Monday, June 11, 2007

Honourable mentions: Dracula Unleashed


The reason that this is an honourable mention, as opposed to a review, is down to the fact that I have zero intention of getting into game reviews on this blog. However, something that is essentially an interactive movie about vampires deserved a mention at least.

Dracula Unleashed was a computer game from way back in 1993 and was of the breed of interactive movies that were essentially adventure games with real footage. Obviously this narrowed the ability of the game designers to have open ended game play considerably.

a biteThe game has been taken by Infinite Ventures and converted into an interactive DVD so that the game can be played on your home DVD player (or, of course, any computer/game platform that allows you to watch DVDs). This is a case of recycling at its best, there is probably no way that the original game would work on modern Mac or PC operating systems and most of the Sega CD systems will be binned. The original game did not have had the video playback to the same quality as a modern DVD.

Morris is trappedThe story surrounds Alexander Morris (Bill Williamson), brother of Quincy Morris (also played, in a dream sequence, by Williamson). Quincy, as we know, died in the finale of Dracula. Alexander had travelled to England to investigate the circumstances of his brother’s death but was distracted from the investigation when he met and became engaged to Miss Annisette Bowen (Kathleen Russell). As the game begins Alexander is being inducted into the Hades Club by Arthur Holmwood (Jay Nickerson) when he gets a message that Annisette’s father has died.

John Arthur Olson as Van HelsingAs he begins to look into both this new death and the death of his brother, Alexander meets those character’s familiar to those of us who have read Stoker’s novel; Jonathon Harker (Tim McGivern), Mina Harker (Dona Werner Freeman), John Seward (Erik Abbott), Renfield (Lee Walker) and Van Helsing (John Arthur Olson). At first those who faced Dracula originally seem reticent to speak to Alexander, but with a spate of murders where the corpses are decapitated and drained of blood it becomes more and more apparent that Dracula has returned and you, as Alexander, begin to piece the puzzle back together.

Lee Walker as RenfieldThe game does have scenes of vampiric goodness and the story behind the resurrection of Dracula worked well enough. That said to suggest the acting is not brilliant is somewhat of an understatement, we are in a London full of Mockney accents and false facial hair, combined with some silly, over the top performances. The quality of acting was always one of the criticisms of these types of games. That said, the game does not necessarily need acting of the highest calibre – and believe me it does beat many of the slew of independent movies, appearing at the moment, hands down.

dream annisette spews bloodThe game does a nice line in dream sequences, allowing further vampiric imagery. The gameplay is based around fairly standard adventure game style gameplay – which means, of course, adventure game logic. I can imagine that the interface was frustrating with the original game, but it lends itself to the use of a DVD remote and any limitations would have been enforced by the medium this uses, whether those limitations had been there originally or not.

dracula looks worse for wearThat said, there were some areas where the interface could have been better and by slavishly copying the original it can be cumbersome. When you wish to send a telegram you have to hold the calling card of the recipient before you enter the office. Changing this to a simple menu with a choice of available recipients would have been less frustrating.

she fears the crossOne of the most frustrating aspects, which came from the original game, comes from the fact that the game is played over a specific time period and certain scenes – including essential ones – can only be accessed within a certain timeframe according to the in game clock. You can check the time and also discover the length it will take to travel from one area of London to another, but you do not necessarily know what timeframe you are working to, nor that you should actually go to a location, and before you know it your character gets eaten by the bloofer lady later that evening because you missed a none-obvious cut scene. This adds a trial and error aspect to the game, though luckily there is a save mechanism.

dracula crushes a crossThe save mechanism is achieved by allowing the game to generate a picture code that captures your progress, time and position. This is slightly cumbersome – you have to write down the code – but neatly overcomes the fact that you cannot record a save via the media and medium used. Early in the game a code might consist of 9 pictures, later on I managed to get a 16 picture code.

okay... she's a dogHowever, limitations aside this does allow you to interactively play a role in a movie, and fight the scourge of vampirism in old London town. As well as that, there is a nostalgia aspect to this, a remembrance of the games of old (and no matter how poor a game was back then, nostalgia always seems to actually help it play better now). In the end that’s got to be worth it, after all is said and done.


nfilak10 said...

So were you just doing this game because it was a sequel to the book and similar to watching a movie? I was just curious because it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on other vampire-related games.

A recent one I played was Dracula: Resurrection for the Playstation and PC. It's a point-and-click adventure game that's meant to be a sequel to the novel (with a few continuity errors and missing characters) like this one. It's a pretty basic story that seems more like build-up for the sequel that came out the following year known as Dracula 2: The Last Sanctuary, but in a way it's simplicity works for those like myself who aren't that skilled at point-and- click adventure games, and the atmosphere and graphics make it the perfect thing to play at night.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi nfilak - I'll basically try it if ir has a vampire in it! I'm that sad. I bought the triple set of Dracula Resurrection series but the games didn't want to work on 64 bit Vista, or so it seemed. Glad you got it working :)

nfilak10 said...

Well that's certainly a pity. I tried the Playstation version myself. From what I can gather it's a bit darker and slower than the PC version, but it still runs fine. I suppose if worse comes to worse there's always that. In any case there's plenty of walkthroughs you can find online that would give you the idea of what the story and gameplay are like if you were uncertain about whether or not it's worth the trouble. I'm not usually a big gamer myself, but when it comes to products like that or the Castlevania series, I consider them worth the purchase.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I only really play on PC (and my phone), so I've not really tried the Castlevania system. My son has had various Castlevania games on DS and xbox though, and he seems to enjoy :)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

series, not system

nfilak10 said...

Yeah I can understand that. Good luck with that and anything else then.