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A Good Puzzler, But Not Exactly As Advertised, February 23, 2014
by forgepoetFor 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.
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