App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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It’s amusing to note that vampires are romanticized so often these days considering how the more classic tales paint them as soulless ghouls. I mean really, “old school” vampires are more about demonic rituals and slaughtering townsfolk like cattle. Unfortunately for the hero in Castle Dracula, the antagonist is decidedly old school. And somewhat unfortunately for the players, so is the gameplay.
In the dead of night a man’s pregnant wife is captured by demons and dragged off to Castle Dracula. So he musters all the courage he can, grabs his silver cross, and starts walking. It's a point-and-click adventure game at heart but the controls are a little different from most. Instead of an interaction wheel or menu full of verbs there are three buttons: for movement, object interaction, and picking stuff up. Having interaction and picking up as separate buttons takes some getting used to, as does having to tap the interact button before dragging items out of the inventory boxes to use, but it doesn’t take long to learn. And the castle is full of all sorts of rooms and chambers, each with their own puzzles to solve or gruesome deaths to avoid.
Castle Dracula sports some impressive hand-painted environments, mostly enjoyable voice work, and atmospheric music that all work together to create a pretty effective feeling of foreboding. This is the home of one of literature’s most celebrated villains, and death is lurking around every corner after all. By and large the puzzles themselves are also well designed if a little simple. No rubber chickens with a pulley in the middle here, just plain old real-world logic such as taking subtle hints from the environment.
As much as I might want to enjoy Castle Dracula, however, I keep running into problems. Inventory items getting stuck on the screen or accidentally placed in different slots when I’m trying to use them is irritating but not game-breaking, however there’s more to it than that. The detailed environments make it difficult to tell what can be used or picked up most of the time, leading to a bunch of random tapping until something happens. The atmospheric music I mentioned simply stopped in my game for no discernible reason at one point. And a certain calcium-rich item vital to my progress was locked down into its inventory slot, meaning I couldn’t use it at all and therefore couldn’t progress any further. That one kind of is game-breaking.
Getting accustomed to Castle Dracula’s slightly different approach to puzzles and interaction doesn’t take long. And once that happens the game can be downright enjoyable. Until the numerous tiny issues start building up, that is. Still, an update is already in the works and I’ve no doubt that most of the kinks will be irons out in short order. As-is, however, it’s not great.