||This article may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may only interest a specific audience. (April 2011)|
|Developer(s)||Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw|
|Designer(s)||Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw|
|Engine||Adventure Game Studio (AGS)|
|Release date(s)||September 29, 2003 (5 Days)
July 27, 2004 (7 Days)
June 26, 2006 (Notes)
January 25, 2007 (6 Days)
August 10, 2010 (Linux version)
|Genre(s)||Psychological horror, Adventure|
The Chzo Mythos is the collective title given to a series of four amateur, indie adventure games created by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw using the Adventure Game Studio development tool. The games are, in order of release and intended play-order, 5 Days a Stranger, 7 Days a Skeptic, Trilby's Notes and 6 Days a Sacrifice. Chronologically, the games do not follow the same pattern.
The series is also sometimes called the DeFoe series, after one of the main characters; the Trilby series, after another main character; or the "X Days a Sauerkraut," based on Croshaw's own references. The author commentary for 6 Days a Sacrifice confirms Chzo Mythos as Yahtzee's intended title, despite referring to it several times on the official sites as the "John Defoe Quadrilogy".
In 5 Days a Stranger, the player controls the shady cat burglar, Trilby, who stumbles across a demonic force that manifests itself as a masked killer in the tradition of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, while finding himself one of a group of strangers thrown together in an abandoned mansion, inspired by Nocturnal Illusion, and being picked off one by one. 7 Days a Skeptic emulates the claustrophobic horror of Alien, following a spaceship crew that finds artifacts from the first game floating in space, four hundred years after the events of 5 Days a Stranger. Trilby's Notes, set in a hotel which exists in both the real world and a horrific alternate dimension in the style of Silent Hill, goes back to flesh out the origin of the cursed African idol from the other games. While the first two games use the point and click interface typical of recent adventure games, Trilby's Notes requires the player to move with the keyboard and type commands with a text parser, similarly to early Sierra On-Line games like King's Quest I-IV. 6 Days a Sacrifice completes the set, sitting in the timeline exactly halfway between 5 Days and 7 Days. Yahtzee's later game, Trilby: The Art of Theft, features the character's exploits before the series, but is not connected to it thematically, plot-wise or gameplay-wise.
The games have featured on various PC magazine cover disks, and were mentioned as an "excellent series" and given a brief review in an article on Adventure Game Studio in the February 2006 edition of PC Gamer. 5 Days a Stranger is mentioned as a good example of a game created with Adventure Game Studio in the book Gaming Hacks published by O'Reilly Media
"Special editions" of each game were sold for $5 USD, but are now available for free. They contain small extra scenes, supplemental material such as music, and the option to play with a DVD-style author's commentary track. Yahtzee's text elaborates on his aims and design choices, lists sources of inspiration, clarifies the more mystical parts of the plotline and provides other background information, such as the history of mental illness in his family and being dropped on his head as a child.
Although only officially released for Microsoft Windows, the games can be run on Linux and Mac OS systems using their respective ports of the Adventure Game Studio runtime engine. In addition, icculus.org also hosts Linux native binaries of all the games, as well Trilby: The Art of Theft, utilizing the Linux runtime.
5 Days a Stranger
5 Days a Stranger chronicles the story of a gentleman thief known as Trilby and four others fighting an unknown terror in DeFoe Manor. The story progresses over 5 days, with more story being revealed each day. Dream sequences typically space out the transitions between the events of different days. An intuitive version of the AGS interface ties in with the unique feel of the game. The game has been translated into German, Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish, Italian, and Russian.
The game was created in 2003 with the Adventure Game Studio (AGS) engine and won awards for best game created with the AGS engine in 2003, best gameplay, best dialog scripting, best puzzles, and best scripting. The game has also had many good reviews on adventure game sites.
The Special Edition includes author commentary and an easter egg scene, accessible from the menu, which shows Simone Taylor interviewing Croshaw, represented by a dog. It also includes scans of some pieces of pencil concept art and midi files of the music used in-game.
A Source engine adaptation of 5 Days a Stranger had been announced by a group of fans in 2007 and confirmed by Croshaw himself. Croshaw had stated that he would be closely involved with it: supervising design, okaying changes and possibly writing new dialog and puzzles. Despite the use of an FPS engine, 5Days3D was intended to be an adventure game. The remake was, however, canceled indefinitely by the team. There are no longer any future plans for the remake, and it is currently discontinued.
A cat burglar named Trilby goes to a large mansion called DeFoe Manor, in hopes of an easy score of expensive loot, as the owners had died shortly beforehand. However, Trilby finds himself inexplicably sealed inside the house, along with four other people, who had come to the manor for various reasons of their own.
