Hugo's House of Horrors is a vintage game circa 1990 designed to run in DOS. It is one of many classic text command based adventure games released during the 1980s and 1990s before more popular interfaces took over. The game was developed by David Gray, an independent game developer.
Hugo's House of Horrors places you in command of Hugo, a likable 2D character with the classic cyan shirt and stylish hot pink pants. :D You are tasked with rescuing your beloved maiden Penelope from a House of Horrors. According to the storyline, she was last seen entering the house on a babysitting assignment.
Once you start the game, you are given a short intro screen before being shown the classic opening scene of the game: Hugo standing outside of the House of Horrors. The artwork is pretty standard fare for the era, 256-color VGA palette, yet it has a very retro appeal to it. If you are running the game on the right machine, you will also get to hear the great synthesized background music included with the game.
This game is based on puzzles and you have a set of standard verbs that you use for commands. For example, "take knife" would cause Hugo to pick up a knife if such an object existed in the game. Right from the start you are required to think creatively since the door to the house is locked and you don't have a key. The best strategy is to use the "look" command to get more information about your surroundings. By just typing "look" you will be given a generic description of your surroundings, but if you choose to look at specific objects, you can get detailed information about them and maybe find other objects as a result. Other important action key words include throw, eat, open, close, drop, and talk.
David Gray really put some creativity into the string analysis code. A lot of the time your commands will be met with confusion, but sometimes a bizarre command will work with hilarious results. Its too bad we can't see the source to find all of the easter eggs in this game.
This game is definitely not for the impatient. You are not going to run into a room guns blazing and shoot everyone inside. You are faced with problems and you need to think about them to find a solution. Sometimes you will not come up with the answer immediately. This is what adventure games are all about, thinking.
Once you get inside the mansion, there are several areas to explore and numerous dangers. For example, a careless stroll into the wrong room will get you attacked by a vicious dog or decapitated by a butler. There are also curious surprises, such as the laboratory where you are used as a guinea pig.
If you are a fan of games that require you to think, this game is one you should definitely not miss. Hugo's House of Horrors is a classic in the text adventure genre and will keep you occupied for some time. David Gray really had something going and it is a shame that he discontinued the Hugo series. I personally loved this game when I first got it back in the early 90s and I still love playing it, even though I know the solution now.
David Gray's website is now selling a revised version of Hugo's House of Horrors designed for Windows 95/98/NT/2000/XP and featuring a much improved interface. If you feel like plunking down the $15 for all three Hugo's House of Horrors games, you are in for a treat. Otherwise, you can still find the DOS version of the game for download online. I highly recommend using the DOSBox DOS emulator to run this game since it will ensure that the game runs properly.