Hugo II: Whodunit?

Posted by Andrew Morin.
First posted on 04 January 2014. Last updated on 04 January 2014.
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Hugo II: Whodunit?
Any wrong move crossing the Venus fly traps will be Penelope's undoing!
Hugo II: Whodunit?
Penelope needs to cross carefully so not to bump against the side of the bridge.
Hugo II: Whodunit?
It is easy to get lost in the garden maze.
Hugo II: Whodunit?
Penelope explores an underground cavern.
Hugo II: Whodunit?
Great Aunt Hester is quite the talker.

In 1990, game designer David Gray released Hugo's House of Horrors. Set in a haunted mansion, the game cast protagonist Hugo to save his beloved Penelope who went missing somewhere inside the mansion. The game relied on trivia, exploration, and detective reasoning to locate clues and solve puzzles. It was also laced with humorous cultural references, adding a distinctive entertaining style beyond that of just an adventure game itself.

Hugo II: Whodunit? (also known as Hugo's Mystery Adventure), released a year later by Gray, is the sequel to the original Hugo's House of Horrors and the second game in the Hugo series. The story in this sequel picks up immediately after that of the original game. Having successfully rescued Penelope, Hugo takes a vacation with Penelope in Europe and visits his Great Uncle Horace at the English countryside. All is well until Hugo wanders off in the mansion and (conveniently) goes missing. Penelope, now alone without Hugo, is suddenly awakened from her nap by a loud noise, only to witness helplessly from a distance as Hugo's great uncle gets stabbed and apparently dies. Playing as Penelope, it is up to you to uncover the identity of the murderer by solving puzzles, wading through man- (or, in this case, woman-) eating plants, killer bees, overly romantic gardeners, and mazes, and even taking a trip to a distant planet, all the while trying to find out what has happened to your lost love Hugo.

The humor that is a hallmark of the original game hangs strongly and ever presently in this sequel. There are certainly no lack of red herrings, witty commentaries, and funny outtakes. Not uncommonly, the responses you get from commands you enter in the game are humorous retorts. More often than not, thinking out of the box rewards you with a smile and a chuckle as you read over the game's responses.

Players who are familiar with the series will immediately notice that this sequel is exceptionally longer when compared to the original. The mansion has many more rooms to explore, and the rooms themselves are greatly expanded. There are now less cramped areas and more walking spaces. Visually, the whole mansion is simply much bigger in scale.

As opposed to the dark gothic atmosphere of the previous game, the environs in this sequel are far more aesthetically pleasing. The colors are bright, lending to a most normal ambience. The quality of the graphics does not sway away from that of the original. Characters are heavily pixelated, though they are well animated. Even the water under the bridge is colored to give a visual cue of apparent movement. There is no confusion as to what the pixelated sprites are meant to represent.

Gameplay in this sequel is virtually identical to that of the original. You use the arrow keys to move Penelope around, and you enter commands into the text parser to perform actions. The game only recognizes short commands of a few words (for example, LOOK KEYHOLE, USE PHONE, or OPEN DOOR). Some actions require more explicit and complex commands (for example, SLIDE PAPER UNDER DOOR). In all, the interface is instantly familiar to fans of early classic adventure games from Sierra that use a similar parser interface.

There are a few sequences in the game where precise control of your character's movement is essential to survival. A single false step can cause your game to be over. These sequences can be frustrating to complete, considering the sometimes chunkiness of the keyboard control. The game uses the same save system as that in the original. I cannot stress how important it is to save your game. You will die frequently. Saving your game frequently will minimize your frustration in getting through the tougher sequences.

There is very little sound in the game. The opening scene is accompanied by a non-MIDI musical score. There are a few moments in the game when an important action will be serenaded by a congratulatory musical note or notification. On the other hand, the otherwise prevailing silence only adds to the mystery and suspense of the game.

This is not an overly difficult game. Aside from a few death traps that require great care to avoid, the game can be completed in relatively easy order with diligent exploration and persistence. The game does not give any warning if you are stuck in a dead-end. Making multiple game saves is essential to avoid unnecessary backtracking.

Interestingly, the game was also released as Hugo's Who Done It? by Who Software. According to Gray, the name change was never approved by him, which he believed to have done by the company either deliberately or inadvertently, perhaps to match of its own name style.

All in all, Hugo II: Whodunit? is a welcome addition to the Hugo series. Players will enjoy solving the murder mystery, meeting the zany cast of characters, and exploring the colorful but quiet countryside. Obsessive players will undoubtedly replay the game many times to try to find the missing points to cap their scores. As such, there is a lot of fun to have in this game.

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