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Uninvited Reviewed by Adam Romano on . Rating: 71%
Uninvited
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  • Review Score:

  • B
After avoiding a shadowy figure standing in the middle of the road, you wake up in your freshly crashed car, discover a loved one is missing, and then head off in search of your former passenger. Anyone who has played the original Silent Hill would recognize the premise, but this was first the back-story of a different horror game called Uninvited, a point-and-click adventure that surprised and scared PC gamers in the mid-eighties. The port for the NES also offers a few good hair-raising thrills for a new demographic of gamers, even if some of the frights had to be toned down a bit to fit the stricter family- friendly criteria established by the blue-nosed Nintendo of America corporation.

When you enter the nearest house in search of your sister (changed from being your brother in the original game), you discover that your wrecked car is the least of your problems. The house is crawling with hostile specters, zombies, and other nasties who will devour you with any false move. It's a good thing you have three save slots to help you learn from your mistakes, and you will make plenty before you know the full truth behind the evil mastermind, Dracan, who has turned this quaint country home into a potential sepulcher for you and your sister.

Both the interface and story are very similar to Shadowgate, released for the NES a year earlier. You use the controller like a computer mouse to unravel the story of a sorcerer's apprentice who grew too powerful, usurped his master, and created a dark world fashioned after his own broken psyche. It has all the hallmarks of the MacVenture games that Kemco brought to the NES in collaboration with ICOM Simulations: wit, puzzle solving, gloomy atmospheres, and good fun.
Uninvited (NES)

Part of the joy of playing Uninvited is that you can detect a real human intelligence behind it, a sense-of-humor that requires a bit of cultural literacy on part of the player. Many of the riffs of the original game are gone, but there are still plenty of allusions as well as direct references to films and books, including The Hobbit, Gone with the Wind, A Christmas Carol, Indiana Jones, and Macbeth, just to name a few. In typically large Nintendo typeface, the text is considerably shortened from the PC game (of course, we all know that computer users of this time were more scholarly than those button mashers who bought consoles). But like an Ernest Hemingway short story that purposely omits large chunks of information from a first draft, the adjusted descriptions and internal monologues still carry the essence of the writers' voice-with sarcasm intact.

One thing that sets Uninvited apart from other adventure games is the insane number of items you have available to you. Adventure programmers can be stingy when it comes to collectable items. Any fan of the point-and-click genre knows that excitement of finding a previously unseen object that will undoubtedly save the day. It doesn't matter how seemingly useless a piece of pixilated bric-a-brac is; you will be glad to have that wad of gum because it can mean the difference between escaping a jail cell or languishing in solitary. Uninvited takes a totally different approach. Of the over 65 collectable items, only 32 will prove useful. Put simply, more than half of your inventory is worthless. The trick is sorting through it all. Thankfully, the NES port allows you to carry everything. The original game tried to be more realistic by not allowing players more than 15 items, a feature that when combined with a time limit, caused many players to suffer defeat as they backtracked across the mansion grounds littered with previously dropped items to find the one they need.

For some reason, the MacVenture writers felt a need to lace all their adventures with an impending sense of doom from some random variable. In the case of Deja Vu, it was a maniac mugger who stalks you relentlessly, making each of your moves in the streets a tentative one. Here, in Uninvited, they introduce a similar element in the form of a red skull who wedges his way into your consciousness, threatening your sanity and individual will (as if being attacked from outside forces isn't enough). The presence is meant to unnerve you, but after a while, it just serves as a nuisance that slows down the flow of the game. Thankfully, your mind resets to full sanity whenever you continue, a luxury that PC players did not have. In this regard, the NES version is lot more enjoyable knowing that you don't have to be too efficient in solving the puzzles and sorting through the myriad of objects you tote with you.
Uninvited (NES)

Since the NES has no keyboard, spells are uttered using a menu dropdown box, and their names connote their purpose more easily. Originally, the spells were a combination of Old English, faux Latin, and Gnostic-based words ("Specan heafod abraxas"). Now, it is a simple matter of choosing a single word like "Thundede" to call forth a storm or "Cloudisi" to make yourself invisible.

At points, it is a good thing that the NES Uninvited is dumbed down. The puzzles are lot less mind-bending and cryptic and Kemco smartly inserted in- game clues. For example, you would have to be either just plain lucky or a genius to know to put a cookie down on the floor in the rec room in the original rendition. In the more user-friendly NES game, an empty plate is placed on the floor inviting you to put something on it. It's a small detail, but it makes a big difference in one's ability to finish the adventure without consulting a walkthrough (and walkthroughs make one feel a sense of shame and weakness and should be avoided at all costs).

So, in making Uninvited more accessible to players, Kemco improves on an already good product. One of the few drawbacks for those who love the original is the insertion of music. It may be sacrilege to gripe about the music that many sentimentalists have a soft spot for, but if you have played the Amiga, Windows, Atari ST, or DOS versions, filled with anticipatory silence occasionally broken by a thunderclap or a scream, you may find the incessant 8-bit overture a bit too much. Think about how the shower scene in Psycho would change had there been music prior to the curtain being pulled back. Better to save sound for moments that count.

Uninvited is not your typical Nintendo fare. On a system known primarily for platforming action requiring great feats of dexterity, this one works tests a different set of skills as it requires a good deal of patience and abstract thinking. Even if you have played it on a personal computer, you still may want to give it a go since not everything will sync with how you remember it, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.
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