Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
The picture on the box is VERY SCARY. The opening animation, a flashback to what happened 7 years ago when Jonathan thought he had destroyed Dracula forever, is SCARY. So by the time the game itself actually begins, you are jumping at the slightest sound and constantly looking over your shoulder! And the mood there in Transylvania doesn't do a thing to reassure you. To quote our friend Stella...
"As the game opens you're standing outside in the dark. Wintertime, snow on the ground, spooky bare tree limbs shimmering through a full moon. I practically ran for the tavern. I don't feel much safer in the tavern! The floorboards creak and groan as you move around. The characters in this tavern are so life-like. I've found my room and it's full of garlic! I'm staying right here 'til the sun comes up!"
You said it, girl. We were none too sure that we would EVER want to leave that dismal room! Or continue playing this game. But when we finally did get up the courage to venture forth, we discovered not the gory horror story that we were afraid it would be, but instead an exceptional and absorbing pure adventure game that compares well to any that we have played.
The story of course is a classic that has fascinated people for years, and the game relies on the threat inherent in that story to build tension until the very end. The game was inspired by the famous Bram Stoker novel, and is treated like a sequel to that tale with some of the same characters. It begins 7 years later, after Jonathan Harker thought he had destroyed Dracula in the Borgo Pass in 1897.
We learn that Mina apparently recovered completely from the bite that had threatened to turn her into Dracula's bride. She and Jonathan were married, and they have been living peacefully in London. But then one awful day Jonathan returns home to find a letter from Mina, along with her wedding ring. She tells him that she has gone to Transylvania, unable to resist 'the call of her blood'! Horrified, Jonathan realizes that Dracula must still be alive. So he must hurry, he must find her, he must save her... before it is forever too late!
This is a very linear, 1st person, point and click, 3D game, with 360-degree panning, an easy to use interface and a small inventory. The puzzles are not too difficult and all are logical, with logical uses of inventory and no red herrings. They serve to advance the storyline, and although they do get somewhat harder as the game progresses, all of them can probably be solved without using a walkthrough. There are only 8 save game slots, and more are not needed.
For this game is not focused on the puzzles, but instead the puzzles are treated as only part of and secondary to the story. First and foremost the game is a gothic work of art, true to the spirit of the novel in both the scenery and the characters, and it should not be missed for that reason alone.
Any artist will tell you that night scenes are not easy to render realistically, and snow scenes are almost impossible. But this game does both superbly, with scenes so stunningly beautiful that you almost wish they were real, and all with eerily appropriate music and sound effects that give you goosebumps. The building interiors are so well done, both in rendering and atmosphere, that you find yourself suddenly realizing what it must have REALLY been like to live 100 years ago.
The characters are classics, living 3D 'caricatures' with their features exaggerated for effect. They are so real that you stand fascinated by the very pores on their nose as you watch their bloodshot eyes roll in fear, while the fur on their costume moves in tandem with their gestures. And without exception, the periodic cut scenes are downright hypnotic... all deliberately designed to amplify your feelings of foreboding and dread.
But despite the constant threat, we would note for parents that there is no gore and not much violence in the game, other than a little in the introductory video. It's simply an understated classic horror story that primarily relies on the atmospheric setting and your own overactive imagination to build suspense. However the story itself and the appearance of some of the characters might be frightening to smaller children. And there is a brief appearance by 3 buxom 'Vampire Sisters' wearing little more than translucent strips of gauze.
Basically it is a haunting, darkly beautiful game of solitary exploration and puzzle solving, which to our surprise we thoroughly enjoyed. Recommended.
Co-developed (1999) by Index, France Telecom Multimedia and Canal+ Multimedia. Published in North America by The Adventure Company.
Rated: M for Mature 17+
Minimum System Requirements:
PC and Mac versions are on separate CDs
PC: Pentium 166 (200 recommended); Windows 95 / 98; 32MB RAM (64 recommended with Windows 98); 16 Bit Video Card; 16 Bit Soundcard; 8X CD ROM Drive
MAC: Power PC; Operating System 8.0; 32MB RAM; 16 Bit Video (3D acceleration recommended); 8X CD ROM Drive
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Walkthroughs or Hints: