7 Days a Skeptic is a freeware horror adventure game released on July 27, 2004. It is the sequel to 5 Days a Stranger and the second game in the Chzo Mythos. Designed and written by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw (better known for his more recent work, Zero Punctuation), the game was created using the Adventure Game Studio engine. It was well-received by the AGS community, though not as well as the first game, only receiving two awards.
In the year 2385, the USS Mephistopheles was sent on an exploratory mission in the Caracus Galaxy. It was the ultimate mission of its captain, Barry Chahal, famed hero of the Mars riots.
To Chahal, it was one last chance to have a bit of fun. So it was that he ordered the retrieval of a mysterious object found floating in space, ignoring protocol that stated to do otherwise. The Caracus Galaxy did not have any life in it, as far as anyone knew -- he just wanted to see what could possibly be out there.
The object was a metal crate, which he gathered crew members around in the cargo bay with him. But before they could pry it open, the ship's psychiatrist, Jonathan Somerset, noticed an inscription on one side:
Here lies John DeFoe. Do not disturb his rest.
A coffin? All hope of excitement lost, Chahal left the crew members to follow protocol. Human remains weren't to be disturbed. And yet, the next day, the 28th of July, Somerset went down to the cargo bay to discover that the crate had been opened during the night.
Even worse, the elevator was broken, a machete lodged in its mechanisms. The engine had stopped functioning. And the captain wouldn't answer the door when he knocked...
Help won't be able to arrive in less than seven days. What's the worst that could happen in that span of time?
This information is taken from the special edition's commentary mode as well as forum posts by Yahtzee. Please contact me if you spot any mistakes, as I've not had the opportunity to interview the man himself.
The biggest problem with 5 Days a Stranger was the unintuitive and clunky interface, so one of the first things Yahtzee did during development of this game was change the controls. The new control scheme, shamelessly copied from the 1992 game Nippon Safes Inc., makes the game far easier to play than 5 Days was. The same scheme would later be used in 6 Days a Sacrifice.
There doesn't seem to be much to mention about the creative influences that spurred development of this game. Yahtzee admits several times in the commentary track of the special edition that the primary motivation behind it was a desire to make the 5 Days lightning strike again with a quickly-produced sequel. Laziness characterizes the entire experiences, as Yahtzee would later claim to regret after making the other sequels.
I was made greatly erect by the popularity of 5 Days, but I was terrified that if I didn't keep up the output then I would be abandoned and be left poor and flaccid again. So I put out more of the same. But in space.
The graphics are mostly all copied from the same templates: the characters are clones of the protagonist with slight alterations, and most rooms are copies of other rooms with slightly different furniture and Photoshop light filters.
The laziest part, however, is the writing. Yahtzee used what he terms a "cheater's characterization technique" by assigning each character a single personality trait and referring to it as much as possible. There are no arcs and definitely no depth. The main character isn't remotely skeptical and the events clearly don't cover a seven-day span, but Yahtzee stuck with the title because he thought it sounded cool.
Review (no spoilers!)
With the paranormal mystery aspect of 5 Days gone, Yahtzee attempted to construct a lesser "whodunnit" plot for 7 Days a Skeptic, with the player trying to figure out the person complicit in the murders. This is the game's biggest problem: nothing is interesting. The only unknown aspect is a drab thing that really doesn't compel me to think about it when it's in the same game as a psychotic killer. Nothing is scary in the slightest, other than a bit of a thrill given by the adrenaline-pumping chase scenes -- but even then, the frustration of those chase scenes, and the fact that the monster can appear right in front of you and insta-kill your character at complete random, overrides any thrill you might have gotten from the experience.
7 Days feels like exactly what it is: a lazy, by-the-numbers sequel that pales in comparison to the first game. It's playable, but why would you want to play it? Even the plot barely connects itself to the first game, and Yahtzee doesn't even attempt to save what tenuous connection there is until near the end of 6 Days a Sacrifice. (Granted, that saving throw is pretty effective, but it doesn't help this game.)
My first idea for 7 Days was a direct sequel to 5 Days. You played Trilby again a few years after 5 Days who, having discovered that John DeFoe remains a threat, comes to an office building to find Jim, now an adult working there as a night shift security guard, and help him to safety. For reasons unclear the same thing that happened to DeFoe Manor happens to the office building. It would have ended with them discovering that the idol was also in the building, having been acquired by an evil scientist named Chahal who wanted to harness John DeFoe's power for his own ends. I didn't get very far on this one because it was shit.
Shit as it might have been, at least that game would have had Trilby in it. If you're playing through the Chzo Mythos, play this game just so you can get the complete story and understand the best part of 6 Days. Otherwise, don't bother. Even for a free game, it's not worth your time.
Download 7 Days a Skeptic here.