7 Days a Skeptic

7 Days a Skeptic is a videogame.

Synopsis

7 Days a Skeptic is a point and click adventure game designed by Ben Croshaw. It was published in 2004, and it was built with AGS (Adventure Game Studio). It is a sequel to the critically acclaimed game 5 Days a Stranger, although it it not necessary to have played 5 Days in order to complete 7 Days a Skeptic. 7 Days a Skeptic is part two of a four game series.

7 Days a Skeptic takes place roughly 400 years after the events in 5 Days a Stranger. The setting is the ship Mephistopheles, on its way to map the Carcus galaxy. The player takes the role of Dr. Jonathan Somerset, the ship's counsellor. The ship scans a nearby object floating in deep space and checks it out, hoping for first contact. They discover what appears to just be an ordinary locker, with the word "DeFoe" scratched in the front.

WARNING: 7 Days a Skeptic is a gory and disturbing game. It is much more graphic than its predecessor.

A Review for Those New to the Game

If you have not played 5 Days a Stranger, consider playing through it before tackeling 7 Days a Skeptic. Although you will not need any information in order to beat 7 Days, you will be more inclined to believe and understand the plot revealed in the last stages of the game. Also, there are a few parallels that are fun to note.

If you have played through 5 Days a Stranger, then you're in for a real treat. You will find 7 Days is a more polished and more thorough game.

Graphics

Ben Croshaw has improved in his ability to generate scenes and locations since 5 Days a Stranger, but the game's graphics haven't drastically improved. If you could barely stand the graphics of 5 Days a Stranger, you will not be pleased with this game's graphics, which hover between King's Quest 4 and King's Quest 5.

If you are a picky player who will only enjoy a game with graphics better or equal to games like Unreal, The Longest Journey, Warcraft III, etc, then this is not the game for you. I found that the graphics did not hinder the story nor the atmosphere of this game, but I have a greater tolerance for poor graphics than most. I am of the opinion that graphics can ruin a game by providing distracting "eye candy" if they're not implemented correctly, and I have noticed that they commonly take the place of plot and character development.

Gameplay

The user interface for 7 Days a Skeptic has been redesigned since 5 Days a Stranger. I found that the interface is easier to learn, but a little slower in practice. It is different than the Sierra games and the Lucas Arts games - every action you can do is access by right clicking populate

The puzzles have seen a great deal of improvement since 5 Days a Stranger. There aren't really any nonsense puzzles, and there are few clickfests. A reason for the improvement is the maturity of the author as a designer. He didn't paint himself into a corner like he did in 5 Days a Stranger when he clears the player's inventory, but you still need objects to finish the game.

Like 5 Days a Stranger, there is no way that you can get to a point in the game where it is unwinnable and your character is alive. However, you are in a very dangerous environment with paranormal events. It is possible to die in numerous locations in this game, whereas it was very limited in 5 Days a Stranger.

Plot

The plot of 7 Days a Skeptic is more sound than that of its predecessor. It doesn't start off with the same momentum as the previous game (remember Day 2, after your dream?), but it will definitely keep you captivated.

Atmosphere

Like 5 Days a Stranger, this aspect is where this game truly shines. 7 Days a Skeptic is a game of confusion and terror. Croshaw takes elements of the movies horror movies like Event Horizon and Kubrick's 2001 and places them in the Mephistopheles. The game allows you to get used to the idea of your job as a counsellor, then quickly throws you into a chaotic and hectic world, leaderless and disturbing.

A Review for Those Who Have Finished the Game

Caution! Spoilers ahead!

Upon playing both games, the player immediately will notice the stark difference between 5 Days a Stranger and 7 Days a Skeptic - the later is polished and refined. Although the location of the first episode allows the player to connect with Trilby better than the location of the second, the puzzles in the second game allow for a smoother telling of the story. In particular, I noted that 5 Days a Stranger had bigger ups and downs, while 7 Days was a more consistent ride. Very little could compete with the scene where Trilby awakes to find all of his friends brutally murdered in the foyer. When we see the killer enter the room, we desperately try to get Trilby to flee. When the killer is unmasked, we are shocked - but nowhere near as horrified as we become after talking with Simone.

While playing 7 Days, I began to feel like I was trapped in the movie Event Horizon, and that was the effect that Croshaw went after with both of his games.

Far From the End
Ben Croshaw released two additional games which flesh out the universe that 7 Days is a part of.

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.

Backstory

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?

Development

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.
    —Yahtzee

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.
    —Yahtzee

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.

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