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Doctor Hauzer Reviewed by Adam Romano on . Rating: 64%
Doctor Hauzer
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  • Review Score:

  • B-
Gregory House, Doogie Howser, and Professor Hauzer are all fictional doctors with surnames that mean exactly the same thing-house. In the case of the 3DO game, Doctor Hauzer, the title is an economic one; the Middle-German word for "house" applies not only to the antagonist, but to his malicious residence as well.

It is 1952. You are an investigator visiting Doctor Hauzer's domicile of doom to find out what has become of the missing archeologist. From his journals, you learn that Hauzer was one of those guys so devoted to his work that he takes it home with him. In fact, he built his very home over an important archeological sight just to claim it all for himself. After years of excavating the premises, he grows increasingly obsessed with a deity named Kellbim, and as Hauzer's monomania grows, so too do his illusions of self-importance. He sacrifices his interns to his newly discovered God and leaves some of their bodies strewn about his house. Apparently Hauzer did not specialize in Eastern cultures otherwise he'd know that corpses in the den make for bad feng shui.

The programmers for Doctor Hauzer must have been a quick study when they saw Infograme's amazing 3D feat presented by Alone in the Dark in 1992. They took the wonderfully eerie atmosphere of that title and removed its biggest shortcoming—enemies. The enemy battles in the original Alone in the Dark are awkward, slow, and difficult. Clearly, 3D gaming was not ready for meaningful and fair combat. So, Doctor Hauzer is smart not to have any ghouls, zombies, or any globular monstrosities of any kind. It is you versus the house.

Dr. Hauzer's house is more dangerous than a dilapidated high-rise built from balsa wood and asbestos. Heavy chandeliers wait for your footsteps, doors lead to bottomless pits, and a booby-trapped grandfather clock clocks you in the forehead with an arrow. In order to succeed, you will need to die more than a few times, but the death cinemas are entertaining enough so that you don't mind this. An unlimited save feature also helps to relieve any potential frustration. Saving will make you a braver explorer, so save often.

Doctor Hauzer is an interesting stepping stone into the foray of survival horror genre, but it is nowhere near as terrifying as modern games. While its spartan and stark graphics help to lend the game its creepy mood, don't expect any pillow-biting moments. It would anachronistic and unfair to evaluate it based on experiences playing more terrifying titles Silent Hill or Resident Evil.

Rather than comparing this game to other games, it may be most fruitful to look to other forms of media for influence. For example, in one room swinging axe pendulums block you path and this scene is reminiscent of imagery from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum". Another Poe story "The Fall of the House of Usher" also shares characteristics with the game in that both contain a house that behaves like a sentient being determined to rid itself of its inhabitants. Another room in Hauzer's house seems to make reference to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; a picture of a man walking over a cliff reveals the vital clue to crossing a hole in the floor. The painting looks as if it were directly taken out of Henry Jones' Grail Diary. One floor below this, you must outrun a large rolling boulder. When you combine these moments with the fact that you are researching an archaeologist, it is clear that the programmers looked the Jones trilogy for inspiration.

As for gameplay, the character moves remarkably well and with the ability to toggle between three camera angles (first person, third person, and overhead) traversing obstacles is often a matter of proper perspective. The biggest problem with the game overall is its dependence on the resurrection fallacy (when a game mandates failure in order to succeed), but again the limitless save feature allows you to make several leaps of faith with confidence. Navigating the house requires a bit of memorization and some puzzle solving, and even though the game's text is mostly in Japanese, the puzzles are usually logic-based and visual and do not require knowing the language.

The music and sound effects are wonderfully synced to the game's action. The soundtrack is subtle and works similarly to Mark Snow's piano work in the X-Files series. At points, it even has a bendy, Doppler-effected quality that heightens the player's tension, and though you know that no creatures will pop out of a window or cupboard, the music will convince you otherwise. The sound of your footsteps echo convincingly in the largely empty house. If you listen carefully, the sounds you feet make will change based on whether your walking over solid ground or over a trap door. This attention to detail makes playing Doctor Hauzer worthwhile.

Doctor Hauzer is not the best survival horror adventure, but it is definitely a formative step in the creation of a genre. If you like Resident Evil but hate all those damn zombies, then you might enjoy playing this one. Just watch your step.
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