Dracula Unleashed. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Bernard Yee
Viacom's Dracula Unleashed proves as irresistible as the call of the undead prince himself. This CD-ROM adaptation of the gothic horror story draws you in quickly, and like every hapless and unwitting hero caught in the web of the nosferatu (vampire), you prove to be pivotal in stopping the evil count.
The hero you control is investigating the death of his brother. He comes to London only to learn that his brother was killed while attacking Dracula ten years earlier. Along with Jonathan Harker and Professor Van Helsing, he was rescuing Mina Harker from the clutches of the undead. The grisly murders around London show that the count has somehow come back, and it's up to you and your friends to stop him again. You move around London, accumulating objects and watching the story unfold. The interface is pure point-and-click: Click on the horse carriage to travel, click on the front door to enter a location, and so on. Interaction exists only in selecting which video sequence you'll be shown next.
Though the game isn't too difficult, Dracula Unleashed can sometimes be frustrating because of its structure. Events are carefully scripted, and you're saddled with a time limit--you have only five days to piece together the goings-on and kill Dracula. More important, you must often make sure that a certain object is in your hand before you enter a scene to elicit the proper response from other characters. Don't go off to kill the vampire without your stake and mallet in hand! Because the plot progression requires that you do the right things in the right order, saving games often is an absolute necessity. Each day will end in a grisly and permanent fashion if you fail to perform a necessary task, and you may find yourself backtracking through your old saved games to find out what you've missed. Pay attention to all the dialogue, since it contains clues about what you need to do. For example, if by the end of the first day, a woman that has turned into a vampire has killed you, you know that you must somehow prevent her from becoming a vampire during that day.
Dracula Unleashed boasts 96 minutes of full-motion video, which occupies a good percentage of your VGA or SVGA display. Video was smooth on my double-speed CD-ROM drive, but owners of older single-speed drives should have no problem, either. You'll need 4MB of RAM and a 20-MHz 386SX or better to play the game, and a sound card is virtually a must. The soundtrack is moody and ominous, and I'm happy to report that the actors, while no competition for Daniel Day-Lewis or Meryl Streep, are adequate and often likable. The production values never falter, and they actually remind me of a solid PBS performance. The scenes are enjoyable to watch. A bit of warning, though: Some scenes are positively gory, with dripping blood, severed heads, and other typical vampire fare.
A marked improvement over ICOM's initial multimedia releases (the Sherlock Holmes games), Dracula Unleashed gives you a chance to rewrite the Bram Stoker tale using well-implemented technology that would have seemed quite magical even to Dracula himself.