From December 10th, Inexplicable Deaths in Damipolis: Inner Thoughts is avalaible on Steam, from Badland Publishing (in 2021 it will be released on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One), and we can once again feel the uneasy sensation of being trapped in a gloomy mansion, a classic in the adventure genre. Although the TieSoft‘s game is quite different from the usual cliché, by making us the protagonists of six stories, belonging to six of the twelve attendees (thirteen, counting the maid) at a dinner that had a dramatic and unexpected ending: they are all dead.

IDID:IT also does not offer a foreword that puts us in context. To discover the whole plot of the game, the trigger for this succession of concatenated revenges, we will have to rely on our cleverness to make our way through the many rooms distributed around the mansion, looking for the right keys for each door, as well as the objects needed to solve each of the plots, which of course include puzzles.

IDID:IT‘s groundbreaking black-and-white aesthetic, in which every human representation is shaped like a mannequin, adds an extra layer of mystery to an adventure that begins at the table of a fortune teller, whose tarot cards seem to be sentencing the fate of the six characters. What are the reasons that led each of them to participate in such a tragic evening? Who is behind each death? Why doesn’t it stop raining outside?

IDID:IT is the latest exponent of a subject as classic as it is recurrent within literature, cinema and mystery and horror video games: the gothic mansion. A theme that dates back to no less than 1764, with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, to be exploited in subsequent centuries by all kinds of authors. Masterpieces such as The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson‘s novel masterfully adapted to the big screen by Robert Wise and more recently (and in a rather less faithful way) by Mike Flanagan in 2017 in series for Netflix, come to mind.

But here we have come to talk about video games, and that is why we have made a small selection of classic adventures, with a common element: the mansion that, imposing and sinister, serves as a game board for curses, murders and the occasional mad scientist. Come in without knocking. They are waiting for you.

Maniac Mansion

Although it was not the first graphic adventure created by LucasArts (that honor belongs to the adaptation of Labyrinth, released in 1986), Maniac Mansion marked the beginning of the golden era of the genre, thanks to SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), the engine created specifically for this game by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, which would be used in the subsequent adventures of the house. Maniac Mansion invited us to explore the mansion of a mad doctor, embodying two of the six characters available.  With a non-linear progress (influenced by the characters selected at the beginning of the adventure) and a plot full of humor, Maniac Mansion became a worldwide phenomenon that would even reach NES (twice).

Alone in the Dark

The Infogrames classic of 1992 caused a real earthquake in the video game industry, both for its pioneering use of polygons (combined with prerendered scenarios) and for its exciting mechanics, which allowed to choose from the beginning between two characters of different sex (Edward Carnby or Emily Hardwood). Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Alone in the Dark opened the doors of a mansion full of puzzles, secrets and monsters, becoming the main source of inspiration for the Survival Horror genre, and especially for the first Resident Evil.

The 7th Guest

If Alone in the Dark opened the way to polygonal nightmares, The 7th Guest demonstrated the possibilities offered by the new CD-ROM format, back in 1993. This interactive nightmare created by Virgin Interactive and Trilobyte combined computer-generated environments with the appearance of real actors, ghostly echoes of the terrible story that was contained in the Stauf mansion. A true audiovisual show full of puzzles and scares at the service of a plot clearly inspired by one of the peaks of the literature of haunted mansions: Hell House, by the great Richard Matheson.

Phantasmagoria

The most terrifying adventure created in the 90’s was signed by one of the biggest pioneers of the video game industry: Roberta Williams, co-founder of Sierra and creator of the King’s Quest saga. From an original script of 550 pages and with more than 4 million dollars of budget, Phantasmagoria told the misadventures of a writer and her husband, new owners of a spectacular mansion with a most sinister past. An authentic show, condensed in 7 CD-ROMs, that combined real actors (recorded on chroma) with computer created scenarios, that would go down in history for its dreadful sequences, which included scenes of torture and situations that would be unthinkable in a video game today. The gamble was risky, but it was enthusiastically received by the public, raising more than $12 million in sales during its first weekend on sale alone.