Uncle Henry's Playhouse
Henry Stauf, the evil toy maker of 7th Guest fame, has combined a set of twelve challenging puzzles from three other Trilobyte games (the aforementioned 7th Guest, as well as its sequel, The 11th Hour, and Clandestiny) with one never-before-seen puzzle to create this playhouse. Each room in Uncle Henry's Playhouse is a different game; some are simply brain teasers while others pit the player against the (artificial) intelligence of Uncle Henry himself. The final, new game is revealed only after the others are completed. The object is simply to solve them all and escape from the Playhouse.
Uncle Henry's Playhouse uses the standard Trilobyte interface with the rolling eyeball indicating an unplayed puzzle; the throbbing eyeball indicating one that has already been solved; the throbbing brain which will reset the current puzzle if clicked; and the beckoning hand and wagging hand signaling which directions you can and cannot go.
The games fall into two categories: the standalone brain teaser puzzles and the one-on-one games which pit you against Uncle Henry. Examples of the first type are Piece of Cake from 7th Guest, Trade Winds from Clandestiny, and Switchboard from The 11th Hour. I'm going to refrain from giving descriptions of these, as finding out the rules to each puzzle is part of the challenge. The second type was the most frustrating for me because Uncle Henry (the Artificial Intelligence set up as the opponent) was good and each game took many tries to win. However once they were won I discovered that the AI was not very flexible and the same combination of moves could win every time most games were replayed.
Puzzles include two from The 11th Hour- -- The Amazing Labyrinth and Blood & Honey -- and Cursed Coins from _Clandestiny (similar to the board game Othello). In Blood & Honey the player tries to fill in as much of the game board with honey as possible, placing blobs of honey next to cells filled with blood replaces them with honey, but it works the other way as well, blood replacing honey when Uncle Henry makes his moves. The Amazing Labyrinth is similar but not identical to the board game of the same name and was perhaps the most frustrating of all. The player and Uncle Henry are both trying to get a mouse from the center spot to their respective exits by inserting a tile into each row or column and creating pathways across the board. After several hours of playing, I had to walk away and eventually had other people play the game to see if they had the same trouble. While my husband finally won the game, we all had the same problem -- the AI will sometimes take two turns at once. This did not happen in any other game, but made this particular one all the more vexing.
Graphics & Audio
The animation and music, like the puzzles, are mostly taken from other games. The graphics and sound blend together well and add a certain creepiness to gameplay. I had some occasional problems with the audio going to static, which I attribute to compatibility problems with my sound card, and the game did a fantastic job of recovering the sound within a matter of seconds.
The booklet that comes with Uncle Henry's Playhouse contains mostly instructions for installation and a basic description of how the game is played (what the different cursor symbols mean, etc.). The online documentation is mainly advertisements (including some full video animation) for other Trilobyte games, as well as some small hints for the different puzzles. Both the booklet and the online help direct the player to log onto the Trilobyte website for further help; however, there are no hints there for Trilobyte's games. Instead, users are directed to call 1-900 numbers to receive hints; this can cost up to 95 cents per minute.
Windows: 486-DX2/66MHz, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, Local Bus video card (PCI or VLB) with 1 MB of RAM capable of displaying thousands of colors and supports DirectX, 4 MB hard disk space, 2X (300k/sec sustained transfer rated) CD-ROM drive, 100% SoundBlaster compatible sound card, mouse
Recommended Options: Internet connection & high-powered speakers
The music and graphics are beautiful, as well as creepy, but the puzzles are sometimes too challenging, without the option of a storyline and other gameplay to divert the player's concentration. With a suggested retail price of $19.95, Uncle Henry's Playhouse would be a great gift for someone unfamiliar with other Trilobyte games (especially if you would like to pique their interest) and, due to unavailability of hints or strategy guides, it would best be played with a friend or group of friends. It is good for what it is -- a sample puzzle pack for advertising 7th Guest, 11th Hour and Clandestiny. If you already know you like Trilobyte's games, I would recommend that you buy one of their full adventures. I give Uncle Henry's Playhouse a 72 out of 100.