/manual/etc looked like.

Speaking of fonts (regarding your clever HD install) I wonder why they decided to draw such broken font styles for the various window labels (e.g. Inventory, Exits, etc.). Weirdness.

Perfect genre for me personally. We should add this one to the Games Library!
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:08 pm

The fonts do add an added layer of creepiness I think. If you look closely at the various pictures you may notice a couple where the fonts are not as broken; This is them including that Workbench feel to the game. You may notice in Workbench when you have multiple windows opened you get that sort of broken effect when a window becomes inactive. Only by clicking on an individual window will you see the true font. I still have the individual (non grouped) screenshots should you want to include them in the database. If you can find a copy I'd love to see it in the conquests page as well!
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

by intric8 posted Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:42 pm

Ah - that's interesting. The font's appearance must have been intentional then. When I originally saw it, I wondered if it was some lazy porting of the graphics from the Mac - but that can't be the case. I mean, the rest of the screen is given a hell of a lot of attention to detail. It must have been to enhance the creepiness factor.

Makes me want to look up Shadowgate, too. Sounds unbearably hard, but humorous.
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

by Shot97 posted Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:58 pm

The graphics are completely redone in terms of the original Macintosh. I definitely recommend people look into the Mac version, as that black and white feel does give you a bit of a different experience. Also, the Mac features higher resolution graphics, I'm guessing at least 640x400. That's one of those things nobody really thinks about because at first glance the black and white is so ugly; but you really get something different with that increased resolution. But that's also what caused a complete redo for the other 16-bit systems which primarily used 320x200. They completely redrew everything (I think it looks better with color), but in terms of the art on screen there's virtually no difference between the Apple II GS, the Atari ST, and the Amiga, but that interface with workbench; That would be the biggest difference from the other versions.

I used to like Shadowgate more, having more experience with it (especially the NES version), but I'm having second thoughts after coming back to this one. Both worthy titles to look to in the history of adventure games. It's the two Deja Vu games I can't wait to sink my teeth into; as I never really heard of either of those before researching this game.
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McTrinsic

by McTrinsic posted Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:03 pm

Back in the days I tried to solve Shadowgate, the successor to this game.
Partly due to my English skills back than but probably also due to my teen-age and the accompanying impatience I never solved that.
It's on my life-long list of backlogs of 'games I want to finish' :)

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