As the five prisoners seek answers to their predicament within the house, two of them are murdered in two different instances. The killer (in the second case) is found to be Trilby, possessed by the vengeful ghost of the second son of Sir Roderick DeFoe, the house's original owner. Sir Roderick blamed his deformed son for causing his wife's death and chained him to a wall in the basement, regularly abusing and neglecting the boy (which Trilby speculates to have resulted in mental retardation and violent insanity.) Fifteen years later, Sir Roderick severely beat his son with an African wooden idol. His other son, Matthew, attempted to help his twin brother, but John (a name given by Trilby to the younger DeFoe for convenience) murdered both his brother and his father with a machete before dying of his own injuries. John's ghost still haunts the mansion within the tribal idol which killed him, possessing anyone who touches it and murdering anyone he encounters, wearing the same blacksmith's apron and welding mask he did when he killed his father and brother.
Trilby performs a magic ritual to rid the house of the John's ghost; he gives Jim a teddy bear from Matthew DeFoe's old room and gives Simone a large rifle from the mantle, he is able to force John's spirit into his remains which by a side effect causes Jim and Simone to be possessed by Matthew and Sir Roderick and they kill John. John's body falls into a fire and catches the house alight. Trilby and the other two escape before the house burns down. Trilby allows the other survivors to believe he died in the fire so as to avoid the inevitable police interest and assumes that John DeFoe is finally at rest.
7 Days a Skeptic
7 Days a Skeptic takes place about four hundred years after the last installment, by which time mankind has begun to further explore the universe. The game chronicles the story of a veteran psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Somerset, and five others on board the spaceship Mephistopheles as they face the same mysterious entity that haunted the protagonists of the first game. By this time the events of the original game have become an urban myth and no-one knows what really happened back at DeFoe Manor. 7 Days a Skeptic draws several parallels with its predecessor, using elements such as dream sequences between each day as well as using similar plot revelations.
The Special Edition includes author commentary, a 'blooper reel' consisting of several scenes where the characters make mistakes as if they were actors forgetting their lines, and a menu option to view the easter egg scene that normally occurs when the standard edition is played on Croshaw's birthday. A new feature not present in the normal version is that you are warned via an on-screen message if your pursuer is going to appear in a room during the chase sequences. This SE also includes the music as midi files.
The spaceship Mephistopheles, on an assigned exploration mission, finds a metal box floating in space. A plaque explains that it apparently holds the remains of John DeFoe. The six-man crew decide to leave it unopened in the cargo hold.
The ship begins to suffer unusual phenomena, such as the elevator being jammed by a bloody machete, a power failure, and the disappearance of the captain. The box has been opened and is empty. While attempting to send a distress signal, as the Mephistopheles is now stranded in space, Jonathan Somerset, finds the body of the Captain skewered on the ship's radio antennae. Disturbed, the crew sends the distress signal. Another ship receives the signal and will arrive in five days.
By this time, the doctor regains his senses, and tells Jonathan to use the doctor's stun gun and the radio masts to stop DeFoe for good. John DeFoe takes the new body, dons his old possessions and hunts the Jonathan through the ship, following him onto the ship's hull. The protagonist skewers DeFoe on the antennae and destroys the idol in the ship's plasma exhaust.
The rescue ship arrives to find the ship littered with body parts, blood, and one living crew member. It is revealed that the protagonist is not actually Jonathan Somerset, but an impostor - the real Jonathan Somerset had died months before, and the protagonist had taken on his identity so he could go into space. With no other survivors and therefore no witnesses to what really happened, the rescuers assume it was the protagonist who has murdered the crew, and he is arrested. The last scene features a hand coming out of the metallic box.
Trilby's Notes is the third game released, but second in order of game chronology. It stands as a true sequel to the events of 5 Days a Stranger, and a prequel to the events of 7 Days a Skeptic.
The story follows the gentleman thief Trilby to an isolated Welsh hotel, seeking the idol which wreaked supernatural havoc in the first game. Believing that there is more to the story of DeFoe Manor than he had previously thought, Trilby wishes to destroy the idol once and for all, but is suddenly caught up in a series of strange and gruesome events at the hotel that cause him to start shifting randomly between two parallel worlds.
Trilby's Notes also provides a link from 7 Days a Skeptic as most of the featured characters share last names with those on the spaceship, suggesting a shared bloodline.
Trilby's Notes was nominated for 9 AGS Awards and won 4 (Best Game, Best Story, Best Animation and Best Non-player character).
Trilby's Notes is superficially similar to Croshaw's previous efforts, but instead of the previous games' point-and-click interfaces it instead relies on a text parser and keyboard directional control, in the style of early Sierra Entertainment games such as King's Quest I-IV.
