‘Here at last! The coach halts outside the Golden Krone Hotel. It has been a scenic journey if nothing else! Halfway across Europe through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. But it is a wild untamed landscape that seems only grudgingly to tolerate the coach tracks winding through it like arteries, hurrying weary fares to their destinations, maybe even their destinies... Strange that I think that, but, as I leave the coach, the sinister fear of something unknown steals over me... Bah! I am acting like a child! I must pull myself together. Here in the Carpathian Mountains, I am a day’s journey from my client’s abode. But first some rest. East lies the hotel’.
There’s a very good reason for showing you the first passage; this game uses one of the most difficult character sets I have ever tried to read, complete with very unattractive small i’s for l’s. But wait a minute, I’m a fair way into this review and I haven’t mentioned its chief selling point which concerns its 15 certificate — apparently the first computer game to receive such an accolade from the British Board of Censors. There’s only one thing wrong here and that’s the conspicuous lack of blood and gore in the pictures that would warrant such a certificate.
You begin outside the hotel and a little disagreement has cropped up between yourself and the coachman who has brought you this far. Although he is a rough-looking fellow and is no doubt a villain and a drunkard, he may well have a point in blocking your way and it shouldn’t take too much to work out what his grievance is. The next location is the hotel itself and quoting this one will give you some indication of one of the main strengths of the game — its descriptions which read as well as a book:
‘I am in the foyer of the hotel. It is a most intriguing place, adorned with the trim and trappings of mountain life. Deer skins hang on the walls in a rather random fashion, mixed with the crafted leather harness and sleigh bells, adding a degree of rustic charm to the scene. An ornate carved pine staircase leads up to the bedrooms above. Through a most picturesque archway to the east lies a dining room, while south leads to the Reception desk. Westward, through a heavily timbered door, lies the road. Flickering oil lamps cast shimmering pools of yellow light around the room, creating dark mysterious corners, corners where evil could hide and quietly fester, unseen until..?’.
It doesn’t require too much to find and ring the bell at Reception whereupon a poorly dressed but clean innkeeper, who speaks only pidgin English, appears on the scene and, like everything else you encounter before retiring to bed, he gradually raises more fear, disturbing you in a very fundamental way. In the first game I played I awoke from some pretty wild nightmares to be stabbed by the innkeeper, but on subsequent attempts the innkeeper was kind enough to direct me to the stagecoach outside. The ride in the coach ended up in a mountain ravine, however, so how about skipping over to Part Two or Part Three?
The Arrival, Part Two, tells of an eventful coach journey which ultimately brings our man to the castle. After a night or two and some long discussions with the Count, he realises that not only is he a prisoner, but his life is in danger. Escape becomes his one obsession. Should he succeed, he vows to write to his friend in England to warn of his discoveries. The castle holds terrors beyond his worst nightmares.
The Hunt, Part Three, sees Doctor Seward, a psychiatrist at an institution for the insane in England, receive a very odd letter from a friend on business abroad. Something about boxes of earth and the ‘undead’. Although he fleetingly wonders about his friend’s sanity, he resolves to investigate further. He also has problems of his own. An inmate Renfield, has gone missing and though not considered dangerous, the malignant influence of Dracula is suspected in turning the man’s subdued character.
The BBC banning a pop record, quite rightly, resulted in it topping the hit parade. The young have for some time now been fascinated by blood, gore and things that up and go walkabouts in the dead of night. Any marketing man worth his desk top toys knows these facts, but this shouldn’t unduly colour your view of this game. The character set takes some deciphering but once understood the game turns out to be well written and a good read.
Difficulty: easy first part
Presentation: confusing character set
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: looks Quilled
General rating: spooky