5 Days a Stranger

5 Days a Stranger is a videogame. Included in this node is a review for someone who hasn't played this game and a review for someone who has finished this game.

5 Days a Stranger is an utterly fantastic point and click adventure game that was made in 2003 by Fully Ramblomatic. You can download this game free from www.fullyramblomatic.com , or from one of the many gaming sites such as Abandonia.

This game was an experiment by Ben Croshaw to use the AGS engine (Adventure Game Studio) to create a horror game with dramatic character development. Until this work, Ben had only designed comedic games such as The Rob Blanc Trilogy.

You play a cat burglar named Trilby, who has just broken into the DeFoe Mansion. He has been locked inside with four other people by some invisible intelligence.

WARNING: the graphics in this game include a few gory cutscenes.

A Review for Those New to the Game

The graphics are worse than Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and could be placed somewhere between King's Quest 4 and King's Quest 5.
Although the minimum level of graphics I need for a game to be enjoyable is quite low, the average gamer might find the graphics in 5 Days a Stranger lacking. In particular, the character Jim appears almost undead in a few scenes of the game, and the characters' faces are quite pixelated. However, as far as I am concerned, the graphics of this game do not hinder the author from telling his story, and most importantly, they do not ruin the amazing atmosphere that 5 Days a Stranger builds.

As far as death is concerned, 5 Days a Stranger is well built in that it can not be put into a "you ate the blueberry pie" style lock (in other words, you can not end up in an unwinnable position because you exhausted an item or did a sequence of actions out of order).
However, it is possible to die in this game, so keep on your toes and save when things look dangerous!
A few of the puzzles in this game are easy, a few are annoying and disconnected clickfests. After one has completed the game, he or she will see that it is a result of Ben Croshaw forcing himself into disjointed gameplay because of a powerful plot device he uses. Without a walkthrough, the game is about 5-6 hours in length.

This game's plot starts off with a bang and slowly degenerates as the game continues. The plot has a few minor holes which do not noticeably hamper the mood it creates. A fan of a game Dreamweb would enjoy this game.

This is where the game truly shines. Despite having dated graphics and a few questionable puzzles, the atmosphere of this game is to die for. I was simply amazed by the level of claustrophobia, suspense, and outright terror that a point and click adventure game made with an Adventure Game Creator gave me. Many times, I found myself rushing through the puzzles so I could see the next horrifying dream sequence. Even the dialogue in this game managed to frighten me.

A Review for Those Who Have Finished the Game

Caution! Spoilers ahead!

What Worked
In one of the most powerful scenes of the game, Trilby wakes up and walks into the foyer, only to see all of his new friends horribly butchered. Just as he begins to panic, the door swings open and he sees a hulking form wearing a welding mask and a bloodcovered leather apron, holding a machete. He screams at the figure, who rips off his mask to reveal - himself.

During this cutscene, the player finds himself clicking frantically to try to force Trilby to flee the room. Of course, it is only a dream. Trilby wakes up screaming, and you are given control of him. Now, if that wasn't scary enough, I believe the most shocking dialogue in any adventure game tops this off.

You have Trilby walk around the house, and sure enough he bumps into Jim. You ask where the others are, and he explains that the BBC correspondant is upstairs in the library. You head up there, and the conversation that follows is simply spectacular.

What Went Wrong

Ben Croshaw painted himself into a corner while designing this game and it shows. At one point, you lose your inventory excluding two items. Because of this, items critical to winning the game could not be placed in any scene where you had access to them before your inventory is (nearly) cleared. One such item is a pair of scissors you need to use to cut away a piece of leather from the apron. The scissors for this puzzle simply materalize on a drawer in the living room. Even more annoying, the machette can not be substitued for the scissors in this puzzle - it has to be the scissors for your character to cut the apron. The scissors themselves can be difficult to notice, and will result in a clickfest even if you use a walkthrough!

Another flaw in the game was one of the basic premises. Why on Earth couldn't the players have broken open a window? I thought it would have been neat if AJ died trying to break out of the house, but it would have violated the "you don't see the paranormal while it's happening till the end" rule.

If you continue on the series and play 7 Days a Skeptic, you will find it doesn't suffer from either of these two flaws.

Looking for More?

If at the end of this game you find yourself wishing you were in a dangerous and alienating environment, scrambling for survival and trying to unravel a mystery - I have good news! Fullyramblomatic made a semi-sequel to this game named 7 Days a Skeptic. It too is free and available for download a www.fullyramblomatic.com.

An unrelated game that has a similar alienating and scary feel that I would recommend to someone who was entranced by the atmosphere of the 5 days and 7 days games is Dreamweb. Read this excellent node and give the game a shot. Well, I hope I got you to play this game or I warned you away from this game (if you don't like games without flashy graphics). I have to admit, it is a flawed but powerful game. Its sequel doesn't fall prey to the same sort of holes as the first game, but isn't quite as novel.