BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA June 20 2002

Platform: SNES
Developer: Psygnosis

All right, I said I'd wait this one out. The thing is, until I get my hands on a running VHS player, there's not really much I can do besides writing about these games. This is the last one, though. Promise.

In the last related article, we established that once movies are turned into games, they take on a life of their own. This game is no exception. Unlike in the movie, where Keanu Reeves is a indecisive, passive gentleman, here he's a one-man army, ready to take on whatever may come. We start in a Roumanian pub where we have to kill all peasants, or they'll kill us. This is also the first time we meet Drunk Roumanian Guy, a scabby creature who throws empty bottles at us.

We are also introduced to Old Cowboy Man. In this game, there is at all times an arrow pointing in the direction we should go. If Old Cowboy Man is anywhere on the level, it'll point toward him first. When we find him, he says 'Stick' or 'Dynamite' in easily-understandable symbols, and then the arrow points toward the end of the level, which now has magically appeared. Before we exit the level, perhaps we want to find whichever object Old Cowboy Guy was talking about. This item could be anywhere, and is never worth the effort.

I think I should tell you about the first time I played this game. I didn't really feel the need to prove myself the ultimate Keanu, so I set the difficulty level to 'trainer'. I played through the first level, and as I went on the the next ones I somehow was unable to follow the progress. First, I was in a Roumanian pub, then in Dracula's stables, then in the woods. Suddenly the game was over, and I was told Dracula turned to mist as he died. I never even met the guy. After a while, I realized what had happened: When you play this game in easy mode, you get four levels from different parts of the game. Of course, this meant I had to start all over again if I wanted to write this article.

Where was I? Oh, the pub. After we're done killing farmers, it's time to go out and find Dracula's castle. We kill another bunch of natives, meet some giant spiders, and then stand face to face with the first level boss. Well, face to groin:

Let me introduce you to Super-Gandalf, the whipcrackin' giant wizard! I remember giving Nosferatu a hard time for ripping off Castlevania, and I must say that while this game certainly is influenced by Simon Belmont's adventures, it avoids plagiarizing the bosses. No siree, no archetypical horror monsters here, we have a wizard colossus, we have... well, you'll see soon enough. You might think the wizard is a bit nuts, but that's nothing compared to what's to come.

We continue on our quest for the castle Dracula, and meet many on our way. Skeleton guys, skeleton horses, banshees, giant scorpions, you name it. We even meet a ten-ton weight that never falls down, but is harmful to touch. At this point, we also meet Drunk Roumanian Guy again, trying to take a nap in Dracula's hayloft. Not easy, getting any sleep when you're a compulsive bottle thrower.

After running around on Dracula's property for a while, Harker decides to enter the castle. Unlike the movie, where Gary Oldman greets Keanu, gives him food and compliments Winona's neck, we go straight to the hack-n-slash action. Dracula's place is absolutely brimming with skeletal warriors, and his guard dog? Well:

When you're the prince of the night, anything below a guard dragon simply won't cut it.

Further down, we meet Gary Oldman in person. Apparently, he's joined in on some kind of experimental Roumanian hormone treatment; He's so big, the level is designed around him.

After this, it's time to get the hell back to England. I was kind of hoping I would get the opportunity to kill some of the demon whores before I left, but I guess you can't have it all. Instead, we're given a level that has no analogous segment in the movie: the convent. Now that I think about it, there might have been some mention of Harker regaining his strength in a monastery after he escaped from the castle, but I seriously doubt this was how it happened:

Killer nun mayhem! They might be ghosts, but I'm not sure. If they are, it still wouldn't explain why they lurk around with torches and knives. I've heard that feromone exchange resulted in harem women all having their period at the same time, and I guess it would happen to nuns as well. Oh well, I killed the nuns and their giant blue wolf, and went on towards Hillingham Estate.

Here, I met a bunch of zombies and my favourite enemy:

Viking Skeleton Guy! The place is swarming with these guys! He might not seem that great immediately, but once you realize his armor covers his entire body except his groin, he's a hoot! Imagine what these guys looked like when they were alive, running around like crazy and looting villages. Hahahaha, cracks me up every time.

Ha! Those stylish sunglasses don't fool me, that's Gary Oldman on his way to the movies! This time, he's a little more aggressive than the last time we met him. Before, he was just an enormous old guy standing completely still, now he's a lean mean killing machine with the power to turn himself into a tornado. I'm not kidding, he's completely rabid. I'd include a picture, but I went for the one where he's got his Mortal Kombat pose going.

Hey, it seems like I'm going to get this one right. Estimating an article's length is harder than you'd think. We're approaching the end rapidly, but before we take a look at the big showdown, let's see how Renfield/Tom Waits is doing in the insane asylum. One of the first people we meet here is - you got it - Drunk Roumanian Guy. You know what? I think I should give him a name. In this sad, long game, I feel he's the only friend I've got. Sure, he keeps throwing bottles at me, but at least he's there. Vladek sounds good. Vladek it is.

Aaaah! Big Tom Waits! Big big big Tom Waits! Nothing on Earth could have prepared me for this, it's just plain mind-twistingly crazy! I mean, I had just spent quite a while killing mental patients, flying around on levitating tables and precision-jumping from platform to platform trying to avoid falling down into a sea of lava, and then the biggest Tom Waits I've ever seen starts throwing monster spiders at me while running around like a decapitated chicken! It's just bonkers!

I want to mention that at the exact moment I met this guy, my roommate showed up with a gift for me; She had been to the Salvation Army looking for old clothes when she found a Batman shawl. A goddamned official Batman shawl! Suddenly, terms such as relative size, connection, age of target group, reason and substance just lost their meaning to me, blurring into a grey muddle. Crazed and bewildered, I ran out and tried eating a Methodist church while milking a rhubarb. Let me tell you, it was frigging nuts.

Well, after we kill Tom, reducing him to many tiny little pieces, Gary Oldman shows up again, only now he's a bat creature and much smaller. He looks menacing, but he's actually pretty much like a wasp. You leave him alone, he leaves you alone. In fact, when I jumped up to hit him, he tried to avoid me! I thought killing him might be the wrong thing to do, but hey, I need to get this game over with. A couple of whacks, and he's down. It was almost... too easy...

Yup, he retreats to his castle, and we run after him. At least I think the final level is his castle. It doesn't look much like it did earlier, but I have been known to be wrong. For example, I always thought that Bruce Campbell was in The Flash, but it was that guy from Dawson's Cr... Hey, it's Vladek, old buddy old pal!

Well, small world. I don't know how he ended up in the middle of a hellish castle, and I'm pretty sure he'll wonder about the same thing in the morning.

Dracula's castle looks a lot like Bowser's, only the skeletons in Bowser's castle are from turtles. The scenery is pretty much the same, with levitating platforms hovering over a sea of magma and fireballs jumping around. Plus, he's got the whole steel beam thing going.

Well, no point delaying it, I guess. Here's the moment we've all been waiting for. The final confrontation, mano a inmortale.

And look, he even put on his old armament for the occation! I thought he was hyperactive the second time I met him, but now he seems to have been snacking on sugar canes while waiting for me; He's running and jumping around like Steve Irwin on speed. Plus, he's now fifteen feet tall. That's the second... no, wait, that's the biggest Gary Oldman I've seen in my life!

After Gary is dead, we're finally given the real ending. What kind of amazing cinematical conclusion did the developers retain from the whimps who played this game the easy way? Will this elusive alternative ending justify the hours of pain I have suffered?

Wow. A five-frame animation showing Dracula's castle falling apart. In-frigging-credible. There's more, though: we also get to know who made the game. If you were wondering, Mike Ellis, Tony Parks and Charles McNair were in charge of quality assurance. Funny names include: Cathy Varvaro, Olaf Olafsson, Jeff Bramfitt, David Dootson and Nick Burkcumbe.