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Up from (Super) Obscurity

If you're just tuning in now, we're really rollin' with the SNES port of Bram Stoker's Dracula. In the past two weeks we've covered:
1. the back of your character's head:
B. the 2.5 different kinds of levels:
Maybe Find-a-Helsing, followed by
Now we're ready to get down to wooden stakes brass tacks and deal with the odd game design decisions which have drained the life-blood from this platformer like...uh, well, like something that drains blood.*
*: I can't think of anything that drains blood at the moment, but I'm sure it'll come to me. Leeches, perhaps?
No, that's not it.
Well, without furthermore ado, let's dig in to some of this game's problems with platforming:
1. Enemies take 2-4 hits to kill
That's fine, but given your sword's range, it's more than you can comfortably deliver if you are both walking towards each other.
That means, if you're in an area where enemies are plentiful, you're going to be constantly hammering the "attack" button, while intermittently tapping the "walk to the right" button.
Oh, and additionally --
2. The initial key configuration:
For some reason, they made "A" the Sword button.
I guess it's important that the "Y" button be the "Missile Weapon" button. Because you totally start with no missile weapons, only get them every level or two, and when you DO get them, you get at most 9 at a time (sufficient to kill ALMOST 4 enemies).
But let's see if we can improve on that.
Well, we can't set Y=Sword immediately, because you don't set the buttons by PRESSING the buttons. Instead you press "left" or "right" on the D-Pad to cycle through UNASSIGNED buttons.
That means we have to change "Missile" FROM "Y" to anything else, BEFORE we can make set "Y" to SWORD, but eventually --
Much better.
You MAY think that increasing your health from the default "3" all the way up to "5" would make the game too easy, but you'd be wrong. This is because...
3. Your "invulnerability" period after getting hit is almost non-existant
...and there's no knockback, your big fat sprite just stays overlapping with the enemies. So if you get hit, you better react immediately (and your reaction better be to leap away and attack like a maniac), or else you're down 2+ "energy flasks."
There's a lot of games that are ruined by this, so I've decided to come up with a term for it. Rodney, if you please:
Scoot Or Die: When large sprites, minimal post-hit invulnerability, and no hit "bounce back" combine. If a game suffers from scoot or die, it means one "collision" can very quickly subtract multiple "hits" from your health.
You can eventually get used to this scoot-or-die gameplay as far as enemies are concerned, but...
4. The traps...THE TRAPS!!!
Allow me to present the most difficult part of the game: the five spike-traps in level 4
The "timing trap" section, a beloved behated staple of platformers everywhere, right? Well, here your incredibly brief post-hit invulnerability changes this from an ordinary "cheap hit" segment into something that can steal life after life.
It doesn't help that the spike's SPRITE is slightly bigger than their HIT-BOX. Yes, the edge of the spikes will appear to brush you if you're successfully standing in the "safe" area between spikes, where you're supposed to wait for the next one to finish jabbing.
Pictured, left to right: Safe, Not Safe.
Of course, by the time you notice you're not standing in the exact safe row of pixels between the spikes, you'll already have taken 2-3 hits...and even with 5 hitpoints, you'll be too weak to make a mad dash to the other side.
Then you start over at the last checkpoint, so you can't just keep muscling through: you have to get by in one life.
I've found the best thing to do is try to safely get past the first spike, wait for the second spike to move, then give up and run past the last 3, taking 2-3 hits along the way.
Fortunately, there's one of the "checkpoints" shortly after the spikes -- so if you survive, you can ignite it with a sword-blow, so if when you die again later in the level, at least you won't have to repeat the spikes.
5. Ahh, "checkpoint" levels,
It's worth noting that not all levels even HAVE checkpoints. In the non-checkpoint levels (I believe those are the Find-a-Van-Helsing levels), when you die you instantly re-spawn where you were. And mercifully in any kind of level, if you die at the boss, you re-spawn at the boss.
But in the "checkpoint" levels, when you die you go back to the beginning of the level OR to the last "brazier checkpoint" you ignited with your sword:
(these things)
But leave it to this game to make even checkpoints a mixed blessing:
When you die, the screen pans BACK to the last checkpoint. In theory, this is kind of nice: it shows you the turf between where you died and the checkpoint, which you'll have to RE-travel to get back where you were. But because it only pans slightly faster than your walking speed, it can take 2-5 seconds before your character is on screen again.
And in defiance of all common sense, THE GAME IS STILL PLAYING DURING THIS PAN.
That means that if enemies are near the checkpoint, they can hit your character. Your character who is off screen, at the last checkpoint, WHICH THE GAME HASN'T PANNED BACK TO YET!
Also if the checkpoint happened to be near a cliff and you pressed the D-pad while waiting, your off-screen character might fall to his death. By the time the screen catches up with you, you could have lost ANOTHER life!
Ok, now I'm just angry.
How can a game be so poorly thought out? What do you have to say for yourself?
Oh wait, here's a purple nun with a dagger near a bouncing bundle of TNT.
See, this is why I can't stay mad at this game!
...but we're less than half-way through all the odd/poor design decisions -- tune in next week for more Bram Stoker's Dracula-y goodness!
— carlmarksguy, 2014-03-21
1
Oleg
Thanks for the insight! There are some things, like enemieís behaviour, that remind me the chores of Pirates Of Dark Water, but the last was more playable. In fact, I'll tell you that I didnít last long, with Dracula. Hats off to you, that you were able to crush the mechanics of this abortion of the gaming market! Now, The Royal Cliffhanger of SNES can sleep peacefully. Cheers.
2
I think the SNES "Pirates of Dark Water" is the best undiscovered beat-em-up out there :) But in "Bram Stoker's Dracula", there are so many poor design decisions, and I'm only half-way through!
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