"The coachman, a rough-looking fellow, stands before me. He has spent most of the journey complaining about his hard life, bemoaning his humble upbringing on the one hand, then cursing those who had better fortune. I detect that he could be a villain, and probably a drunkard..."
So starts Dracula, and the above text, verbatim from the game, serves well to illustrate the storyline, and atmospheric nature of the game. Arriving at your hotel, you must behave naturally, and do what is normal at a hotel. In order to spend a restful night in preparation for your onward journey. The next day, however, it pays to watch what you eat. You wouldn't want to suffer from nightmares, would you...?
The game is based on the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker - written some hundred or so years ago. If you have read it, your excitement in playing the game may well be heightened, although it will only be of minor help in completing it.
Despite the volume of text (quite often more than a screenful of narrative follows a command) all is not visible on entry to a room. Examining things often reveals what is not noticed at a first glance. I've always believed that EXAMINE is a crucial command in an adventure. Without it, everything must be taken at face value, and the player is left to the mercy of an author's not always logical thinking. In Dracula, the command is handled well.
Author Rod Pike believes that adventure problems should be situation-driven, and not rely on traversing hundreds of locations to get object A to location B. Certainly Dracula is none too heavy on locations; there are a mere six in the first part, for example. But getting through to the end of it is no five minute job, and it culminates in a problem somewhat reminiscent of the shooting gallery problem in Mystery Fun House. The answer is so obvious, that it is all but staring you in the face. But will you think of it?!
Although an impressive text adventure, graphics are also featured in the game. Unfortunately, these were not far enough advanced for me to see, and CRL were being aggravatingly secretive about what they had up their sleeves. CRL's own artist cum programmer, Jon Law, is working on them, rather than leaving them to the mercy of The Illustrator. Something unconventional is promised, but nobody was saying anything, except that they believe what they have in store has never before been done in an adventure. To add a further dimension of creepiness to the pictures there will be accompanying sound.
Already in its silent text form, Dracula is shaping up to be a first class adventure of its type, and will be released in three parts on two cassettes, on Halloween.