The Curse of Rabenstein

by Stefan Vogt

Horror
2020

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Number of Reviews: 4
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Cool graphics, interesting ports, not much game, April 26, 2020

This game has fun retro graphics, and is available for a shockingly large number of old platforms, including Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amiga, Atari ST, and MS-DOS. I played it in its HTML JavaScript version, which is almost certainly the version you should play, if you decide to play it.

Those are the good parts.

As a game, there's not a lot here. The limited parser is kinda buggy, the story is thin, and there are no interesting puzzles.

The game has a bunch of NPCs, but you can only "TALK [PERSON]" and "GIVE/SHOW [OBJECT]" to them. (TALK, GIVE, and SHOW are undocumented verbs.) But even GIVE and SHOW are incompletely implemented.

In order to engage a major NPC with the plot ((Spoiler - click to show)"OMG I'm trapped here and my coachman is missing,") you can't just ask them about it or tell them about it, but you have to find a piece of critical evidence ((Spoiler - click to show)the cloth) and SHOW it to them. Until you do that, TALK just doesn't mention the problem to that NPC. Worse, if you SHOW that critical evidence to anyone else in the game, you get a generic parser error, "That wouldn't help you much." This game would be considerably improved if you could GIVE/SHOW every object to every NPC and get at least a single line of dialog.

And here's another parser bug. (Spoiler - click to show)The priest tells you to get water from the well. But the well has no bucket and no rope, so you have to search for them. When you USE ROPE and USE BUCKET, "You attach the bucket to the rope and pull up a fresh charge of water." Cool. GET WATER. "You can't find it." You have to USE BOTTLE to get the water.

Then there's the story. The game is short, but there's not much. (Spoiler - click to show)You're stuck in a haunted village. Or maybe you've time-traveled back to the past? You meet some people afraid of ghosts nearby, encounter a vampire attacking your coachman, who runs off when you attack him with a torch. Then you go to sleep, and all of the NPCs are gone (where are your horses?!), except an NPC who said he would help you has apparently been dead for years and has kept the object you gave him "yesterday" with him--buried with his skeleton in his grave. (Why? How?) You then sleep again. (why?) You bring holy soil to the vampire, who for some reason hasn't attacked you in your sleep for the past two days, wake the vampire with the soil, and kill him. And the name of the PC? You were Van Helsing the whole time. This story is paper thin, just enough to motivate the puzzles.

And then there's the puzzles. They're almost all of the form, "examine and search everything, take everything, then USE everything you own," except for sleeping, which is "accomplish all necessary tasks for the day, which are only known to the author, before you're allowed to sleep and progress to the next day."

The final puzzle is an exception to this. (Spoiler - click to show)To open the coffin in the Undercroft, you have to use the blanket upstairs to set a trap, then use the soil downstairs to force the vampire to wake. But the soil solution just sort of assumes you know certain traditional vampire lore. If you try using the soil in the Undercroft too soon, the game says that you need a plan, but the limited parser doesn't provide a way to say "I plan to burn the vampire in the library."

None of the game's puzzles offer any of the virtues of a good puzzle. https://xyzzyawards.org/?p=386 No extent, no explorability, no surprise, no ingenuity, no originality, no structural integration, and barely any narrative integration.