This article originally appeared in Dev.Mag Issue 20, released in February 2008
5 Days a Stranger is a freeware point-and-click adventure game developed by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw. “Yahtzee” has a become a bit of an internet star lately with his weekly video reviews, Zero Punctuation, where he gives a funny and sarcastic view on the game he reviews that week. It is a great surprise to many to find out that he also makes. 5 Days a Stranger is such a game.
Going into the game I was expecting something with loads of humour, but instead we have a very well designed and engrossing horror title. Things start off like a regular gig for Trilby, a mysterious man who fancies himself a gentleman thief; the abandoned DeFoe Manor is filled with many valuables ready for an easy picking by the talented burglar. Unfortunately things don’t go too smoothly, and just after breaking in Trilby founds himself trapped in the manor. However, he is not alone. There are others who also seem to be a prisoner within this mysterious place. It is up to you, as Trilby, to explore the mansion and find a way out within 5 days.
As I mentioned before, this is a horror game. But it’s not in the usual ‘ooh-look-everyone-has-turned-into-a-zombie-who-wants-to-sample-my-brain’ sense. Instead, what makes this such a captivating horror is the atmosphere. It doesn’t have shiny graphics at its disposal to scare you, but has many other things: the sound effects can send chills down your spine, such as eerie footsteps in the background suddenly breaking an otherwise perfect silence. The story also pulls you in, and has you hesitating berfore you click a door in fear of what might be behind it. The further you play the more interesting things get, and you can’t stop playing until the mystery is solved.
The gameplay is your fairly standard point-and-click fare;e you talk to people, collect items along the way and combine them to solve problems. Items you pick up, such as a diary, can sometimes progress the story and give a deeper insight into the characters, which is a nice touch. The only thing I didn’t like was a point in the game where if you don’t react right in the situation you will die and get taken back to your last manual, an unfortunate situation for anyone who doesn’t have the habit of saving regularly.
Overall 5 Days a Stranger doesn’t do anything new or break the mould, but tells a great, fascinating story with style, and for an adventure game, you can’t ask for much more.