The Guest is a psychological puzzle-thriller from Team Gotham and 505 Games, released on March 10, 2016. A copy of the game was provided by 505 Games for review purposes, and the game can be purchased on Steam for $9.99 USD.
Dr. Evguini Leonev settled into his hotel room one night in the small town of Belmont, MA in 1986, getting ready to deliver a speech at an academic conference the next day, only to awake suddenly to someone beating on his door at 4:23 AM. Yet, while the room is the same room he checked into, things start to slowly feel “off” and out of place. Someone is knocking at the door to his room, yet the door doesn’t even have a doorknob on it. Strange newspaper clippings are left lying about that talk about the recent disappearance of a French psychologist, and odd little notes are hidden here and there telling him to stay where he is and stay safe.
This is the setting that Team Gotham’s The Guest drops players into. At its core, the game is a psychological thriller of an adventure, filled with puzzles to solve and difficulties to overcome. The tone is dark, brooding, and foreboding, often evoking a strong sense of dread and mistrust regarding your surroundings, yet not once does it rely on cheap jump-scares. The goal is simple enough: Dr. Leonev must find a way out of his hotel room, but along the way, he’ll have to delve into his own psyche while trying to understand why he’s being trapped here.
Players will quickly learn that the game doesn’t hold your hand at all. It’s up to them to explore, collect items, gather clues, and try different things out. The game pits you up against different challenges, some simple and some complex, and you’ll have to use your wits and whatever you have in your inventory to try and get through them. In the beginning, you’ll notice that the door to the room has no doorknob, so that’s an obvious first goal for you, but once you assemble the doorknob back in place, you’ll realize you need some sort of screwdriver to affix it so you can open it. That means you’ll have to find a light bulb to fit into a lamp to find a missing piece of paper, combine that with another piece of paper to get the code to a locked tool box, and open that box to find the screwdriver. And, ultimately, that’s just the most basic of the puzzles the game throws at you, all within the first few minutes of play. Later puzzles will present themselves and baffle you at first, but you’ll simply need to make note of them and come back later with the requisite items or information (such as the cipher needed to break the lock in the bathroom safe).
Atmospherically, the game is awesome, and the graphics play into that very nicely. I love the realistic tones and colors, the dark and gritty nature of most of the environments, and how this often clashes with other things, like the dreamscape area explored at one point in the game. The music is excellent and fits in very well, and the sound-effects are great, especially listened to with a nice surround sound device. In terms of performance, the game was very smooth, and I never noticed the framerate dipping at all, even on the most demanding settings.
Ultimately, The Guest will appeal quite well to fans of puzzle games and escape games alike, and for me it invokes very positive memories of games like Myst and The 7th Guest. It’s the type of game that you can get through without exploring every nook and cranny and even without solving every single puzzle, yet it’s a game that you’ll likely want to return to and explore again with a fine-toothed comb in order to find some of the smaller things you may have missed during your first pass.
The strongest point of the game is the atmospheric tale it tells and the fact that, at least to me, it draws you in and beckons you to keep going further, even if clues found suggest that you should stop trying to figure out what’s at play here. In the end, finding out why Dr. Leonev is trapped in the room may be part of the purpose, but it’s more about the journey you share with Leonev as you delve into uncomfortable situations and force yourself to carry on.
The Guest is a solid puzzle experience that I think is well worth the $9.99 asking price. If you like a good adventure game that doesn’t hold your hand and makes you think, all while telling a good story that’ll be on your mind long after you finish it, you really should pick this one up.