This week I'm going to try to explain the unexplainable -- this game's certain je ne sais
Bram Stoker's Dracula quoi, which makes it somehow more amusing than the sum of its parts (at least, for me).
First, let's talk about some of its actual good points:
It's certainly a pretty game, with lots of different-looking levels that are heavy on atmosphere (and often seen through rolling semi-translucent layers of fog):
Left: the dragon statuary. Right: Carfax Abbey, in all its torch-wielding nun glory!
Left: Castle Liberace. Right: Tim Burton Cottage.
Acceptable tunes - with nifty extras!
The game's music has a certain classical creepiness to it, too. But the most noteworthy thing about the music is that it has periodic "level-appropriate background noises" built in to it:
Some of the wolf-heavy levels have far-off howls,
levels with Predator-cloaked Ghosts have an airy "boooooo" sound that rings out occasionally,
and the creepy Asylum level, with its "padded room"-style walls, features distant screams and shouts.
So there's some eye-candy and some ear-candy, but for me, it's the intangibles.
I think Bram Stoker's Dracula is kind of like a grilled cheese sandwich: after you spend a little time learning how to do it, there's only a few tricky parts, there's some enjoyable parts, and it's going to come out basically the same way every time.
What's it like to play this game, after you get the hang of it? Well,
There's ridiculous things to laugh at,
but there's more than a few secrets or branching paths along the way.
There's definitely some tricky parts,
and worse, some places can dish out cheap hit after cheap hit if you're unlucky.
But most of the big challenges (for example, almost all the bosses)
have cheap ways to let you "cheat" back at the game.
Moreover, almost everything you need to know about the game you learn in the first level:
Walk slowly and constantly swing your sword,
and use platforms to avoid enemies whenever possible.
So that's why I say Bram Stoker's Dracula is comfort food:
Like a grilled cheese sandwich, if you develop a taste for it, you can whip it up in a moment's notice without much trouble, and you know what to expect.
...and I know what you might be thinking:
"couldn't you say that about ANY platformer?"
Au contraire! For a counterexample, let's talk about a certain NES game...ALSO called Bram Stoker's Dracula:
Or perhaps it's called "Bram Stoker's * DRACUiA"
A quick side-note: I know as a "retro gamer", I'm not supposed to care about graphics...but once you've seen Psygnosis
owl-ball logo as a 16-bit graphic:
it's hard to go back to 8-bit owl-ball logos:
Rather than the 16-bit and/or 8-bit games being "ports" of one game, they're completely unrelated platformers.
And while I've called the SNES's version a grilled cheese sandwich,
...the NES is more like twice-reheated leftovers.
Even worse, unless you love memorizing where hidden enemies pop up,
stuff like THIS happens with disturbing regularity.
But that's another story for another day!
I hope you've enjoyed my eight-part study
* of the SNES's Bram Stoker's Dracula
as much as I've enjoyed writing it!
And be sure to tune in next week, when I'll almost certainly be talking about something else (and not
two months a moment too soon).
*: and if you managed to read all eight parts, give yourself a hand! Or, just let the NES version give you one:
...a hand OF DEATH, that is.
— carlmarksguy, 2014-04-25