Mystery House Playthrough, Part 1: Why You Shouldn't Drink Before Making House Calls

Mystery House, often touted as the first graphic adventure game, is also an enigmatic document of a killing spree heretofore unfathomable in the history of crime fiction.  When trying to wrap my head around the disjointed sequence of events recounted within, I came to perceive myself as the protagonist in a twisted story of murder and fantasy, trapped in a world that had been scribbled onto my subconscious like the musings of a bored sixth-grader.

It was the summer of 1980, and the squad chief had called me out to investigate an unusual distress call received earlier in the day.  I arrived at the house early in the evening, totally unaware of what might be transpiring within. 

At first glance, it seemed like a perfectly ordinary house.  A tree, a fence, a chimney, a porch... only a few crepe myrtles short of the domestic ideal.  But it would soon become clear that something odd was afoot.

I mean, literally, something was wrong with my feet.  I tried entering the house, opening the door, climbing the stairs, going on the porch; but nothing worked.  It wasn't until I crawled up to the stone steps and shouted, "GO STAIRS!!!", that my feet burst into action and drove me face-first onto the front porch.

What was wrong with me?  Why couldn't I perform the simple action of walking up to the door?  Clearly, my policy of hammering 13 shots of whiskey before responding to calls would have to be revisited.  At least now I could take comfort in knowing that I was welcome; that is, assuming that I could trust the inanimate mat at the foot of the door in front of me.  

Nodding to the mat, I opened the door and stepped into the house.  What greeted me was a sight that I will never, to this day, forget.

Amassed in the foyer, at the foot of an ascending staircase, were a crowd of puppet people in ball caps and skirts, holding hands and glaring at me like the children of the corn.  Nothing on their expressions gave any indication of the reason for their gathering, or whether they were even aware of my presence, but what struck me most of all was the placidity of it all.  Everyone seemed perfectly calm and composed, yet somebody had made a distress call to the station... who?  And why didn't they come forward?

My queries were all met with silence, but there was a note on the floor.  Picking it up, I found the following message scrawled in crayon:

Either I was being taunted by a master criminal or I was caught in the middle of a pornographic scavenger hunt.  Whichever it was, it was clear I'd better watch my butt.  Making a mental note, I went to investigate the kitchen for clues.

I was now becoming increasingly aware of the full extent of my disorientation.  I wandered aimlessly between the various fixtures and furniture in the kitchen, taking innocuous items and then leaving the room, only to return moments later.  In my wanderings, I collected matches, a butterknife, and an empty pitcher.  Thinking my escapades might seem less futile if I filled the pitcher, I spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the faucet above the kitchen sink.  I was about to resort to claps and taunts, when it occurred to me that I might not be projecting the appropriate amount of authority to the appliance.  "Water on!", I shouted, and without a moment's hesitation, the faucet gushed forth with water.  I couldn't fill the pitcher, for some reason, but I still got the water, and that was enough to satisfy me.

My next stop was the dining room.  Or at least, I think it was the dining room -- it had a table, a candle, and what was either a lamp, a plastic Christmas tree, or a mangled Star of David.

The candle was a particularly fortunate find because it was getting dark outside and the lampmas tree of David was not giving out any light (whether it was meant to or not was unclear).  So I took one of the matches I had drunkenly pocketed in the kitchen, lit the candle, started a fire on the floor, and then doused it with the water I had heroically retrieved from the sink earlier.  Ordinarily, this sequence of events would not have caused me much distress -- after all, I start fires all the time at home -- but I was absolutely gobsmacked when I looked down at the charred remains of the floor where the fire had been.

What are the odds that I would start a fire in the exact spot where a key was hidden?  I considered the possibility that there were keys embedded under the floorboards throughout the house, but I wasn't keen on starting more fires and didn't think a butterknife would be a sufficient tool for pulling up a floor. So, I just picked up the key and continued into the yard.

It was at this point that my theory of a pornographic scavenger hunt took a major hit.  Lying in the yard was a person, possibly one of the puppet people from the foyer, with a large tumor glowing on his head and X's on both eyes.  A chill went down my spine when I realized the significance of the X's... he was dead!  No doubt he was killed by the greed-crazed lunatic of the aforementioned crayon scrawls, but a cursory inspection revealed no cause of death, nor a possible motive.

Drunk, clueless, and unable to operate basic appliances, I decided it was time to cut my losses and leave.  Unfortunately, when I returned to the front door of the house, I discovered that I was locked in!

Will the mystery house become my tomb?  Who is committing these dastardly murders?  How can I identify the jewel thief?  Will I enlist the help of an anthropomorphized moose and squirrel?  Find out in the next installment of the Mystery House playthrough,