Dracula the Undead, Atari Lynx

Loosely based on the famous Bram Stoker novel, Dracula the Undead sees you taking the role of Jonathan Harker as he tries to escape from Dracula‘s castle and collect evidence to prove the vampire’s identity.

Dracula the Undead is a graphical adventure game, without any pointing-and-clicking, so actions are all done by selecting options from a text-based menu that uses a neat left/right pointer that places actions on the left and items on the right, and you can scroll up and down to cycle through them. So choosing ‘open’ on the left and ‘door’ on the right will open a door. Moving Jonathan around is simply a case of using the d-pad. If he comes into contact with any objects he can interact with, it says so at the bottom of the screen in text. It’s a simple system, but it works well enough.

One of the most important features in the game is the notebook, which requires that you note down certain events, especially if you want to get the ‘good’ ending. You have to find and pick up the notebook in the first room, but seasoned players should not miss it.

One of the first tasks you must complete is finding a way to not have Dracula kill you within the first few screens. You find him standing in the dining room, and if you’re not properly prepared he will sense the blood you drew when you cut yourself shaving (in the intro) and kill you. The solution is simple enough, but it does mean exploring a bit and equipping the right item to keep him at bay. After that the game opens up more and even allows you to climb outside some of the windows to clamber around the castle walls. Which leads you to various windows that you can climb into, and explore the rooms within. If you can reach them…

This type of game is rare on the Atari Lynx, and Dracula the Undead is refreshing for that, if nothing else. The biggest problem with the game is that you can’t save your progress – on a real Atari Lynx, that is – which basically means that you have to complete it in one sitting, if you plan on completing it, that is. Which is maybe asking too much on an actual Lynx, when you consider the machine’s battery consumption prowess…

So how long does Dracula the Undead take to complete? Not that long, the truth be told, and if you want to complete the game there are plenty of online guides that can help, but it’s a game worth playing because it’s original and very different to most other Lynx games. Without a guide it’s a challenge to complete and you’ll undoubtedly die at various points. And, by the end of it, you’ll no doubt be sick of climbing along castle walls…

Graphically, Dracula the Undead isn’t bad at all. The sprite scaling is a little chunky, but it’s okay all considering. The cut sequences are interesting, and occasionally quite risque. The wall-climbing sections are also quite surprising for a game of this sort, and overall this game feels a bit like a LucasArts adventure game, but without the laughs.

Note: one question I have about this game, that I’d like to know, is: is Dracula the Undead officially-licensed, or not? Since the game uses the actual character of Bram Stoker himself (and a digitised shot of Christopher’s Lee‘s eyes from a Hammer Dracula film on the title screen), I’d be inclined to think that is it, but a game as small as this might not be. Did Hand Made Software acquire the rights before making this game or not? Or did they just hope that it would fly under the radar of Bram Stoker‘s estate? If anyone knows, please comment below.

More: Dracula the Undead on Wikipedia

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