If Bram Stoker were still alive he’d surely be astounded by the continuing impact his charming, elegant and deadly Count has on our imaginations, with countless spin-off books, games and movies still being churned out at a bewildering rate.
Not that Dracula’s name on a product is enough to guarantee success (one has only to think of the recent “Van Helsing” film) but Ascaron is obviously hoping that this relatively traditional approach to the legend will still do enough to excite the jaded palates of adventure gamers.
The plot is straightforward: Dracula is planning to resurrect the spirit of his long dead love within the body of society lady Mina Murray (shades of “The Mummy”) and after her fiancé Jonathan Harker is captured by the vampire Count when trying to kill him in his castle, scientist Van Helsing (i.e. you) sets off in pursuit.
The gameplay is the familiar point ‘n’ click style with the cursor changing shape where there are items to be picked up, people to be talked to or actions to be performed. Sometimes items have to be combined to be effective and useful clues are supplied by documents picked up along the way and conversations with key characters. The frustration of fruitlessly searching a screen for all the interactive items has been removed, as touching the space bar reveals all the ‘hot spots’.
That doesn’t mean that all the solutions are simple, as there’s a number of separate puzzles that range from reorganising torn bits of paper and cracking safe codes to creating traps and opening complicated door locks.
Gamers who hate bizarre, random solutions to enigmas can rest easy, though. Virtually all the problem solving is logical and contained within the immediate location and often leads you directly to the next scene, so there’s a real sense of continuity and being part of a narrative. However, the action is strictly linear and you won’t be able to leave a location until all tasks are completed.
The graphics are highly detailed and good use is made of locations in Egypt, London, Austria and (of course) Transylvania. While the overall tone is serious there are several comic characters who provide a bit of welcome light relief, including a gravedigger, an Arab landlord and a Transylvanian barman. The few cut scenes are well spaced and contribute plenty of drama to the proceedings.
On the whole the voice acting is relatively believable and the music and sound effects contribute significantly to the spooky atmosphere. It shouldn’t take you too long to get through the story but then you’re not paying a fortune for it. While this isn’t the most original of sagas, there’s still plenty to keep the avid adventure fan agreeably entertained for several hours.