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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.

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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.

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Konstantinos Dimopoulos

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