Dracula Unleashed (Redux) DVD
You all know my feelings about vampires but you may not know that I am also interested in new ways of playing games, and the extent to which technology can be utilised in different and interesting ways. As such, and despite some misgivings about the original game, I jumped at the chance to check out the DVD offering of Dracula Unleashed.
As far as the game itself is concerned, the DVD version is virtually identical to the original Viacom PC release. You can read my thoughts on that game here, and I stand by the comments I made, at least as far as gameplay is concerned. However there are aspects of the DVD version which lift it several notches above the standard of the original, and make it a much more enticing play, particularly for vampire and horror film aficionados alike.
One of these is the fact that it plays on a standard DVD player and is viewed on your ordinary television set. This makes it instantly accessible to just about everybody, with no tweaking and adjusting required in order to get the game to play. No DOS problems, port conflicts, extended memory, or other problems associated with getting old games to run on more recent PCs and operating systems.
It is also incredibly easy to play, despite the fact that the only input device is your ordinary remote control. It is no more difficult to play the game than it is to navigate through a series of menus on a normal DVD. You simply use the directional arrows to navigate through the choices on-screen, and the select button to activate your choice. It was at times repetitive (more about this later) but it was simple and straightforward, and on the whole worked extremely well.
But the thing which gave this game the biggest lift was the videos themselves.
Instead of being small and grainy, they play full screen, so are as big and as bold as your TV can make them. The quality is excellent. I wondered whether the original footage had been enhanced in any way, but am informed by the makers that apart from re-mastering, it was good enough not to need post production clean-up. Whilst not as crisp and sharp as a new DVD movie, it is certainly as good as a regular television picture. It was clear and clean and a much better vehicle to show off the cheesy charm of the footage itself.
This is schlock horror of a high degree. Fans of B grade horror movies will love it, and the improved picture quality enables the occasional gruesomeness to really stand out (the dream sequence where your dead brother offers you a drink is a real treat). The acting too is rather good, some characters of course being better than others, but all seeming to appreciate the nature of the enterprise in which they are participating. No one sees themselves as the next Hamlet, but I suspect that all had a jolly good time.
I confess that long after I had vanquished Dracula I continued to play in order to make sure that I had not missed any of the video clips. I did not want a sticky end or a touching moment to have passed me by. Given the nature of the game, I doubt whether I have still seen all of the clips. There are over 90 minutes in total.
As noted above, the game plays almost exactly as it did in the PC version. You travel between locations in static screens, then enter the location to trigger the relevant video. A row of icons along the bottom of each static screen enables you to choose whether you wish to enter the location, climb in your carriage and travel elsewhere, rummage in your inventory bag, record your thoughts in your journal, or engage in a number of other possible actions. Simply choose the icon corresponding to the action you want by using the directional keys, and your action is carried out. It's just the same as if you have a mouse.
Choosing items in your inventory is a bit laborious. Your directional arrows will enable you to cycle through all of the available items, but only one is displayed on the screen at a time. This means you may have to cycle through 10 or 12 items, perhaps even more, in order to bring the one you want to the screen in order to select it. It would have been preferable if all inventory items had been displayed on a single screen, and your directional keys were used to navigate to the item you wished to select. This is in fact how the screen works which shows the locations that you can visit and it seemed to be a better way to manage a set of multiple options.
Despite the fact that this is an ordinary DVD, you can in fact save your game. When you choose save from the relevant menu, you'll be shown a sequence of images. There are 16 in all, each in two colours. You simply take a written note of the sequence you have been shown, and then enter that sequence from a menu of all of the images to restore the game at the same point. As each place in which you save has a different sequence of images, you can save the game as many times are you like.
I was intrigued as to how you would save, and whilst some of the sequences can be fairly lengthy, the fact that you can save at all is something which I thought was impressive. That you can save at exact points (and in all my saves this proved to be the case) impressed me even more. It turned out to be far simpler than I thought it could be.
This medium is well suited to FMV games, and offers a great way to bring older games to easy life. I am very much looking forward to playing the DVD version of Sherlock Holmes; Consulting Detective, an older game I have but which I have yet to play. Having not played it at all, my impressions will not be influenced in any way by the earlier product. I will let you know what I think.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2003.
All rights reserved.
TV and DVD Player! (DVD is not regionally coded)