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The 11th Hour: The Sequel to the 7th Guest

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I would not recommend The 11th Hour: The Sequel to the 7th Guest (Virgin Interactive, CD-ROM for PC, $60) to anyone with pressing engagements—say, a magazine deadline. However, for somebody with the time to wrestle through a tortuous installation procedure, put up with agonizingly slow navigation, and bend his frontal lobes around insanely difficult logic puzzles, The 11th Hour is a hell of a game.

It’s easy to see why The 7th Guest was second only to Myst in CD-ROM-game popularity. Depositing the player in the mansion of a maniacal toy manufacturer named Henry Stauf, Guest combined deluxe graphic design, knotty brain twisters, and the witty ghoulishness of an above-average horror movie. But where the original game ponied up creepy animations whenever a puzzle was solved, 11th Hour delivers fragments of full-motion video. If you can defer your life long enough to make it through the game’s four discs, you’ll piece together a 60-minute film detailing the battle between the undead Stauf and hunky TV reporter Carl Denning.

I prefer the animations myself; the video footage in 11th Hour plays like a subpar episode of The X-Files. In other respects, the sequel resembles the original, for good and ill. Once again, you prowl the Stauf mansion, seeking cryptic clues and unlocking puzzles (the addition of artificial intelligence makes several of the games increasingly hard to solve). But it seems that half the time is spent crawling from room to room.

You may even have trouble getting into this house in the first place. Playing the video footage requires a new software driver (included in the package), but if your computer isn’t configured correctly, you may be out of luck. And while the game is supposed to run in Windows, I ended up having to access it through klutzy old DOS. Howls of frustration on America Online’s 11th Hour bulletin board indicate I’m not alone.

If you can crawl through the installation thorns, though, this is an experience worth having. Deadlines aside, I know I’m hooked. In fact, if anyone knows how to solve the Mondrian jigsaw puzzle in the art gallery, would he or she please E-mail me at tburr@ew.timeinc.com. B-