10415 N. Florida Ave., Suite 410
Tampa, FL 33612
Color only, $29.95
Okay, no pussy-footing around. I'll come right out and say it: Vampire's Empire has got to be one of the most difficult and frustrating games I've ever thumbed a joystick at. Unfortunately, the darn thing is so clever that you don't want to give up trying to figure it out, so you spend hours trying to survive a lot of ghoulies just so you can grab a beam of light.
That accursed beam of light! The idea, you see, is to guide a beam of light (using mirrors and a magic ball) down into the depths of Count Dracula's castle, and the beam of light is constantly in motion. Finding that *&$%!. light is tough!
Vampire's Empire has got to be one of the most difficult and frustrating games I've ever thumbed a joystick at. Unfortunately, the darn thing is so clever that you don't want to give up trying to figure it out, so you spend hours trying to survive.
The multilevel castle is loaded with trap doors that drop you down and staircases that rarely go exactly where you want them to go. Just trying to find the light beam may be more frustrating than the average gamer can tolerate. Once you do find it, you can set up a mirror to direct it deeper into the castle or catch it with the magic ball and then release it in a different direction.
Of course, below you there are other mirrors that may direct it back up again! Sheesh!
On top of all that, you are constantly attacked by bizarre creatures that come out of chests you must pass by. And that's not to mention all the stone faces (carved into the castle's walls) that come to life as you pass under them and spit some sort of awful green stuff down on your head. Each encounter with one of these unsavory creatures takes away some of your life force. You can fight back, of course. You have garlic that you may use to throw at the creatures or lay in their path; and you may also kick the nasties if they get close enough. If worse comes to worse, you can just run away, although some of these characters are tenacious, to say the least, and will follow you wherever you go.
The manual is ridiculously brief, not even taking enough time to describe the full game. For example, there's an arrow at the top of the screen that shows you where the light beam is in relation to your position. There's no mention of the arrow in the manual, and the first time I played the game, I had no idea how I was supposed to find the light. After about an hour of play, I noticed that the arrow changed direction as I moved.
The graphics are great and very unusual looking. The castle's interior seems to glow and gives the effect of wandering through darkened rooms. I just wish the game were as easy on the patience as it is on the eyes.
There appears to be a couple of minor glitches in the game. Sometimes, when falling down several levels of the castle, the figure you're controlling vanishes from the screen and doesn't reappear until the completion of the fall. Also, firing garlic at approaching monsters is a dangerous way to fight, due to the fact that the garlic only seems to actually fire about half the time.
I said before that the game's cleverness keeps you playing, that it stops you from giving up. That's true, but only to an extent. I finally gave up. I just couldn't get that beam of light to go where I wanted it to, and it seems to me that this game was targeted toward someone with a lot more patience and perseverance than I possess. I suspect that a more complete manual, one that included some hints on game play, could have made a lot of difference here. I have this feeling that I must be missing something—something that should have been in the instructions.
So Count Dracula is still alive and well in Vampire's Empire. Maybe someone out there has the patience to find a way to destroy him. As for me, I'm moving on to the next game.
Recommendation: Get a demonstration before buying.