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Number of Reviews: 2
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Related reviews: parser, puzzlefest, Gothic, Curses!, Mulldoon Legacy, vampire
This is a rather good, rather large slice of old skool gothic puzzlefest by Paul Johnson. There are nods a plenty towards Curses! and Mulldoon Legacy here (obstinate cat, formal garden, pirate ship, battlements and assorted hidden passages, steps and chambers) but it stops short of outright plagiarism.
Your goal to begin with is unknown, but there is the traditional castle to break into and the story slowly unravels, although the real reason for your determination to enter the castle will not become apparent until near the climax of the game.
You have to collect four items during the course of the game, rather like the rods in Curses! before you can begin to think about your final showdown with the eponymous baddie.
The descriptions of decay, death and ubiquitous grand guignol grate after a while and are sometimes a little too florid and a little too repetitive to prevent the shock value being diluted.
Many of the problems are totally logical and not too difficult, although the final scenes see the difficulty level take a sharp uphill turn; there is one action in particular you need to perform in an area that you have no real reason to visit.
The author has an obvious love of antique furniture and art as a plethora of these objects are lovingly described throughout the game, juxtaposed effectively against the pervading atmosphere of decay. Indeed, the decay of these priceless paintings and other objets d'art is described with far more plangency than the discovery of the dead or dying.
The whole is mercifully free of any inventory or time limit (just as well as you will end up with a considerable variety of items to port around) and contains only a handful of typos and other grammatical errors, none of which really downgrade the game play value.
It is possible to put the game into an unwinnable position but not easily, and where this is the case there is usually a warning hidden away in one of the many inscriptions and messages you will find in charts, above doorways etc. In this game more than most, examine and search everything.
The ending certainly surprised me but that is for the player to discover.
All in all, an excellent parser based distraction which will keep you occupied for some time.
A Good Puzzler, But Not Exactly As Advertised, February 23, 2014
For a game titled "Dracula", this starts off the way you'd expect, as a spooky, incredibly atmospheric piece, with the hero arriving in a small seaside town after dark carrying nothing but a letter from the endangered Lucy Westenra. Terrifying supernatural forces array against you as you seek to understand what's going on and locate your only ally.
And then it goes all sideways. It's still a lot of fun, but it's not Dracula.
(Spoiler - click to show)Essentially, by the second chapter, you've somehow wandered into someone's Ravenloft campaign. It's as if the writer wrote the first chapter, took a few years off, reread it, and decided it was good but needed more pirates. So it becomes a creepy dungeon crawl, with some very dark fantasy creatures to encounter, and a few vignettes tied together by the four mystical whatsits you're trying to recover.
The game took me about three hours and was challenging, but I finished it on my own without a walkthrough, which means it wasn't that hard. A number of puzzles are timed, and you only have one shot (and any interactions, including "look" and "examine", cost you time). Undos were sufficient to handle most issues, but saving when you enter a new area is wise.
Deaths are plentiful and you get used to it. NPCs are marginal and mostly there for shock value or to dispense a few specific bits of advice. The game's design is fantastic, a cleverly laid out series of rooms that require careful exploration and unlocking of further areas with actions, nicely punctuated with clever shocks. The ending was satisfactory, but I would have liked to learn more about the hero's backstory; after some time to think about it, I think I've puzzled out how all the pieces go together to fit with the ending, but I'm not at all certain about it.
There were a few typos (the author had issues with "it's" and "its", especially in the first chapter), and one glaringly misnamed item (Spoiler - click to show)(a dustbin implemented as "bin"; meaning the first time I tried to look into it I got a generic message that sent me looking for something else to interact with). Otherwise, nothing too difficult, as long as you remember to examine each object when you get it for any specialty verbs.
I would say that this is a game worth spending a few hours with, as long as you're aware that what you're getting, while good, is not what necessarily what you might expect. And that you will end the game with more questions than answers.
If you enjoyed Dracula - Prince of Darkness (formerly "House of the Midnight Sun")...
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