When it comes to figures of gotlhic horror, none casts a longer shadow than Dracula. Bram Stoker’s 19th Century novel of a restless, immortal creature fond of the taste of human blood lias been imitated and retold in countless novels and films, most notably by Bela Lugosi’s 1931 Dracula film and Anne Rice’s series of vampire books. With Bram Stoker’s Dracula (based on die 1992 F.F. Coppola film of the same name), Psygnosis leads gamers on a familiar—leaning toward trite— journey through a land of gotlhic, blood-sucking horror.
In Dracula, your task is to guide Jonathan Harker towards his ultimate goal: the destruction of The Prince Of Darkness. To do so, you must shepherd young Harker through three game stages. The first takes place in the cemctery outside of and beneath Dracula’s castle. The next consists of six map levels in Carfax Abbey, while the third and final stage-takes Harker to the castle itself.
A blurb on the back of the game’s box shouts that Dracula features “a totally incredible and unique character control system,” but it is neither incredible nor unique. Dracula uses the same dungeon-crawling playing perspective as Id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D and Origin’s Ultima Underworld though not as well. I lolding down the left mouse button and moving the cross hair mouse pointer about the screen will move Harker in that direction. Moving the mouse toward the top of the screen increases the character’s forward speed, while moving it towards the bottom of the screen causes the character to slow down or walk backwards. Up to seven items—primarily food and keys—can be picked up and placed in the inventory slot at the bottom of the screen.
Marker’s lower arm prorudes upwards from
the bottom ol the screen, clutching the currently selected weapon. Pressing die left mouse button will cause I larker to fire the gun or jab with the knife, depending upon which weapon is currently selected.
Marker has only three weapons at his disposal: a knife, a pistol (loaded with up to 99 silver bullets), and a collection of holy wafers. The knife and pistol (roggled by pressing the space bar) arc used to go toe to toe with the mostly deceased and rotting malcontents ol the Dracula game world. Most of the enemies your character encounters are a motley bunch of easily dispatched corpses and skeletons. Tougher foes will occasionally be encountered, such as the Werewoll (which usually takes four shots to kill) and a vicious batch of female vampires that Dracula keeps in his castle. The holy wafers arc used to purify monster-generating coffins (resembling square pits of blood) found on each level. Once all the coffins in each stage are destroyed, the player faces Dracula in one of his three forms. Once the Count is defeated, you can advance to the next stage. When he has been defeated the third and final time at the end of the third stage, Marker’s vampire-slaying duties have been fulfilled.
It appears that Psygnosis spent most of the their Dracula budget on acquiring the movie license, leaving little for game development and packaging. The game play is uninspired and repetitious, and while the graphics have an occasional near touch, they seem as if they were knocked off in a rush. Driving home the slipshod impression is a tiny manual that lacks page numbers, with a section entitled “Playing Tips” offering nothing bin instructions on how to load, save and quit the game.
Psygnosis states that DracuLt requires a 20MHz 286 machine to operate, bur for fluid screen scrolling, a fast 386 or 486 is ideal. Dracula’s memory and hard drive requirements are modest, requiring only one megabyte of RAM and a little under two megs of hard disk space. Although Dracula does require a Microsoft-compatible mouse to function properly, running the game with version 9.0 of Microsoft’s mousedriver causes problems with firing weapons and selecting objects. Upgrading to the 9.01 version ol the mouse driver will correct the problem.
Came music is gloomy and dramatic, well-suited for a trip through ancient buildings stocked with undead. The sound of Marker’s tromping footfalls are well-done, although
the sharp retort of his steps sound out ofplace in the grass-covered rurf of the cemetery. Sound effects and music cannor be selectively toggled on or off while in the game—sound and music are either “Off” or “On,” selected when the game is first loaded. Unfortunately, those sound settings aren’t written to a configuration file. As is, the player must re-sclccr the desired sound card at the start of every game.
Mard-up fast action fans and vampire-slaying aficionados might find Dracula to be a decent, albeit unambitious, game. Gamers looking for a talc that really delves into the vampire mythos should take a look ai SSI’s Veil Of Darkness or Viacom New Media’s Dracula Unleashed CD-ROM. Less keenly interested gamers would be better off renting a campy Vampire movie, dimming the lights in the computer room, and letting their imaginations turn Nazi’s into ghouls in Wolfenstein 3D.