The special edition includes the usual author commentary and an extended version of the ending scenes. The SE also comes with the soundtrack in midi and mp3 formats, and a Word file containing the complete text of two of the Books of Chzo, fictional religious texts within the series.
Croshaw has stated that the game was intended as both a form of continued high-level experimentation with the AGS engine and a complete product within itself. Trilby's Notes is the most graphically violent of the four games, an effect achieved with an extremely modest pixel-palette. Croshaw said of his main character's rather basic graphical representation: "[He] is not shaded at all because he was drawn after the GFW period when I realized that most people didn't give a toss and just wanted a fun game." 
The game takes place four years after 5 Days a Stranger. Trilby, although confident John DeFoe is at rest, has become paranoid nonetheless and is eventually apprehended by the police, who offer him a job as a paranormal investigator as part of the Special Talent Project, a secret government agency. An author is encouraged to fictionalise Trilby, to make people forget he was ever real. Trilby later hears that Simone Taylor, a fellow survivor from the DeFoe Manor incident has fallen into depression and alcoholism, prompting a visit, but he instead discovers her murdered corpse. He then tells Jim, another survivor, to go into hiding. Deciding her death is related to the DeFoe incident, Trilby decides to do research on John to find a way to stop him once and for all.
Trilby eventually finds the stump of Cabadath's soul tree near the hotel and identifies it as the center of the world-shifts; Lenkmann arrives and reveals himself as a member of the Order. He then proceeds to stab Trilby to subdue him and attempts to use him as a sacrifice to the Prince to allow him to manifest in the World of Technology, but Trilby wills himself to death before the demon can be summoned. The Prince mortally wounds the agent in anger, and drags his soul into the Ethereal Realm.
Shortly after, Trilby is revived through mysterious means (not explained until 6 Days a Sacrifice), and takes the idol. Knowing he cannot merely destroy it, he closes the game pondering how to dispose of it safely. In the post-credits epilogue, the Prince and Lenkmann, now a "Puppet" used by the Prince to communicate, present the bloodstained waistcoat of Trilby to the Order of Blessed Agonies, thus continuing the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Chzo.
6 Days a Sacrifice
6 Days a Sacrifice is the fourth and final game in order of release, and third in order of the game series' timeline, placed 196 years after 5 Days and Notes and 196 years before 7 Days. Theo DaCabe, a council surveyor who is trying to run a health and safety assessment on the headquarters of a fictional fad religion called Optimology and gets embroiled in the machinations of the overarching series plot.
The Special Edition includes author commentary, an "expanded, slightly less ambiguous ending", the soundtrack in midi format, and character profiles on most of the characters in the series, in the guise of dossiers from the Ministry of Occultism.
The game also has a series of accompanying interactive fiction games, called the Countdown Trilogy, which were used as teaser trailers for the release of the point-and-click graphical adventure itself. They used the Z-machine language for implementation and need an interpreter such as WinFrotz to run. These games were developed using the Inform7 development system. Each of the three text adventures is named after and represents one of the three Blessed Agonies, an important plot element in the second half of the main series, and the three aspects of being, important throughout the series.
6 Days a Sacrifice won Best Story and Best Non-player Character (Trilby) in the 2007 AGS Awards, having received a total of 7 nominations. This brings the total number of AGS Awards for the series to 13 and nominations to 36, although The Art of Theft, not strictly part of the series, received a further 2 awards.
Theo DaCabe, a building inspector, is sent to inspect the headquarters of a new religion, Optimology, after the police receive an anonymous tip about an un-authorised extension of their building. Once inside, a member named Mr. Garriott shoves him down an elevator shaft to imprison him. He is rescued by two prisoners of the Optimologists: a shady biochemist, Dr. Samantha Harty; and an overenthusiastic journalist, Janine Orzechowski. Samantha soon informs Theo that Optimology is a cover-up and a money-making operation for the secretly operated Order of the Blessed Agonies, which seeks to bring Chzo into the Scientific Realm, the World of Technology. The building was built around the ruins of DeFoe Manor, which still houses John DeFoe's mind, even though his body is destroyed 196 years earlier and his soul is destroyed 196 years later.
However, instead of sending his own minions to the Scientific Realm, Chzo only brings Theo and the last surviving Trilby clone into the Ethereal Realm, the World of Magick, before the bridge closes once again. He transforms Theo, who has inadvertently become his acolyte as a result of the Blessed Agonies he has suffered: the Blessed Agony of the Body, due to his fall down the elevator shaft; the Blessed Agony of the Soul, due to the loss of Janine, whom he loved; and the Blessed Agony of the Mind, due to his traumatic experiences in the Order's complex and the visions before his apparent death. Chzo strips the Prince of his powers and grants them to the dying Theo, who becomes the New Prince. The New Prince easily defeats the former Prince (now called the Arrogant Man, his title before becoming the Prince in the Order's scriptures) and replaces him as Chzo's foremost servant. The Trilby clone is imprisoned and tortured by Chzo, who feeds on his agony.
