Freeware Garden: HHH

Hugo’s House of Horrors, the parser driven shareware adventure game I played back during the dark days of the 5.25″ floppy, was a demented and, many would argue, nonsensical game. It did have a charming, odd, b-movie feel to it, but it played like a drunken person’s Maniac Mansion. For some weird reason though, and despite forcing me to smash a pumpkin just to grab a key, I still fondly remember it.

Now, appearances aside, the freshly crafted HHH is neither a new installment to the Hugo’s House of Horrors series nor a straight up remake, though it does use the original’s all-over-the-place EGA graphics. Also, it’s very very clever.

HHH wisely and first of all simply shows us just how interesting its source material could have been, by loosely following and improving upon some of its plot and puzzles. Initially everything feels like a modestly faithful adaptation with better writing, a richer, more intriguing, funnier world and a choose-your-own-adventure interface that lets the weirdness shine without the frustrations of a badly implemented parser. The story of Penelope’s rescue from the bizarre, titular mansion is finally starting to make sense.

Then things get weird. And glitchy. Foolish and haunted too and so much better, as we gradually enter surrealist territory and everything feels as if the Dada movement had decided to play around with the already collage-like graphics of Hugo and the tropes of interactive storytelling in an attempt to destroy all art that existed before it.

Or, well, to impress the judges of the 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition. Actually, here’s a little spoiler to whet your appetite: first person labyrinths.

13 Comments

  1. Skeletor68 says:

    It’s time to play this game!

    Edit: I’m obviously the only loser who immediately though of pro-wresting…

  2. DrMcCoy says:

    The original Hugo’s House of Horror trilogy is available on GOG for $5.99 or directly from the author for $10. All three games also run in ScummVM for maximal portability.

  3. Bodylotion says:

    Hugo’s House of Horrors & Maniac Mansion are both games I have fond memories of even though I didn’t even spend much time with them. I was just a kid and a friend told me I should write “pick up” and things like that. I wasn’t very good at English but I still tried. Perhaps Now is a good time to pick HHH up again.

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    wonderingmonster says:

    The original was the first adventure game I ever played, I didn’t speak English so I had to use a Dutch/English dictionary. I still remember the feeling of accomplishment I got from figuring out that I had to type “PUT ON MASK” and seeing it work.

    • RandomFate says:

      Even with native English skills, I still had the darndest time getting the game to let me put the rubber bung in the hole in the boat. Worse, I was too young to be able to snicker at the task.

  5. oueddy says:

    Wow, this game really takes me back. I remember playing it with a friend when we were around 11 years old. Fondest memory was probably that the entire games assets were in JPG and other easily user-editable resources through standard PC software, so instead of playing the game we just hacked it to make it as immature and silly as a couple of 11 year olds would! Real pang of nostalgia and good memories from seeing that screenshot, thanks RPS!

    • DrMcCoy says:

      No, not JPEG, PCX. The Hugo games pre-date the public release of the JPEG standard. :)

      • oueddy says:

        haha yes PCX that was it, I edited them in an archaic DOS program called autodesk animator, which must’ve come free on some pc magazine cover disk :)

  6. Bugamn says:

    Oh, I remember Hugo, I still have a CD with the three games. And I remember how I have only finished the third because the other two have some annoying parts that depend on too much dexterity.

  7. donkeyspaceman says:

    Yes! I played the Hugo trilogy a ton as a kid. I feel like the Whodunnit one was my favorite, but this retelling-ish thing makes me want to play House of Horrors again.

  8. Jackablade says:

    Well, that ended rather abruptly.