His future self gives him a magical knife which turns people into ghosts, and Somerset proceeds to use it on himself. As a ghost, he travels back in time to serve as the Caretaker. He rescues Trilby during the events of Trilby's Notes. He helps Theo during the events of Six Days a Sacrifice. Afterward, he goes to visit his younger self, asking him to kill his father, thereby causing the events of 7 Days a Skeptic. Somerset discloses in a final monologue that he is obligated to serve destiny.
Croshaw has subsequently written and publicized two stories on the Fully Ramblomatic websites that are in the same universe as the Chzo Mythos Quadrilogy. Although not directly linked to any particular game, they both give insight onto several of the questions raised since the release of the Chzo Mythos games.
Trilby and the Ghost
The first of the two stories, "Trilby and the Ghost" is only related to the games via Trilby, The Ministry of Occultism and the Special Talent Project.
The story follows Trilby as he is sent to a burnt down council estate to find a ghost and perform an exorcism on it. Trilby finds the ghost, a teenage boy named Greg, who needs to tell a girl he met online called Nariko that he loves her or he cannot go onto the afterlife. Trilby manages to convince the ghost to go back to STP Headquarters with him and there they try to find a way to make Greg feel the right feeling in order to pass onto the afterlife.
There, they meet Claire, a psychic who sends Greg all sorts of memories to try and get him to pass on, including a first kiss, sex and skydiving. None of these work. Trilby hunts down Nariko who turns out to be a male slaughterhouse worker from Louisiana, USA, pretending to be a teenage girl from Japan and sort and began to enjoy talking to Greg. In the end, Trilby tricks Greg into going into a closet which Trilby had set up an exorcism ritual in and sends Greg into the afterlife.
After this, Claire calls Trilby a "devious bastard" and Trilby simply replies by saying "that's why they hired me".
The second story. The Expedition is more related to the series and gives details on Chzo and how he traps his victims.
- O Reilly's Gaming Hacks index: 5 Days a Stranger cited 15 December 2006
- The Chzo Mythos For GNU/Linux Released! Linux Gaming News, August 11, 2010 (Article by Maxim Bardin)
- The Chzo Mythos And Other Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw Games Updated For Linux GamingOnLinux, January 20, 2015 (Article by Hamish Paul Wilson)
- 5 Days a stranger site cited 15 December 2006
- AGS Games page for 5 Days a Stranger, showing that it won 5 AGS Awards cited 15 December 2006
- adventurelantern.com review of 5DAS cited 15 December 2006
- adventuregamers.com review of 5DAS cited 15 December 2006
- popmatters.com review of 5DAS cited 15 December 2006
- TheGameHippo.com - 5 Days a Stranger cited 15 December 2006
- fullyramblomatic.com: 25/1/07: Icey Sacrificey Nicey cited 23 November 2007
- fivedaysastranger.com: 5/26/08: So, the project has ended. What's the future of this forum? Cited June 2008
- fullyramblomatic.com: 7 Days a Skeptic (cited 13 December 2006)
- AGS Games page, showing the 2 AGS Awards the game won (cited 13 December 2006)
- 7DAS Review at adventuregamers.com (cited 13 December 2006)
- acid-play.com 7DAS review (cited 13 December 2006)
- A-for-adventure 7DAS review (cited 13 December 2006)
- 7DAS Adventure Lantern review (cited 13 December 2006)
- Osiris Games Freeforall 7DAS review (cited 13 December 2006)
- AGS Awards for 2006 winners (cited 13 February 2007)
- fullyramblomatic.com 3/7/06: The Two-Faced Thief cited on 23 November 2007
- AGS Awards 2007 cited 26 February 2008
- The official 5 Days a Stranger site
- The official 7 Days a Skeptic site
- The official Trilby's Notes site
- The official 6 Days a Sacrifice site
- The Chzo Mythos GNU/Linux Binaries
- 5 Days a Stranger at Abandonia Reloaded
- 5 Days a Stranger at MobyGames
- 7 Days a Skeptic at MobyGames
- Trilby's Notes at MobyGames
- 6 Days a Sacrifice at MobyGames
- Trilby's Notes & 6 Days a Sacrifice soundtracks
- Abandonia Reloaded: Interview with Yahtzee on 5DAS
- Abandonia Reloaded: Interview on 7DAS
- 6 Days a Sacrifice at The Freehare
- Trilby's Notes at The Freehare